Freedom by Means of Forgiveness
Forgiveness instead of punishment
Christ said, “Love your neighbor as you would yourself.” You will be happy when you learn to forgive yourself and others. When something goes wrong, you say, “Bad luck!” As if bad luck were a goddess who is in charge of your life. When someone is successful, you say, “She’s lucky!” As if luck were a goddess. You do not dig deeper to discover what mistake you have made or what has caused you to be so successful. You simply pass the responsibility to the goddesses “Bad luck” or “Luck.” And as a result, you fail to research the reasons why you have been successful or failed.
Our essence is immortal, godly, and completely pure. Our feelings are like a blanket which covers this essence. But there are impurities in the blanket, and they are all the unhappy feelings. Who creates the impurities in this blanket? We do. You manage to make yourself unhappy. I call that self-sabotage. You continually do that – usually unconsciously. We cannot forgive ourselves, and instead punish ourselves. Let us now analyze this “mechanism”: we punish ourselves, so what could we then do to forgive ourselves and make ourselves happy? We no longer want to surrender to the goddesses “Luck” and “Bad luck.”
You can purify your emotional blanket by forgiving yourselves and others. You can forgive in two ways: first, if you have hurt someone, ask for forgiveness. Second, do not punish yourself. But it is essential that you know what you consider punishment – for others and for yourself. Then you can begin to forgive.
You create the blanket around your immortal, godly soul with your daily decisions. The blanket is your own piece of work. You can also create it differently. You have the control over your outlook, over your beliefs, and over your views – because you have created them yourself. You are the architect of the blanket around your soul. This blanket can be just as pure as your soul, if you want it to be. It is your decision.
There are actions that encourage you to love and others that strengthen your fears. If you see people as enemies, then you yourself have hostile feelings and act according to them. The outlook you have when taking action is further strengthened by the action. For example, a woman always agrees with her husband and does everything that he wants her to do. The deciding factor is, however, the outlook that she has when she does that. If she is submissive because she lacks self-esteem, then she is strengthening her feelings of inferiority through your actions. If she has a healthy self-esteem, then she will be even more self-confident through her actions.
Actions lead to feelings. Through your actions, you can create feelings which you can strengthen or weaken. Many people believe their characters are permanent and cannot be changed. But that only seems so, because every day they make decisions in the same way and act according to them. In that way, their reactions are always the same and they believe they cannot control their feelings.
But we can control our actions. We are not victims of our pasts. We are living now and can direct ourselves to the future that we want. There is only one catch: we often do not recognize the intentions behind our actions. But with every action, we strengthen our actions. Every time you act according to a certain purpose, this purpose is then strengthened. And vice versa, when you do not act according to a certain purpose, the purpose is weakened, and thus the action. There are so many people who have irrational beliefs. They do not notice them, though, and stick to them, because their actions strengthen the irrationality more and more. You are, for example, scared of dogs. You believe this fear is justifiable, because when you were a child a little dog once nibbled on your leg. Now you turn the other way when you see a dog coming. You would prefer to make a large detour only to avoid him, and as a result, you strengthen your irrational beliefs.
When we are scared, we run. The psychologist and doctor William James said, “We’re scared, because we run.” But he could not explain why that is. He believed that, through the activity, our glands produced hormones which then caused the fear. Thus, actions→hormones→feelings. But that is not entirely true. According to William James, then, we simply need to run to be scared, we simply need to laugh to be happy, and we simply need to caress someone to be loving. Unfortunately, it does not happen like that, though. What did James overlook? He forgot the tiger that is behind all of our actions – our motivations!
Many people will hold out their hand to another. But they are thinking, “What a scoundrel!” They do not automatically feel respect only because they hold out their hand. They have other motivations. Happiness and love can only emerge once we change our negative motives.
What do intentions or motivations mean? Everyone has a certain outlook that he carries around with him. All these beliefs are associated with feelings. Together, these two factors create motivation. In doing so, the feelings dominate. We act according to our feelings. Our actions strengthen our feelings, and thus, our outlook, too.
Let us take a look at the following example: a man sits in front of the television every evening. Because this is the easiest way for him to relax, the feeling of relaxation is strengthened by sitting in front of the television. If he watches television, because he is scared of the dark and does not want to go outside, which he would rather do, then his fear is strengthened. Thus, there is a connection between the intention (motivation), the action, and the strengthening of the feelings (the beliefs), which are associated with the intentions.
