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The Forgiving Self: The Road from Resentment to Connection Paperback – July 8, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (July 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385488742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385488747
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #286,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This latest book by psychologist Karen (Becoming Attached) demonstrates just how well a Western psychoanalytic approach can illuminate the true complexity of an act and attitude that traditionally gets pitched into bins marked "spiritual" or "moral"--beyond the realm of the personality. "Forgiveness is an aspect of the workings of love," Karen writes. "It can be a bridge back from hatred and alienation as well as a liberation from two kinds of hell: bitterness and victimhood on one side; guilt, shame, and self-recrimination on the other." Using details from his clinical practice and popular culture, Karen depicts how this liberating reconnection with others and with the world can occur only as we learn to reconnect with ourselves. But the price of this reconnection, he advises, is the willingness to mourn. Mourning the losses and disappointments of childhood--and voluntarily losing all the unconscious beliefs we came up with to make sense of our pain--is the price we must pay to fully connect with ourselves. True forgiveness, Karen drums home, can only be the result of serious inner work: "The forgiving self is in possession of itself." Karen's notion of our possible liberation and happiness is modest compared to many of the spiritual guides to life hitting bestseller lists, for he never ventures beyond the gratification that can be won as we gradually expand our "zone of connection." Yet this book would make a salutary companion to those more sweeping, seemingly more profound books, showing readers the real effort required for this apparently simple act, revealing anew how far and deep that effort can take us. (Jan. 16)Forecast: As nearly everyone suffers from resentment, this book could reach many readers. However, it won't appeal to those looking for instant solutions, nor to those seeking a larger spiritual or ethical context for forgiveness, and it likely won't enjoy extraordinary sales in a market that leans heavily toward spiritually fortified psychotherapy.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Regardless of a person's age, forgiveness can be one of the most difficult acts to perform. It would seem maturity would make it easier, but Dr. Karen says that as we get older, our resentments become more entrenched and forgiveness is even harder to imagine, let alone achieve. The people whom we may need to forgive can be a wide circle; it most likely includes parents, former spouses, siblings, and other relatives. Karen shows how loss (especially in early childhood) and resentment build up a wall that can make forgiveness impossible. However, Karen shows that it is possible and necessary to forgive the transgressions of ourselves and others. Marlene Chamberlain
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I found most of them are simplistic and ultimately unsatisfying.
mb99
Reading THE FORGIVING SELF helped me realize I not only carry the pain, but it influences the way I feel about myself today.
Katherine E. Coker
A. Usually, it takes some time before we rediscover our love of someone who has hurt us in a really big way.
Elmigo

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Woodbury on September 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I found this book perceptive and personally helpful.
Robert Karen is careful, at the beginning of the book, to make clear his intentions. He is not using forgiveness as a blanket application nor is he discussing the forgiveness of great atrocities (the Holocaust, 9/11, etc.) or the forgiveness of such terrible violations as sexual, physical and verbal abuse. He is exploring, rather, forgiveness as a step towards wholeness: the recognition that people can be both lovable and infuriating, that we ourselves can be flawed and yet worthwhile. Karen is encouraging the reader to move beyond "good guy--bad guy" tags, to accept that people--our parents, ourselves--can be imperfect without being the enemy.
This acceptance and recognition, Karen makes clear, is a process. He is not advocating forgiveness as something easy or instantaneous or even, sometimes, appropriate. Forgiving, from Karen's point of view, is a dialog, whether it is a dialog with another person or with our past. The hallmark of this kind of forgiveness is honesty--to honestly admit, "This is how I feel, this is what I'm doing, this is what I experience." Karen is not interested in "fixing" problems: "Okay, I won't do, feel, experience that anymore." He is interested in illustrating the achievement of being able to say, "Okay, I feel this envy or this malice. I don't like it. That's also part of me. I'm a whole person."
Wholeness is the object of Karen's book: how to achieve personal wholeness through recognizing the potential wholeness in other people: "I can still love someone even though they are flawed." In this, Karen accesses a deep truth, call it religious or ethical or whatever (and why should religion and ethics be removed from mental health?
Read more ›
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Didi G. on March 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I've just finished reading this terrific book, and I'm ready to give it to my sister, my parents, a long list of friends and even (maybe) my ex-husband.
Robert Karen is a wonderful writer. This book is like having a conversation with your most intelligent and intuitive friend, the one who tells it to you straight and also makes you laugh through your tears.
Karen takes us to the deepest reaches and farthest frontiers of intimate relationships. Using novels and movies -- from Chaplin to Aldomovar, Shakespeare to Dostoevsky -- Karen holds up a mirror and exhibits us our universal struggles, as parents and children, siblings, friends, lovers and partners. Robert Karen is a great storyteller. This is most evident in the way he brings his own therapeutic practice to life. Moment-by-moment, he shows us his patients as they transform their disappointment, shame and rage to understanding, compassion, and love.
I can't recommend this book enough. It's a gift!
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I rarely write reviews of books, I was compelled to do so here upon reading the review by the reader Out west. His or her claim is that Mr. Karen is mistaken in conflating mental health problems with moral immaturity. Wrong! Mr. Karen never makes the claim that those suffering mental anguish are morally *immature.* On the contrary, he claims that people can become *stronger* in their practice of the virtues, particularly forgiveness, for their own good and the good of those around them. This is an ages-old idea, going back at least to Aristotle. Neither Aristotle nor Mr. Karen are passing judgement on anyone, only claiming that all of us should be challenged to grow morally. With regard to the reader's claim that Mr. Karen has broken the rules of psychotherapy by introducing forgiveness into the inner sanctum of the profession, I have this to say: So what? Who cares? He broke the rules??!!?? Heavens, what might happen next? Penicillin was discovered by breaking the rules; the Wright brothers discovered flight by breaking the rules; Michael Jordan broke every rule of conventional basketball to give us a better way. Rule-breaking is no sin, especially for such a pragmatic science as psychotherapy when good results are obtained. Mr. Karen gets good results. Don't condemn that.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Katherine E. Coker on February 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I didn't expect to carry old wounds and hurts from childhood into adulthood. Foolish on my part, but I hoped experience would bring peace and perhaps some understanding.
Reading THE FORGIVING SELF helped me realize I not only carry the pain, but it influences the way I feel about myself today.
What Robert Karen has achieved in his book is so important. In beautifully written prose, funny, charming and insightful, he helps us understand how to LET GO! To send the pain and hurt away for good. Or at least to come to terms with it. To accept that we had and have every right to be angry and hurt. But not to let it go on spoiling our life in the present.
Karen helps us understand that to forgive those who have hurt us, to forgive ourselves for the pain we've caused others, and to accept our humanity, warts and all, is the road to true freedom of the heart and mind. PEACE, it's wonderful!
GO FOR IT!
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
My husband and I read this book aloud to each other. As we read, it became the vehicle for lengthy and intense discussions about our own relationship and our relationship with others. The book goes way beyond forgiving; it provides insight into how we approach intimacy with the important people in our lives. The most important message is that we each have emotions from our childhood that we carry into our adult relationships, and once we are able to recognize them, we have the power to make profound changes in our lives with others. Dr. Karen uses not only his knowledge of psychoanalytic theory but real life examples from his clinical counseling along with tangible examples from literature and films. We highly recommend reading this book aloud with a significant other; it provides the foundations for a journey worth taking together.
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