Forgiveness and Personal Growth

Striving to reach for our full potential and genuine self-acceptance in life, we are faced with a number of predictable human challenges, among them:

  • how to muster the strength to persist in the face of setbacks and losses;
  • where to find courage and meaning despite realizing that our time is limited, that death inevitably arrives making it all for naught; and,
  • how to find forgiveness for the hurts and betrayals we have experienced along the way.

Let’s look, for a moment, at one of these – the need to, and benefits of, forgiveness.

To truly forgive what has felt like a deep betrayal, we must face the underlying feelings of shame and sorrow that are masked by our outrage, hatred, and fantasies of vengeance that defend against them. We must also learn to open to the disappointment and heart-break that accompany the loss of connection.

None of this precludes standing up, speaking out, and seeking justice where such actions are justified and appropriate. It does not mean that what happened was OK or acceptable. It does not mean continuing to associate with those who have been abusive, or to allow such harmful and disrespectful behavior to cross our personal boundaries ever again.

“Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” – John F. Kennedy

Ultimately, however, we must find a way of letting go and forgiving – for our own sake. Forgiving ourselves, and our complicity, as well as the hurtful actions of others.

With friends and loved ones we generally find it easy to forgive. That’s, in fact, one of things that has made them enduring friends and loved ones – as we all make mistakes.

Our “sacred friends,” as the Dalai Lama calls them, are another matter – those individuals with whom we have crossed paths in life that we find more challenging to forgive. They are “sacred” because they challenge (require) us to grow, to mature, to evolve, emotionally and “spiritually”.  To learn the humbling lessons of compassion and respect for the difficult struggle that life is for all of us.

“Love your enemies, for they tell you your faults.” – Benjamin Franklin

When we make mistakes – and we all do – instead of becoming mired in shame and fear, we can benefit from learning to gently open to and explore the unmet need that led to the action (or inaction) that we regret.

We can practice and learn to feel compassion for ourselves, for our imperfect humanness, for how our conditioning – the ways we were hurt – sometimes gives rise to interpersonal patterns that play out in less-than-thoughtful ways.

And we can learn to feel that underlying sadness for ourselves, for others who have been affronted by our behavior, for others who have been unkind to us, and for all of humanity that struggles with this very human frailty.

In this way, we can move – step by step – closer to being able to forgive, to letting it go, and then moving forward.

We are all doing our best at any given moment, given the ways we have been hurt by life.  And, we are all capable of higher functioning. Both are true.

“Without a trace of irony I can say I have been blessed with brilliant enemies. I owe them a great debt, because they redoubled my energies and drove me in new directions.” – E. O. Wilson


the heat of attraction

Outer space…the great empty nothingness with a few big things floating around in it, right?

Well,…not really.

Interstellar space is not empty.

Between those objects we refer to as stars, planets, moons, asteroids, etc. there is a lot going on. It is a giant “soup” of atoms and molecules – mostly, but not exclusively, hydrogen and helium.

Thin, yes. But empty, no.

Connected, yes.  But, how?

All of the atoms in the universe interact with all others gravitationally. Every atom exerts some gravitational pull on every other atom, no matter how great the distance between them.

And with the slightest perturbation in the randomness of the motion of all those atoms, some of them begin to congeal (“clump up”) into a gaseous cloud of molecules.

Over time, as this process continues, the “fuzzy globe” of gaseous matter gains significant particle density. As gravitation continues to pull the atoms toward the center, the mutual attraction gets stronger and stronger.

If there is the slightest spin in their coming together, which there often is, the congealing mass flattens and forms into a spinning disk with a bulge in the center.

A “vicious circle” ensues.

As the density of the central region accelerates its concentration, gas pressure rises and heat goes up. Eventually, nuclear fusion occurs and a new star is born!

*   *   *

Perhaps this explains, from another perspective, the human desire to huddle together against the cold, boundaryless void surrounding our tiny planet and our separate, individual lives.

New HPD Associate – Brion Hurley

Human Potential Development Associates is pleased to announce the addition of Brion Hurley as an Associate in our endeavor to raise the level of effectivenss and envirnomental awareness of individuals and businesses throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Brion is an expert in Business Process and Performance Improvement with many years of experience and a strong environmental ethic.

He is offering a Free Online Training on Using the Lean Six Sigma approach to reduce environmental impacts.

Here’s link to his website






awareness of/and the psychological self

What parts of our brain are activated when we think about ourselves from the perspective of other people?

The ability to see ourselves the way others see us (what we commonly refer to as self-awareness) requires simultaneously thinking about ourselves and about other people.

This process is complicated by whether or not those others are important to us or not, and whether our perceptions of their judgments (good or bad) result in emotional reactions such as feeling proud, or self-conscious/embarrassed.

There has been a tremendous amount of scientific research in recent years investigating the correlation between the prefrontal areas of the brain and various aspects of the psychological self* – particularly self-related thought processes and behavioral control.  (*Note: a distinction is being made here between the neurological underpinnings and functions of the psychological self and the experience of Self as aware presence, in this instance, the “witness” or “observer” of the psychological self.)

Other lines of research are venturing into the exploration of brain functions associated with experiences of self-expansion and hypo-egoic mindsets (the experience of Self beyond or without ego.)

Applying the scientific method to this area is challenging, yet interesting.  At this juncture it involves investigation of how biochemical and bioelectrical activity in living tissue (brain matter) gives rise to subjective experience and self-awareness.

Understanding the nature of consciousness itself appears to be a requirement for a fuller understanding of the psychological self.

It is likely that the answer will ultimately require a paradigm shift in how scientists think about the relationship between biological processes and personal experience, as well as a fuller understanding of the relationship between consciousness as living presence and the psychological self as a product of self-referential thought processes.

The seer and the seen.  Awareness and thoughts.  Self and self-image.

Both exist and both are important.

juggling problems

When you get stuck working on a problem, sometimes it’s a good idea to take a break rather than push forward and endure escalating frustration as your thoughts go round and round.

Take a break and clear your mind. Switch from left brain thinking (rational, linear problem solver) to right brain thinking (intuitive, creative).

Sometimes you need to let go of all of the ideas you’ve been stewing over, and set aside all of the data you’ve amassed.  It’s a good time to make room for fresh thinking.

It’s our left brain that insists we carry on working even when it’s obvious we’re getting nowhere. When we’re stuck like this, the best use of break time is to activate our right brain.  When we do something that requires our right brain to be engaged, we temporarily turn off our left brain.

Optimally this might involve music and some sort of physical activity. For example: take a brisk walk or do some stretching and squats with your favorite break-time playlist on your earphones; or,…crank it up and dance like no one is watching!

Our right brain is involved in judging distance, measuring rhythm, and managing hand-eye coordination.

Juggling is an excellent problem-solving activity.  In fact, it’s one of the best.  It requires eye-to-hand coordination, rhythm, and so much concentration (it’s not easy to learn or to do) that your mind is literally taken entirely away from the problem you’re facing.

Try it.  Take a single, light, non-breakable object and toss it gently up and down a few inches in one hand.  When you’ve got that, toss it gently to the other hand.  Then hand to hand.  Notice where and how that focuses your attention. Right brain activation.

You’re on your way to a new problem-solving skill!


Inspired by the book Secrets of Great Leaders (O’Connor, 2015)