DR MAX THE MIND DOCTOR: The photo of Prince William hugging his father Charles that proves the power of forgiveness
The three most powerful words in the English language are said to be: ‘I love you.’
But there are another three words that I think deserve equal billing: ‘I forgive you.’
Forgiveness doesn’t evoke the same frisson of excitement as love. It might not be the subject of as many films or have as many songs written about it as love does.
And yet forgiveness is no less a powerful virtue, as perhaps Prince William has discovered.
It makes sense that he is learning to appreciate the Prince of Wales as the complex character he is — as we all are. I am sure that this attitude has helped William find the contentment and confidence that is so evident in his manner now
To mark Father’s Day last weekend — and in addition to the joyous pictures of himself with his children — the Duke of Cambridge posted a charming snap taken by his wife Kate of him with his father, Prince Charles.
Smiling broadly, with his arm round Charles, who is snuggled into his son’s shoulder, it radiates warmth, affection and fun.
It has been suggested in the past that their difficulties were rooted in Charles’s perceived treatment of William’s late mother Diana, his affair with Camilla and a childhood blighted by a bitter divorce
This has prompted some royal commentators to speculate that the pair are enjoying a better relationship of late.
It has been suggested in the past that their difficulties were rooted in Charles’s perceived treatment of William’s late mother Diana, his affair with Camilla and a childhood blighted by a bitter divorce.
William is said to now understand that Charles has been as much of a positive influence on his life as the Princess.
While this is all, of course, speculation, I’ve no doubt that Charles has his faults, but it makes sense that with maturity and fatherhood William seems to have gained wisdom.
It makes sense that he is learning to appreciate the Prince of Wales as the complex character he is — as we all are. I am sure that this attitude has helped William find the contentment and confidence that is so evident in his manner now.
Of course, few child-parent relationships are without their issues, but blaming parents, or indeed anyone else, is an all-too easy excuse for when life throws up challenges.
The past decade or so has seen the rise of a grievance culture in which too many people blame others for their faults and difficulties, and seem to revel in being a victim.
In my work, I’ve seen patients who wallow in self-pity, holding on to their grievance like a talisman and allowing it dominate their life.
I tell them that one of the scary things about being an adult is that you’re responsible for your own life. Your mistakes are no one’s fault but your own, but so are your achievements.
The first step out of this morass is to forgive your parents (or whoever) for what they did and understand that while people are complex and capable of hurting you, you must learn to accept that ultimately you are in charge of your destiny.
This can be liberating. When you forgive someone, they lose their control over you. Your emotions are no longer in their grip, your feelings no longer at their mercy.
The past decade or so has seen the rise of a grievance culture in which too many people blame others for their faults and difficulties, and seem to revel in being a victim [File photo]
Forgiveness puts you in a position of incredible power. It neutralises the perpetrator.
Perhaps one reason we’re so reluctant to forgive is that we think it makes us look weak, or that what has happened doesn’t matter. But that’s not true.
At the heart of forgiveness is tranquility and peace and surely that’s what we’re all striving for in life?
I remember one patient who, after many years in therapy, wrote a letter to her father in prison saying she forgave him for murdering her mother and sexually abusing her as a child.
He had never shown any remorse for his vile actions and I was astonished she was able to do this. She told me she found peace in forgiving him unconditionally.
‘The day I decided to forgive him was the day I felt a weight lift off me,’ she explained. ‘It didn’t matter he wasn’t sorry. I realised until I forgave him, he would always have power over me. I was always his victim.’
That brave woman showed me that forgiveness is about freeing yourself. It is a display of power. Forgiving someone and moving on is one of life’s true achievments.
We must keep on giving shelter
One of the remarkable achievements of this pandemic has been the effort we’ve put into ensuring the homeless have had shelter.
In other countries there have been high numbers of fatalities due to Covid-19 in the homeless — more than 450 have died in New York — but so far there have been no confirmed deaths among England’s streets population.
Now the Treasury has announced £105 million towards accommodation for rough sleepers. While I welcome this, simply providing cash for housing isn’t the long term answer.
In my work with London’s homeless, I saw many examples where people were given accommodation but because of mental illness, drug and alcohol problems went back on the streets.
To tackle this blight we need dedicated and properly funded mental health services working directly with the homeless.
One of the remarkable achievements of this pandemic has been the effort we’ve put into ensuring the homeless have had shelter [File photo]
At the beginning of the pandemic, ministers urged the public to volunteer to work in the NHS and the community to help the most vulnerable.
Within weeks, an incredible 600,000 people had been approved. But according to the NHS Chief Executive, Sir Simon Stevens, less than half of this vast force was ever called on.
What a crying shame! Still, I’m incredibly proud that so many people responded. It’s a great testament to our national character.
If you volunteered and never got the call, don’t despair. While the worst of the pandemic may be over, there is still much to do — checking on self-isolating neighbours or assisting local charities that need help.
Let’s build on this and be a nation that always extends a helping hand.
It’s always struck me as odd that while people (quite rightly) lionise the NHS and its staff, they tend to ignore care workers.
It seems really unfair, given that what they do is just as valuable and, if I’m honest, often far more emotionally and physically draining than being a doctor or nurse.
Giving evidence to the Health and Social Care Select Committee this week, frontline care workers said they felt ‘undervalued’ and like ‘underdogs’ in comparison to NHS workers.
This is so wrong. Good carers can transform the lives of the elderly and sick.
Let’s not forget them.
Dr Max prescribes…
Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe
I’ve just finished this lesser-known novel by the author of Robinson Crusoe. It’s based on his recollections of the Great Plague of London in 1665.
It is fascinating for its insight into human psychology in the face of fear, uncertainty and panic, as disease spreads through a community. In fact, the similarities to our own response to coronavirus — panic buying, lockdown and the wealthy trying to flee to the countryside — are eerie.
Some 350 years apart, and despite all we now know scientifically and clinically about infectious diseases, some things do not change…
For far too long dogs have got all the credit for being man’s best friend. But it turns out that it is cats who can be the purr-fect (sorry!) companion.
According to a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group On Cats — yes, there’s such a thing — felines are the key to beating loneliness.
The MPs urge more people to spend time with cats, through fostering, adopting or helping out at a shelter.
I couldn’t agree more. Cats are full of character and great for people who are housebound or have limited mobility.
For far too long dogs have got all the credit for being man’s best friend. But it turns out that it is cats who can be the purr-fect (sorry!) companion [File photo]
I worked in a nursing home where a cat would pay us a visit each day, able to wander into the communal areas and residents’ rooms — they asked for their doors to be left open for him — and occasionally curl up on their beds.
It was incredible to see the residents come to life as the cat walked past, flicking hands reaching out to him over the arms of chairs with the tip of his tail.
He was a tonic for them. In lockdown, I briefly stayed at a friend’s house while they were away and became very friendly with a neighbour’s cat.
Now I’m back in my own flat, I really miss him!
Maybe it’s time to introduce a kitten to Chez Pemberton…
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