A change in your actions is the key to intervention. We can change our motivations with it. If you are scared of the dark, then go outside! Only a few steps. With time your feelings will change. But do not forget that you also have to consciously think differently. If you say the whole time that this time it was only a coincidence that nothing happened to you while you were outside, then the feelings cannot change.
Participant: Did I understand you correctly that I first have to change my thoughts, if I want to change my actions? That it’s not enough to simply change the thoughts, but that we also have to make sure to act according to our changed thoughts?
de Souza: Yes, it has to lead to new actions. The new beliefs remain ineffective as long as my actions continue to strengthen the old beliefs.
Participant: The important thing is that my view of the future changes. In as much as my view of the future changes, my actions will change.
Participant: But the fact is that the future always begins now, because I can only act now in the present.
de Souza: Yes, discover the connections between your feelings, your outlook, and your actions. Then you can change your actions now, because you can’t change your feelings immediately. The order is: beliefs, feelings, actions, feelings. For example, I don’t want to give a speech (outlook/belief), because I’m afraid to be laughed at (feeling). So I don’t give a speech (action), and thus strengthen my fear of giving a speech (feeling). Every time I act according to a specific feeling, the feeling and the associated belief are strengthened. If I give a speech, though, my belief in my inability is weakened. Therefore, don’t give into the belief that you can’t do something, but rather try to do your best. Then your positive beliefs and self-esteem will be strengthened.
Our character, the system of our inner motivations, seems to be more or less permanent. But there are people who have changed themselves over time. How have they changed themselves? When you began to learn how to ride a bike, you always fell down. But instead of quitting, because you were scared, you continued to try and eventually learned how to do it. It is better to face your fears than live the rest of your life in fear.
We punish and torture ourselves out of unnecessary fear. Now you can begin to forgive! And remember that most fears really are unnecessary!
Sometimes a person’s character can be changed by a traumatic experience. Bereavement, for example, can change a person’s entire life. Bereavement can be a very strong motivation, because it is a very intense feeling.
Or a child is picked on by her classmates because she has braces. So that such an experience does not have any negative effects, you can positively influence it. For example, you can explain to her classmates that a doctor has ordered the braces to be attached and that the classmates can help the girl to come to terms with the braces. More often than you think, such social tasks can motivate a person to change his actions. Or you can ask the school bully to protect the other students. With this task he will act as if he were loving, and then he is loving.
Now, when we have taken such motivations into consideration, Dr. James’ scheme can come into play: actions really do create feelings.
When you were young, you learned your outlook from your parents. But now you are the one who supports your outlook with your actions, and strengthens it or rejects and weakens it. You yourself are responsible for your actions. You create the blanket around your soul. As soon as you change your actions by changing your thoughts, the old patterns will disappear. It is all about thist: you can change your emotional blanket by consciously forgiving yourself – by changing your punishing actions.
Forgiveness – the end of your self-punishment
At first there is something that you cherish (for example, your job, your marriage, your car, etc.) If there is the chance that something can happen to this cherished possession, you try to protect yourself from the loss or danger of loss. Now you are acting according to these worries, and as a result, are strengthening the emotions causing your fear. In this way, a negative circle develops which I would like to name self-punishment.
Whenever you leave the house, for example, you check to make sure the door is really locked. That is normal. But if you check the door five times in a row, that is no longer normal and is instead self-punishment.
How can you decide if an action is self-punishing? When an action inadequately satisfies you, and the feeling that made you react returns after a short period. That does not mean an action has to satisfy you for eternity – you want to continue to eat – but when you feel hungry again 20 minutes after having lunch, then something is not right. Either you have possibly punished yourself with your lunch by eating, for example, too little, because it does not suite you to eat more or because you want to lose weight to look beautiful.
I recently experienced something strange: two women wanted to speak to me. One woman was a very pretty twenty-year-old. She was complaining that she would never be able to find a boyfriend. The other woman was sixty and also had something to complain about. Two men wanted to be with her and she did not know which one to choose. She was radiant and charming, because she believed she was beautiful and desirable – and acted accordingly.
You fear, for example, going outside and to get rid of the fear, you do not go outside. But your fear is only strengthened when you do not go outside. That is not a reason for protecting yourself. You fear, for example, losing your job. If you play chess during work, then you have a reason to fear for your job. As long as you do your best, though, you do not need to be afraid that you will be laid off. In the jungle, you have to continue to fear tigers with every little step. That is not self-punishment.
If you are satisfied after your action and the problem is then solved for you, then you have forgiven yourself. But if you are only temporarily happy and your negative feeling comes back, then you have punished yourself with your behavior. Your actions only make the problem worse. Your task now is to find out which actions strengthen your problems. Then you can stop acting in that way. That is the real meaning of forgiveness.
How can you weaken your negative beliefs and feelings? By stopping to act in a way that strengthens them. Let us take a look at this example: a woman finds a boyfriend. Before she was very sociable. Now she gives all her attention to her boyfriend and breaks off all contact to others. She is, as a result, highly dependant on him. Now he goes on vacation for two weeks. Her fear that he will get to know another woman makes her ripe for self-punishment. She begins to check where he has been and what he has done there. With every action she is making her self-punishment worse. The threat that is activating her self-punishment is her fear of losing a possession. Either the possession of material things, or of security, love or status. We are afraid of change – even of improvements. We prefer to punish ourselves. By acting according to this fear, you are strengthening it and your affinity to punishing yourself even more.
Practicing forgiveness: thinking positively
It can be, though, that your fears are justified. If they are not justified, how can you protect yourself from self-punishment? There are many things that you have to keep in mind. I would like to count off a few of them here:
- Believe in your personal strength. If you do come into difficulties, then you can deal with them. You can find a solution. That is better than believing that something bad could happen. Instead of always protecting yourself, it is better to believe that God will protect you and give you strength in case problems ever arise. Whether you believe it or not: God really does protect you.
- Never ask what others think of you. When they say positive things about you, you will become skeptical and not believe them. When they say negative things about you, you say, “That’s what I thought!” In either case, you are committing self-sabotage.
- Do not try to manipulate others by giving them compliments. Women ask, for example, “Do you think I’m beautiful?” Every answer, whether yes or no, will make you unhappy – if you do not believe yourself that you are beautiful!
- If you have a possession and always talk about your fears of losing it and what you would do to keep it, then your fear will become stronger every time – since you are talking out of fear. That also goes for relationships. You feel, for example, threatened by someone and talk to others about it. What happens? Your beliefs become stronger that the person really is a threat to you.
- Do not try to change others’ behavior (for example, that of your husband or wife.)
- Do not be afraid of acting incorrectly. If you act according to this fear, you will strengthen the fear.
If you have such fears, then talk with your friends about them. It is better to get rid of the fears by talking about them than acting according to them. But do not moan too much! Some people talk for hours about every thing terrible that has happened. Stop talking about your past and sorrow. Talk about positive things—what you have planned and what you have accomplished.
Everyone creates the blanket around their souls themselves. All the negative feelings make the blanket dirty. But you can clean the blanket and make it sparkling again. Feelings become strengthened when you act according to them. You decide, if you want to strengthen your positive or negative feelings. Try to be enthusiastic! That is very important! Enthusiasm comes from positive motivation.
What can you do to be enthusiastic? The word “enthusiastic” comes from the Greek language. “Theo en tei” means “God in you.” Enthusiasm then means that God’s spirit is within you. So what is the secret to enthusiasm? Have faith! Because God’s spirit is in you!
Do you know how you can trust your partner? Act like and think that you already trust him!
Participant: It’s necessary, though, that I’m always conscious of what’s actually happening and what my feeling is doing to me at that moment.
de Souza: Yes, you need to know how your feelings lead to your actions. If you act, you need to be conscious of the motivations behind the act. The feeling drives you to the action.
If you act, then ask yourself: Why am I acting like this? Which beliefs (motivations) are behind it? If I, for example, spend a lot of money – do I want to prove that I am a rich man? Do I want to fulfill my wishes? Do I want to do something good? You’re strengthening your respective motivations with your actions!
Changing negative habits
The first step is to observe our habits. We have habits that we want to change. But there are also good habits. When we drive a car, we do not need to think about the various maneuvers. They have become a habit for us. When you play the piano, you can concentrate on the artistic expression of the piece, because the playing is automatic. Women can listen and talk at the same time. Men can only do one or the other.
