Forgive Your Own Terrible Deeds Using Focus Phrases

04/23/2011 01:10 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • John Selby Psychologist, author and mind management consultant

We have all done things, or at least thought and imagined doing things, for which we continue to struggle to forgive ourselves. How can we let go and move on so that we can finally love ourselves unconditionally? One new answer is using Focus Phrases to elicit inner emotional healing and self-forgiveness as a daily practice.

I am currently in touch with a man who is doing remarkable work at San Quentin prison teaching yoga and meditation to inmates who are struggling with self-forgiveness. Back in the early '70s, when I was studying to become a Presbyterian minister at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, I likewise was working at San Quentin, leading a group of 11 seriously intense inmates each week in a two-hour emotional healing group.

I recently wrote about this early therapy-training experience in "Expand This Moment," because it relates directly to the eighth Focus Phrase, "I honor and love myself, just as I am." Most of us tend to have some difficulty at first with this Focus Phrase because we have said things and done things in our past that we still have not accepted and forgiven ourselves for, and therefore we can't really honor and love ourselves -- or love other people as we'd like to.

All of the men in my encounter group at San Quentin had killed at least one person. Most of us certainly haven't done anything like that, but still, there are periods of our past that we feel terribly guilty about, and that we simply don't accept. Therefore, these memories continue to fester inside us.

This leaves us unable to fully embrace the Focus Phrase, "I honor and love myself, just as I am."

Twenty-five years ago in West Berlin, I was working as a renegade therapist employing my California brand of Wilhelm Reich's emotional healing process to tackle some totally intense cases of unresolved self-guilt. In particular, I worked extensively with seven old German men who had done or ordered some very nasty Nazi deeds that they had not been convicted of but which still weighed heavily on their souls. One by one, these 70- and 80-year-old highly successful European gentleman came to me seeking absolution.

Having been recently excommunicated from the Presbyterian Church for supposedly being a Buddhist, I certainly was not able to offer absolution. What I could offer was a process that helped to bring these men fully into present-moment consciousness of their inner feelings and breath experience, as they re-experienced not only what they had done but what they'd felt, thought and experienced during those terrible days and nights long ago in their past.

I gave them the opportunity to face their past reality rather than being in denial of their past, and to accept that reality step by step and open up to healing and transformation in the present moment. Then, in each session, I left it up to Spirit or God or Divine Presence or the Tao, or whatever name you want to use for the eternal Creator, to flow in and allow inner emotional and spiritual healing to happen in the hearts and souls of these seven men.

Three of these men did move fully through the healing process and reach the point where they could say the words to themselves, "I honor and love myself, just as I am." Three of the men did not reach this point. The final man... well, I'm not sure.

My point in telling you this story is to show that even in the most extreme situations, human beings can go through a process of inner healing and self-acceptance and become transformed and born anew (without any "born-again" religious overtones) through the eternal, infinite healing power of love -- and this process must always begin with self-love.

Action Time:

What can you do, right now, to nurture inner healing and acceptance in your own heart, for your own self? I didn't have the Focus Phrase tools back in West Berlin, but we do have them now. What you can do, over and over, as a mantra you hold in your mind as you go about this day, is say to yourself: "I honor and love myself just as I am."

Here's the raw reality of spiritual dynamics as I see it: God cannot love you, Spirit cannot flow into your heart and stimulate healing, until you first make the leap into accepting and loving yourself just as you are -- right now. No ifs or buts. Say it. Do it.

Say the Focus Phrase to yourself, and open yourself to receive inner healing: "I honor and love myself, just as I am."

Focus Phrase Power:

Focus Phrases, as used in therapy and meditation, are extremely useful cognitive tools because each time you say one of them, something positive happens inside you. A Focus Phrase, as the name implies, immediately re-aims your attention in directions that provoke positive insight and growth.

The first time that you say, "I honor and love myself, just as I am," you will not be instantly transformed beyond all your self-judgments, chronic guilt and negative attitudes about who you are, but I can assure you that each time you say such a Focus Phrase, inner growth and healing will be provoked.

At any given moment you are naturally and organically ready to evolve emotionally, spiritually and mentally, one particular step. Focus Phrases carry the power to strongly encourage that one natural, effortless inner step.

This is why I encourage you to move through a Focus Phrase process at least once (and hopefully a number of times) each day, so that you are continually bringing to your mind thoughts that stimulate inner growth.

In my understanding, this is the most important daily process that you can develop as a lifelong habit. This is what life is all about, consciously moving through each new moment focusing in directions that nurture more communion with your deeper spiritual nature.

"I honor and love myself, just as I am."

Here's a video that guides you through the 12 most powerful Focus Phrases I've found to date. This is a complete emotional healing process that you might want to do daily.