Sunday 19 January 2020

Forgiveness is divine and the path to true healing

Dublin's Pro-Cathedral
Dublin's Pro-Cathedral

Siobhan O'Connor

When Pope Francis revealed his "new ten commandments", the world sat up and took notice.

The leader of the Catholic Church drew on his personal experience and came up with a lifestyle guide which read like a popular self-help book. The church used to be the place we went to for guidance.

Spirituality means "seeing things clearly". Regardless of whether you go to Mass, see a psychotherapist, do yoga or hypnotherapy, we're all searching for the same thing - clarity. At the start of the year my radio show was axed, my marriage broke down and somebody very close to me fell ill.

In the six months when everything fell apart, I was looking for the answers to what life was all about. I turned into a veritable walking self-help junkie, spouting all sorts of empowering palaver that I picked up through a myriad of therapies, which you could call "new age religion".

It was through adversity that I gained strength. Call it what you will, but I now liken it to blind faith as I tried to find the positives in a world which to me had gone mad.

Embarking on a six-week positivity course called "Take the Steps", was my first move towards figuring out what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life. Psychologist Margaret Forde, who runs the course, handed us a little blue book during our first session. Our homework was to, before going to sleep that night, jot down three positive things that happened that day.

I found it fascinating that as time went by I had more than three good things to note on a daily basis. Continuing on with my obsession of finding myself I started psychotherapy. The reaction from acquaintances was telling. One guy said: "Why would you pay for that sort of rubbish? It'll just make you worse."

I'm used to soliciting information from people, as I've spent most of my years interviewing celebrities, so when the tables were turned, and I had to face up to home truths, it was a new and scary experience. It's far more powerful to say things out loud - once they're out in the ether, you can't take your conclusions back.

My next self-help experience happened quite by accident. I was interviewing hypnotherapist Katie Jane Goldin and I blurted out what I had been through in the first six months of the year. She suggested that I do a course in hypnotherapy. It was life changing. No matter what you are going through in your life, I am convinced this form of therapy works.

If we could just shut down our conscious crazy brain and relax for a while then we might be able to see the wood from the trees. Hypnosis works like meditation. You let the conscious mind chill out while the subconscious mind soaks up all the positive affirmations being pumped into your brain.

All of these methods of self-realisation are pretty much the new Mass. Russell Brand found God in the form of yoga, as did Colin Farrell.

For some reason, in the middle of my mad six months, I got it into my head that I'd go to confession. Clear the slate.

When our teachers made us go to confession back in the day, I remembered making up sins as I didn't have enough. Frank O'Connor anyone? But as a thirty-something grown adult the experience was altogether terrifying, I was afraid I'd burst into flames when I revealed all to the priest.

I entered the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin. Not having confessed a sin in over 20 years, I contemplated uttering a white lie to the priest about how long it had been since my last confession. Scratch that thought, that's another sin.

Presuming I'd be ushered to a confession box, I was quite shocked when out came a short, friendly-looking Filipino priest, who instructed me to kneel before him on the wooden bench. Apparently confession boxes are gone with the flood.

I blurted out three sins, which to all intents and purpose weren't that innocuous, and then came the tears, like a tap they just kept coming. The young priest was so lovely and I was mortified. "It's ok, my child," he said, "Life can be tough, don't worry about it."

My penance, in my view, was far too lenient. I was told to say three Our Fathers and to go home and read the story of the Prodigal Son.

I left the Pro-Cathedral red faced in a bucket of salty tears, but it felt like therapy. It felt good to cry, all was forgiven.

In the last six months things are looking up in my life. My loved one is better, I found work and I've fallen in love.

Therapy comes in many a form, one man's cult is another man's religion, but in the end it's all about forgiving yourself and others.

Irish Independent

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