We all have a deep desire to love and be loved by our parents, says Dr. Harold H. Bloomfield, a psychiatrist and author of Making Peace With Your Parents (Ballantine Books, 1985). Holding on to resentment can cause physical and emotional problems; the reason to forgive is to regain one's physical and emotional well-being.
Dr. Bloomfield has developed five exercises for healing old wounds:
*List your resentments toward each parent, describing each painful memory as specifically as possible. Let any feelings come out and don't be afraid to cry. Do not show this list to your parents.
*Find a comfortable, private place. Visualize your parent acknowledging your pain as you read out your list of resentments, giving you permission to let it out. Then, unwind and picture yourself and your parent in a place you would both enjoy.
*Write the most honest, direct and healing letter you can to your parent. Do not show this letter to your parent.
*Select a friend, spouse or sibling you can trust, and who is willing to listen to you read your list without interruption. After you finish reading it, thank your listener with a hug.
*Overcome your resistance to forgiveness. Take a few sheets of paper and draw a vertical line down the center of the pages to make two columns. On the left column, write "I forgive you." Write your gut response to that statement on the right hand column.
Continue to write "I forgive you" along with your responses until you begin to feel a release from the resistance and can write it three times in a row without any resentful or bitter response.