We have to be conscious of what we do and why we do it. You have, for example, the habit of suppressing your anger or constantly asking for compliments – or you cannot keep any secrets. These habits first have to be studied. When and in what circumstances do you use them? For example, “I eat too much.” That does not mean you should stop eating all together. Instead, analyze exactly what is wrong. Under which circumstances do I have the tendency to eat too much? Or what do I eat too much of?
When you first start to make changes, it is possible you will feel worse. But that is only a temporary phase. Remember, you will feel better later and look forward to taking your life into your own hands and doing something for yourself.
The following steps can help you to change your habits:
- First, define your current state. Acknowledge your desires and decide when you want them. Write down the disadvantages. Write down the advantages you think you will have. These apparent advantages make it difficult for you to abandon your habits.
- Decide what feelings you want to gain and try to feel them as intensely as possible.
- Write down affirmations to help you to reach your goals.
- Visualize yourself with the new habits you want to gain.
- Act according to the new habits and practice them.
With many habits, it makes sense to change them little by little. If you drink, for example, 10 cups of coffee a day, then you cannot quit drinking coffee overnight. First, observe how many cups it is you actually drink. Then drink one cup less every week.
Participant: I have a hint as to how you can give up smoking. Smokers know that smoking is bad for their nerves. But they normally smoke to calm their nerves. When smoking, they breathe in and out deeply. Now they could simply go outside and breathe in the air, instead of puffing on a cigarette. If they do that ten times, then their desire for a cigarette will go away.
de Souza: That’s a good tip! But if you sometimes fall back into the old habit and smoke, then don’t have a bad feeling! Continue to go outside and breathe in and out the fresh air.
Participant: I’ve met many people who smoke, because as children they experienced smoking in a comfortable situation, – for example at their grandparents’ where smoking was accepted. Whenever they are under pressure, they have to smoke. In the moment, however, that they understand the connection, they could stop smoking.
de Souza: Yes, smoking reminds them of the good times they had at their grandparents’ house. Why do you have bad habits? You try to hide from reality – and would rather live in the past. Maybe you have a bad marriage. But you don’t want to be conscious of it and instead forget about it. Your negative habits help you to do this – you eat too much, smoke or dream the day away.
What do I do in the darkness?
A depressed person says, “My life is no longer full of joy. Everything is hopeless. I don’t want to see anyone anymore. I have no desire to do anything.” So he does nothing – as a habit. And how can he weaken his habits? By changing his current actions. A depressed person should do something, and in this way he can overcome his depression.
When Laotse said, “Do nothing!” he meant that you should not do the bad habits to not strengthen them. Depression can come suddenly, for example, at a funeral or more often in certain situations (tests, bills, criticism.) Even when you are in a phase of depression, you can still do something! But you ask yourself, “Why should I do anything?” You only act when you see that a change is necessary or when it is worth it to do something. But if you do nothing, then you feel hopeless and become sad and unhappy. That is why you should never stop doing something.
If you are depressed, you no longer see the bright side of life. You sit in the dark. There are a few things you should remember so that you can intervene quickly enough.
You have the tendency to cancel appointments. Be very conscious and do not do that! Or you do not want any contact with people. That is why you should deliberately greet acquaintances and friends and contact them. Or you do not want to get out of bed and just want to walk around in your pyjamas all day long. Instead, consciously get up and change into proper clothes. Answer the letters that you have been getting. Eat regularly. If you do not attach any importance to clothes, then say to yourself that there is no reason to dress up. By not dressing up, you will strengthen this view. If you want to go to a concert, do not give up this goal! Do everything as best as you can. Learn something new. Stop moaning about your problems. Moaning only strengthens your depression. Whenever you talk with someone (for example, on the telephone), then chat about good news, be thankful, and praise the other person – and yourself! Do not compare yourself with others in order to find out if they are happier or unhappier than you. You only come to the conclusion that the world is terrible and unjust. Set goals instead—small goals at first. Bring yourself to talk to people. Always hold your head up high and never lose your courage! Everything can go wrong, but never lose your courage! As long as you do not lose your courage, everything will be okay. Keeping your courage means having heaven in you. You can practice that.
