The Polynesian Self-Soothing Technique: “Ho’oponopono”

Therapists often encourage traumatized people to find “self-soothing” techniques to help them relax, feel less anxious, and re-orient themselves away from distressing memories. If you were caught in a controlling, manipulative system you, too, could benefit from having a few self-soothing techniques in your healing toolkit. Here is one ancient Polynesian practice that you might want to try out and adopt for yourself. It is called “Ho’oponopono”.

Ho’oponopono is, as said, an ancient polynesian healing practice – a healing practice based on forgiveness and reconciliation. The word ho-oponopono means “to make right”. The practice was used as a form of family therapy. Polynesian cultures believed that whatever was happening in a family was each member’s responsibility. When the family was faced with a problem, each person in the family would repeat the ho’oponopono phrases in an effort to make right whatever existed in them that could have contributed to the problem.

The ho’oponopono practice is simply to say: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”

The phrase “I’m sorry” addresses responsibility.

The phrase “Please forgive me” demonstrates humility.

The phrase “Thank you” expresses gratitude.

The phrase “I love you” reinforces connection and caring.

Each of these qualities and attitudes foster healing and reconciliation.

Whatever the precise purpose of the practice in previous centuries, ho’oponopono is now described as a process of problem-solving, clearing, reconciliation and forgiveness. It is an ancient cultural practice passed down through South Seas generations over time. Some people practice the ho’oponopono technique as a song, some as a mantra, some as a meditation, some as an affirmation, and others as a prayer.

Ihaleakala Hew Len, Ph.D., a devoted proponent and teacher of the ho’oponopono process, claims it is a cleansing technique. He recommends asking the universe to erase any memories, patterns, habits or beliefs in your unconscious that have caused the issue. You then repeat the four Ho’oponopono phrases to further clean out toxic beliefs, memories and judgments from consciousness – the goal being a healed, cleansed and peaceful body, mind, spirit, family, community and world.

Dr. Hew Len takes responsibility for any problem in his surroundings and repeats the Ho’oponopono phrases (silently in his mind) to cleanse the problem out of his consciousness. He believes that since we are all one in this universe, that his repetition of the four phrases cleanses the problem out of both himself and the environment. Dr. Hew Len says you can direct the phrases to your neglected inner child, to the universe, or to consciousness in general. There are some guided meditations on YouTube videos that employ the Ho’oponopono phrases.

If we have survived the fear-inducing, brainwashing of an extremist milieu, we may feel a little skeptical about such a practice (I did at first!), but I have employed it without falling prey to any cultic, religious or demonic influence! It is a very peaceful and comforting thing to repeat these simple phrases to yourself, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”  (Some people repeat the phrases in a different order, but the order shared here makes the most sense to me.)

If I am distressed by something going on in my mind or in my environment I often combine the four phrases with some EMDR bilateral taps or with EFT tapping. Combining these gentle, yet powerful, practices can really contribute to self-forgiveness, self-acceptance and self-compassion. I encourage you to do your own research about this ancient Polynesian technique of reconciliation, cleansing and forgiveness and see if it is something you would like to employ during your post wounding group recovery.

Examples of ways you can adapt the four phrases to recovery from group exploitation:

  • For all the pain I have allowed to fester inside me – I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.
  • For all the ways I have neglected the scared, inner-child part of me – I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.
  • For all the ways I procrastinate doing the work required to heal – I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.
  • For all the ways I continue to blame myself for what happened – I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.
  • For all the suffering I may have caused others that I recruited into the movement – I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.
  • For all the ways I resist my own well-being – I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.
  • For all the ways I have resisted acknowledging my wounds from group coercion and mind-control – I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.

“Ho’oponopono is a profound gift which allows one to develop a working relationship with the divinity within and learn to ask that in each moment, our errors in thought, word, deed or action be cleansed. The process is essentially about freedom, complete freedom from the past.”         Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona, Kahuna Lapa’au

Self-Acceptance: Foundation for Healing

“There is apparently some connection between dissatisfaction with oneself and a proneness to credulity. The urge to escape our real self is also an urge to escape the rational and the obvious. The refusal to see ourselves as we are develops a distaste for facts and cold logic. There is no hope for the frustrated in the actual and the possible. Salvation can come to them only from the miraculous, which seeps through a crack in the iron wall of inexorable reality. They ask to be deceived. What Stresemann said of the Germans is true of the frustrated in general: “They pray not only for their daily bread, but also for their daily illusion.” The rule seems to be that those who find no difficulty deceiving themselves are easily deceived by others. They are easily persuaded and led.” – Eric Hoffer

Sometimes as we find ourselves needing to heal from unwanted external influence and interference, we need to take a moment to reflect upon what may have made us easy prey for such undue influence and manipulation. Lay sociologist, Eric Hoffer, rightly suggests that a refusal to accept ourselves or our lives as they are, can make us vulnerable to being seduced by the deceptions of others.

This means that the foundation of healing from deception and manipulation begins with working on acceptance of self. This is not always easy, especially if we are angry at ourselves about being seduced, deceived, controlled and manipulated.

Try this simple technique derived from Gary Craig’s Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as EFT:

Probe gently around on the upper left quadrant of your chest. Note where you find a tender spot (we all have one), then rub that “sore spot” (gently and in a clockwise direction) while saying the following: With all my problems and limitations, I love, accept and forgive myself. Do this for a minute or two and repeat often – every day.

By doing this technique, it is claimed, you are undoing any blockages in the energy meridian that governs self-acceptance. You are not aiming at removing the tenderness from the spot. It will remain tender.

If you notice yourself thinking negatively about what you did or didn’t do in your life, take a moment to do this gentle technique to acquire more self-acceptance and self-love. Everything else you undertake in your healing journey needs this self-acceptance to underpin it.

“. . . this revolutionary act of treating ourselves tenderly can begin to undo the aversive messages of a lifetime.” 
― Tara BrachRadical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha