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What AA Taught me About Forgiveness

Forgiveness: Moving from Resistance to Emotional Healing

When I was growing up, I don’t remember anyone saying sorry to each other. Apologies would only happen when someone was looking for a quick fix to get out of trouble. I don’t think I ever truly said sorry and meant it. I don’t even think I understood the concept of forgiveness. I apologized because I wanted to get out of trouble and didn’t want the other person to be mad. I didn’t feel sorry; I just felt scared that someone would be upset with me. 

The weight of unresolved resentments

I don’t remember my parents forgiving each other after a fight or any resolution. There was never a discussion of forgiveness, understanding, or compassion. Nor was there a discussion explaining or apologizing to my brother and me or each other. They just swept things under the rug and pretended as if nothing happened. I think it was just how things were done back then. Discussing emotions didn’t happen; they didn’t exist in the ’70s.

The impact of silence and inability to resolve

With each disagreement, resentments piled on, and the silence in our house became thicker and tenser. The uncertainty between my parents caused my brother and me significant fear and anxiety. We felt as though we didn’t have solid ground underneath us. 

 My brother and I were deeply impacted by my parents’ inability to forgive and effectively resolve conflict. We both have codependency patterns where we do whatever we can not to make someone angry. Over time we witnessed that if you make someone angry, tension and resentment lingers, and that trauma feels way worse than not being true to yourself. 

Not being able to forgive or process resentment gets negatively stored in the human psyche. By suppressing our emotions, all sorts of behaviors and neurosis evolve with time, and most of the time, we don’t even know where it all came from.

What AA taught me about forgiveness

It wasn’t until I started going to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings and learning about the 12 steps that I began to grasp what forgiveness was all about. I learned that the process starts when you understand that you have a part in each resentment and each argument. In AA’s 4th step, you make a list of all your resentments and then go through a process where you analyze each resentment based on what it is in yourself that is triggered by whatever the resentment is about. When you understand that your reaction is your responsibility, you begin to develop humility and compassion for yourself and others for not always doing what is expected. 

Most of our resentments are related to pride and fear. We can learn humility, and we can learn to trust, and we can see that others often struggle too with pride and fear. It’s just the human condition. Pride has to do with a simple survival defense: if we feel slighted, our pride is hurt, and we feel like we don’t matter. And if we dont matter, we don’t exist.

Once you recognize that you have a part in things and have some control over that, it’s a huge relief. Trust me 

Understanding the importance of seeing my part

You have the choice to dig deep and admit that you have issues too. Each time I’ve finished a 4th step, my perception of how I react to the world has been brought forth into my awareness in such a way that great shifts have occurred each time. I have been able to forgive and accept my own messed-up-ness, and in that process, forgive others. 

It is the acceptance of others’ humanness and having compassion
for their suffering by putting ourselves in their shoes. Out of the forgiveness
of others come self-forgiveness and the relief of guilt.

– Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender by David R. Hawkins M.D. Ph.D [pg. 48]

It is the acceptance of others’ humanness and having compassion for their suffering by putting ourselves in their shoes. Out of the forgiveness of others come self-forgiveness and the relief of guilt.

– Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender by David R. Hawkins M.D. Ph.D [pg. 48]

Marriage and family: resolution and understanding

My husband and I fight as all couples do. We never made an agreement to handle arguments the way we do, but we resolve and forgive each other almost right away. And now that our children are older, we always speak to them and explain afterward. My oldest daughter tends to hold on to emotions the longest, and that’s okay. I recognize that as part of her process. My little one typically forgets right away and says something like, “Mom and Dad are fine now!”

I think it’s important to clue children in on what is going on and not leave them hanging. The days of silent scorn and uncertain outcomes in arguments make children feel very fearful and unsafe. Commit to forgive rather than to be right. To forgive rather than to hold on. Being right and holding on serves no one.

Forgiveness is a way of life

For me, forgiveness is a way of life. I’ve gotten to a place where sometimes, for example, I’ve discovered that I have forgiven my husband so quickly, without even knowing it or before I have consciously processed the facts. 

These days my mantra is to FORGIVE right away. And sometimes, it’s not easy to do that. However, if I don’t react and allow my anger to have space to live and then to fizzle; and give my process the time it needs, forgiveness inevitably comes flowing in.

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Abdi Assadi is unlike any other healer or spiritual teacher ever encountered. He is an expert in martial arts, and a dynamic healer practicing a diverse array of Chinese and Eastern Medicine, indigenous shamanic rituals, and meditation techniques. With a clinical practice in New York City for almost 4 decades, Abdi has accumulated a vast knowledge of real life experience working with several thousands of individuals, guiding them through the most difficult times, and teaching them how to understand themselves. One of the greatest things about him is he merges the human psyche with the spiritual psyche.

Steeped in deep wisdom and insight that is rare to find on this planet in these modern times, Abdi has an extraordinary ability in perceiving and comprehending human souls and their individual psyche. Guided by the divine, Abdi guides you to open up and see beyond your limited Self, into your own soul. His impeccable discernment enables him to unleash personal remarks that pierce through your veil, statements that you will never forget and in an instant alter your perception of yourself and your reality.

– Quotes from Shadows on the Path by Abdi Assadi:


All spiritual masters teach us that love is an activity before it is a condition – and that love is all-encompassing.
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It felt like I was coming off a race track and driving in a school zone. He knew, years before I did, that my speed was my way of suppressing my early childhood anxiety, and that only slowing down could heal it.

Why do you need to use all these words like God and spirituality? It is right here Abdi, all around you, all the time
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one does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
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Ultimately it keeps grace out of our lives because we are using our will power to manipulate every event and person around us.
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His lesson, which I had begun to learn for myself, is that outside circumstances do not define our internal experience if we can surrender into them. Painful or undesirable situations will always arise; true suffering comes from our ego’s desire to resist life as it is.
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Note from Pernilla:
I met Abdi in the fall of 2014 and when I arrived in his office the first thing he said was, “It’s time that you stop carrying other people’s anxiety.” In the year that followed, my entrenched codependency patterns reared their ugly heads and I was confronted with a part of myself that I had never even known was there.

A few years later, Abdi said, “When are you going to start writing your book?”I looked at him in surprise. I was not a writer. My expertise was centered around creating crazy good Excel spreadsheets. However, I started writing and collecting notes about life issues and life experiences … and here we are a few years later.

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She is an expert scholar in Hinduism and all Hindu texts especially in Kashmir Shaivisim. Formerly Swami Durgananda, she left monastic life in the 1980’s to teach publicly. She has written several books and is one of the most known and loved spiritual teachers in our time.

Note from Pernilla:

I met Sally at one of her workshops at City Yoga in LA in 2003. She had the most gentle and loving disposition, and I just wanted to always be around her. I was fortunate to have been part of her two year-long “Transformative journey” courses in 2006 and 2007 and many retreats ever since. She is the true representation of unconditional love and transmits intense shakti from her Guru Swami Muktananda.

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