How can you have a happy marriage?
How can we ignite the fire of love? In the same way you have turned down the flame, you can also turn it back up. Do something loving and you will be loving! But do not ruin that with negative thoughts. Do not think, “I’m such a hypocrite,” but rather, “I’m happy and proud of myself that I have stood up for this relationship!” Relationships are all about feelings. That is why it is especially important to follow the rule: thoughts create feelings and feelings lead to actions, which in turn strengthen the feelings. That goes for feelings of love just as much as for feelings of hate.
How do we deal with anger? You have numerous opportunities to be angry. For example, a friend reproaches you because you make a mistake. In this situation, I would not advise you to defend yourself and count off all your virtues. By doing that you are giving the attack importance which becomes more and more painful. Instead, you should not let the attack affect your actions. Do not respond.
Sometimes you are only attacked indirectly. Maybe you are not taken seriously or your partner always starts conversations with you that you do not want to have. Do not start talking, but rather let him talk. Do not defend yourself or be apologetic! Always remember: you are not being threatened by the other person’s actions, but only by your own reaction to the actions. That is the law! The other person’s actions trigger certain feelings in you, depending on your outlook. By not responding to these feelings, they will eventually disappear, because you have weakened the feelings behind the action. That is the big secret.
The secret to forgiveness
We are not forgiving ourselves when we cater to our negative feelings. Rather, in this way we are strengthening our negative emotions, and that means: we are punishing ourselves instead of forgiving ourselves and trying new, positive actions!
To forgive yourself means to change the familiar, negative reactions you have to bad feelings.
Until now, you have always acted according to the notes in your mind that you are bad. You act according to your negative emotions and punish yourself in the process. Act now according to your positive emotions only, and by doing that you will be forgiving yourself.
Christ said, “Love your enemy.” Praise people who are against you. Because when you are angry at them, you are strengthening the negative feeling in yourself so that you are actually angry at yourself. You then become even angrier at the others. Therefore, you cannot love yourself and cannot be happy. Remember: hate cannot be overcome by hate. Love your neighbor so that love can grow. Whenever you are loving, the love will become stronger. That goes for all relationships. Whenever you yell your partner, you have even more of a reason to yell at him. Also, do not tell everyone at gossip hour about how stupid your husband is. What happens then? You will think he is even more stupid, and as a result, will act toward him as if he were really that stupid. That is how the vicious circle continues.
If someone has done something obviously wrong (for example, he has stolen something), then I can say, “I forgive you, but your actions were not right.” We also treat children this way. They often make mistakes. Then you say to them, “I love you very much, but I don’t like the way you’re acting.”
The medicine man’s mask
Cyberphysiology says that our thoughts influence our bodily functions. Both an ayurvedic doctor and a medicine man in Africa – or an American psychotherapist – have roughly a 30% rate of healing. Why does a medicine man wear a mask and dance for the Tamtam? He wants to impress the sick people. He wants to give them a shimmer of hope. That is what a good therapist does. The moment that you are in his vicinity, you are already half-healed. What does the American psychotherapist use to give his patients hope? He wears a white smock and his diplomas hang on the wall. What does the ayurvedic doctor do? He says that his methods are thousands-of-years old. All that is done to give the patient hope that he is cured.
We can also use our spirit ourselves to have better control over our bodily functions. It works best when we are in a relaxed state. Suggestions, affirmations or visualizations go deeper when you are relaxed, and then you are able to reach the right side of your brain.
Using the following exercises, we can find this relaxed state: sit on a stool with your back upright, close your eyes, relax, and count your breathing. At first, from 30 to 0. Then imagine a yellow light. The color of the light changes to red, then to pink. Now back again: imagine the pink light, then the red, then the yellow. Now you are in the alpha state. You can do everything in this state – you can create affirmations, you can forgive (in a pleasant room, you let the person enter who you want to forgive or who wants to forgive you), you can visualize goals or create visions. To come out of this state, you say, “I’ll count to 5 and then I will be awake again.”
Even the normal state of consciousness can be interrupted by the alpha state for interspersed periods lasting only seconds. During this time, (positive and negative) affirmations are in effect. The negative ones are more effective, because you believe in them more – because they are associated with more intense feelings. Thoughts and feelings create your outlook. Whenever you create positive affirmations, remember to associate them with feelings. Then they will also be effective. It is easier when you are in a relaxed state.
