"Inner peace can be reached only when we practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past, and is therefore the means for correcting our misperceptions."
--Dr. Gerald Jampolsky, Psychiatrist and founder (together with his wife, Psychologist Diane Circincione) of the International Center for Attitudinal Healing (ICAH)
The other day, while I was looking for inspiration, I found the above quote of Dr. Gerald Jampolsky. As a seeker of inner peace, this quote spoke to me. These words seem on their face pretty clear: Let go of hate and anger. Forgive others for any past wrongs, real or imagined, and feel calmer and more in control of your life.
So, I get letting go of the past. But what does it mean to correct our misperceptions? Misperceptions of what? I decided to learn a little more about this Jerry Jampolsky felllow and his philosophies to see what I could use. This is what I found:
At his website, http://www.jerryjampolsky.com, Jerry and his wife Diane entitle their homepage: "Attitudinal Healing." That makes sense to me, too. Have the right attitude and it will help you heal. I've read enough self help books to know about all that. In fact, Jerry and Diane have apparently written several books of their over the past few decades with such titles as Change Your Mind, Change Your Life; Love is Letting Go of Fear; Good-Bye to Guilt: Releasing Fear Through Forgiveness; and Love is the Answer: Creating Positive Relationships. These writings are originally inspired by and expound upon the famous A Course in Miracles self study spiritual program which also speaks of the concept of using forgiveness to correct our misperceptions. Dr. Jampolsky worked on a version of this course with the also-famous inner-peace guru, Maryanne Williamson.
Patricia Robinson, co-founder of the International Center for Attitudinal Healing describes it thus:
"In relationships...our ego mind says that we are being attacked. The fact, however, is that there are no true realities, only perceptions... it is only our own perceptions that make us feel that we are being attacked. We have the choice to fill up with the powerful love energy so that we are able to not even have to defend ourselves."
In other words, we can choose to decide that we are not under attack and let harsh words roll off our backs as we recognize that the people saying the words are really saying that they are unhappy or anxious or confused and that they need our compassion. Think about it. When your child is angry that you have put him in a time out or taken away a favorite toy as a punishment, he might yell, "I HATE YOU! YOU ARE THE WORST MOTHER EVER!" Obviously, your child does not really hate you and you are not really the worst mother ever and it is easy to forgive this child for saying such words because we know that this is something that children sometimes say when they are frustrated or over-tired. It's not really about us, it's about them.
So then why can't we apply this concept to grown ups? I'm thinking Dr. Jerry is saying that we can. In fact, if you choose to, you can decide to not let anything anyone does to you offend you. At the very least, after you've rolled around in the pain of it for a while, you can just release it and let it go. It's a choice. And a very empowering one.
So then when we say that through forgiveness we correct our misperceptions, we are correcting the misperceptions that we have been attacked or harmed or sinned against. Because once we get to the place where we are OK with ourselves and everything that we are, we will perceive that the harm or attack or sin was just an expression of fear. It wasn't really about us, it doesn't really exist except in our minds. And we can choose peace instead of outrage or anger or fear on our own part.
There is also the concept that we have the misperceptions as humans that there is an "us" and a "them," that we are separate, competing entities, instead of one human family. When we forgive ourselves and others (even if they don't forgive us back), we get in touch with the God-like spark inside of us, of which we are all supposed to be a part. By forgiving another, we are actually forgiving ourselves. And when we forgive another, we are actually healing ourselves.
I think I need to learn some more about this. I'll let you know what I find out. I picked up my own copy of A Course in Miracles and have ordered the works of Jerry Jampolski and Maryanne Williamson from Amazon.com to supplement my summer reading. I'm on my way to get me some more of that there inner peace. I'll try to bring you back a slice.