Can your self-esteem be improved by praise? Only when you believe that you deserve the praise.
What others think of you is not important for your self-esteem. The only thing that is important is what you think of yourself.
If you only try to get praise, you will be dependent on praise from others. Without praise, you think of yourself as unworthy and will try with all means possible to get praise. In this way, you strengthen deep lying feelings, and you feel more and more unworthy. Praise is only important to you when you believe in it, when your self-esteem is already high.
Many people say that you have to build up others by praising them. Then when someone praises you, you will only be skeptical whenever you are praised. You believe that the others think you are incapable and only want to build you up. But when you believe in yourself, then you will not be dependent on praise from others.
Participant: But when I’m independent of praise and success, does that not contradict the philosophy that we should expect a lot in order to get it? If I don’t expect anything, then I can’t get anything.
de Souza: It’s most important to do everything out of joy and then expect to be famous or successful. If you only write what people like, but you don’t like it yourself and are only doing it to become famous, then that is wrong. So there really is no contradiction, because you’re expecting to be yourself. That is the greatest success and that is where the greatest success comes from.
There are people who are not especially beautiful. But they have friends and are very happy. Others are very beautiful (for example, Marilyn Monroe was), but they are unhappy. Why? They cannot love themselves and only want to be loved by others. Do not try to gain the admiration of others. That will not make you happy. You can be happy, even when you do not have any striking characteristics or friends. Be proud of the characteristics that you have, even if they are not (yet) highly exceptional or special. If you want to be liked, then be happy for your friends’ successes. It is very easy to have sympathy. Whenever a friend is sad and needs help, then you can be there for her and give her advice. But when this friend is happy and successful, can you celebrate with her and be happy for her?
The words “opinion” and “point of view” are very nice. The world is constantly changing every day, and because of that we can become helpless and confused. You need a harbor where you can protect yourself from the big storm of life. An opinion or a point of view is what will help you to do just that. Many people are scared to have an opinion. Then they feel bottomless (another nice word.) For example, a book that you quite enjoy is highly criticized in the newspaper. You may then accept the opinion of the critic from the newspaper without sticking up for your own opinion.
Why are you scared to have your own opinion? You fear that people will laugh at you when you are not right. But when you are right, then people will be hostile toward you, so you believe. Therefore, you think it is better when you do not have an opinion – in any case, not your own.
But when you do not have an opinion on the book, you are strengthening your feelings of unworthiness and fear. You then go through life with fear and a low self-esteem. You need your own opinion, because when you do not take responsibility for yourself, you will have a feeling of helplessness. You reject your responsibility, and instead of that take on a fatalistic attitude. You believe everything is pre-determined and given to us by fate, and you do not know that you yourself cause your problems.
All of us can experience God’s kingdom, because we are this godly essence. First, try not to describe yourself as a victim of adverse circumstances. When you talk with other people, do not tell them your sob stories in all their detail. Tell about something joyful and positive.
When you meet new people, you normally talk about everyday things, for example, what you do for a living, what your hobbies are, etc. – simply factual communication. But also talk about your opinions and outlook. You often avoid this. Why? You are scared that your weaknesses will show. You are scared to disclose something about yourself. If you only talk about factual things then you are free of all that. An opinion does not automatically protect you from such fears and doubt. But the more often you take an opinion – associated with the willingness to learn and change yourself – the stronger your feelings of worthiness will develop. You will feel like you can cope with life. Yes, life is like a partner for you. Then you can let your enthusiasm flow, and will thus be able to sense God in you.
Participant: You’ve said that having an opinion protects us from the storm of life. According to experience, however, we are attacked the most when we stick up for our opinion.
de Souza: That’s right. When you have an opinion, though, that doesn’t mean you should be fanatical about it.
Participant: But what protects me from the fact that my opinion is not my glasses which I actually want to throw away? Our beliefs are often the cause of conflicts.
de Souza: You’re the one who has to differentiate between the two: when I have an opinion, I can’t use violence to force other people to have it, too. That is the limit. The danger lies, however, in that many people use violence to convince others of their opinions. Please, don’t identify with your glasses (your opinion.) You are not your opinion. You change your opinion whenever new experiences and facts make it necessary. But that only works when you have an opinion to begin with.
Your foundation – the eternal truth
Our outlook comes from our thoughts which are associated with feelings. There is no such thing of thoughts without feelings. The thoughts and feelings determine our views. When many people have the same view, then we call that zeitgeist or the spirit of the times. They do not like to confront reality. They prefer to agree with some newspaper or a famous star or a show master – even when his view conflicts with reality.
The principle of forgiveness can only begin to work once you have changed all that. If you are open to making mistakes, you can also change yourself. Then you are willing to find out if your opinion is right or not; if you have the right glasses or not. There are certain eternal principles that are constant. If your glasses are based on these eternal truths, then you have a good foundation:
“You should love your neighbor as you would yourself.” “Praise the people who attack you.” (From your heart – not just with words! Look for something praise-worthy in these people!) “I’m God’s child.” “I’m one with the father.” “God’s kingdom is inside all of us.”
The secret to tranquility
Again: if you cannot make a decision and do not have a firm opinion, then it is often the case that you are afraid of being laughed at or attacked. If you think like this, you will need a lot of time to make a decision about what you should do in a certain situation. After you have made a decision, you are not sure if your decision was right or not. And then you are dependent on others’ opinions. You think the world is hostile, because you are scared of others’ reactions in case you have made the wrong decision. Therefore, force yourself to make decisions quickly. The reason why you do not wage anything is because you try to be perfect.
When you take up writing, do not begin to correct yourself after the first few steps, but instead write the whole thing as a draft first. If you want to compose a symphony, then write the first few lines, or still better the entire symphony, before you start with the changes. You do your very best. That is important. Do not be scared to make mistakes. Your goal is to make decisions, not to be absolutely perfect. If you err, then do not apologize! Why? You are strengthening the thoughts that you are incompetent, which means you are attacking yourself. When you do not apologize, you are assuming that it is okay to make mistakes.
Participant: But apologizing has to do with being polite. Then I’m admitting to my mistakes and saying that I’m sorry.
de Souza: Yes, that’s okay! But only once! Don’t constantly be apologizing. And accept it when others apologize just once.
Participant: I’d like to say one more thing in response to what you said about how we should not always talk about our problems. I’ve experienced that people can help each other to solve their problems when they talk about them. We don’t pity each other about our sufferings, but try to help each other to find solutions.
de Souza: Yes, then it’s good. But that requires a high self-esteem, and doesn’t apply to people who can’t decide for themselves. If you want to buy a dress, for example, you don’t ask others but buy it yourself. Take on responsibility for yourself. We should help each other to solve problems. But have your own experiences. In that way you’re strengthening the feelings that you are competent and can rely on yourself. The more you leave decisions to others, the less often you will make decisions yourself and do something. Traditions establish patterns of action. Later, we often don’t know why the action was established. Then you’re back at the first level.
Reach your goals
Sometimes you plan to do something, maybe write a poem or compose a song. You set yourself down, but then you see that you first have to tidy up the room, and there are many other things that have to be taken care of first. Should you do those things first? No! Do what you were planning to do. Do not ever give up what you have planned! Why? Do not strengthen the feelings that you are incapable. Your actions would only lead to this feeling. Write the poem, even if it may be rejected. It is better to do something that is not perfect than to believe that you are incapable.
Believe that you have the right to be successful and have goals in life – and that you can reach them. Let the world know what you have planned. If someone praises you for that, then say thank you.
Sometimes you can become silent when you have the feeling that you are inviting criticism by saying a certain something. When you are depressed and fear success, the danger does not exist that people will be jealous of you. Is it embarrassing when others are less successful than you? Do you have a bad feeling because you are rich? Why should you live in luxury when people in the Third World are poor? But it does the poor people no good when you are also poor. On the contrary! When you are wealthy, you are in a better position to help the poor people. You are also more helpful to your friends if you reach your goals than if you were just as unhappy as they.
Believe that you have the ability to reach your goals! These beliefs will help you to do something. What happens with your beliefs as a result? They will be strengthened! Or are you scared to be independent? Many people believe that only when they are sick will they get attention from others.
But the way that others treat you is less important than the way in which you treat yourself.
The orchestra of happiness
If you only feel important when you are sick, you will be scared of health and achievement. Some people fear reaching goals, because they do not know what they should do afterward. They are happy for a short time, and then they are unhappy again. As a result, some people go into a cave and abandon their goals. They stay with the lifestyle they have already achieved. What is wrong with this logic?
If you do not have any goals, you cannot be happy. Of course, once you have reached a goal, you are not happy the rest of your life. Think of the happiness you would miss out on if you were only allowed to reach a goal once. Life would be very boring. You could not tap into all the different ways to experience happiness. Happiness grows and becomes more and more voluminous when you always set new goals and reach them. If a melody is played using only one instrument, it does not sound as beautiful as if an entire orchestra played it. Learn to play many “instruments” in order to get a better “tone.” It is good that we can always strive for new goals in order to be happy over and over again. Different goals give us different kinds of joy.
Participant: Many old people have given up long ago. They don’t do anything anymore and are only sad, because they don’t see a purpose in life. But the old people, who are still active and follow their interests, are very content and feel young.
de Souza: Yes, the sad, old people always bathe in pity. A lot of young people also swim in pity. They make unfavorable conditions, their parents, lack of an education, and many other things responsible for their misery. They say, “I can’t do anything about it if I’m not successful.” Another melody that such people sing goes, “No one has suffered as much as me. If I tell you my sorrow, your sorrow is nothing in comparison. If you only knew what I’ve been through, then you’d understand why I can’t be successful and happy!” It’s true that we all have had some sorrow in life. Anything can happen. But that doesn’t give you the right to bathe in self-pity.
Emergency drops for curing self-pity
Every time you moan, you are strengthening your feelings of helplessness. Stop pitying yourself immediately! How do you do that?
- Do not constantly complain about your troubles.
- Do not make others responsible for your troubles. You cannot influence others, but you can change your own reactions.
- Act as if you do not have these troubles. Troubles are no reason to pick up your guns. There are other things that you can do.
- Believe that nothing is wrong – that everything is all right.
You want to begin working on something, but perhaps you are thinking that others will laugh at you. Begin working on it anyway. You do not need to show anybody what you are doing, but by continuing, you are increasing your self-esteem and going forward.
You have a lot of ideas of what you could do, but something always comes up so that you cannot complete your project. You have to make time for it, for example, you make an appointment four times a week for your project. And even if you only get around to it once a week, you do not need to have the feeling that you are incapable. Maybe you say, “I can’t keep to a time schedule if I want to be creative, because I have to be inspired first.” The inspiration comes from the work. If you do not begin to work, you are waiting in vain for the flash of genius to hit you. Then you get the feeling again that you are incapable, and your self-esteem goes down. So, do not wait for the flash of genius – work instead!
Before you begin a project, ask yourself, “Do I want to finish this project or do I not believe in it? If your answer is no, then leave it. If you have, however, planned to take on the work, then stay with it. Do not start something else on the side. Go forward step-by-step. Reach one goal after the other. You cannot travel to Berlin, New York, and Tokyo all at the same time. Realise one dream after the other!
Once you have begun, then complete the project, even if it no longer really interests you. Continue! In that way you strengthen the feeling that you are reliable and serious. If someone criticizes you and it hurts, then say “thank you” and give yourself positive affirmations. Then continue!
If you yourself are not satisfied with your work, it can be because you are in a certain mood. A large part of the work has to be done before you can begin to critically judge it, correct or polish it. Now you have the outlook that you simply want to improve the work. You correct it because it is good. If you begin to correct it, your critical actions can escalate and you could think that your work is worthless. That is dangerous. Virgil almost destroyed his masterpieces in this way. They were saved only by a coincidence. How can you know if you are in this dangerous phase? Therefore, you should appreciate your work. When the work is finished, you show it to your friends and try to increase its worth by praising it in front of them. With your words, you are trying to get praise from others for your work. What is behind all that? You are scared of criticism and the opinions of others. The more you praise your work, the more fear you have that it could not be any good. Let the work speak for itself, and do not make yourself dependent on others’ judgments.
Remember: with your actions, you are strengthening the feelings and outlook behind them. If you want to change your feelings and outlook, then act differently. In this way, you forgive yourself and obtain freedom from grueling feelings.
go on reading Chapter V