Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In The Process Of Forgiving, Self-Forgiveness Comes After The Feelings

Forgiveness does not mean "getting over it" as some people will tell you to do.  There is no "getting over" no matter how much you try, no matter how much pain you are in, no matter how much you may wish you could "get over it."  In my experience, "getting over it" just doesn't work.

I tried many times and many ways to get over, under, and around the pain of incest.  I even tried denying my pain and feelings and wearing a smiling, happy face for several years.  None of it worked.  I even tried stuffing it down with food and denied myself access to my dad's family of origin for 10 years in an attempt to be happy and normal.  The reality was Hell instead.  I wasn't happy.  I wore a mask of sweetness with my friends and almost continual feelings of rage that kept escaping and affecting me and those I loved. 

In some ways, I recreated the home of my childhood.  I was the raging controller [my dad].  My husband was the passive-aggressive one [my mom].

I tried controlling and fixing everyone else's problems so I wouldn't have to feel my own pain or look at my own problems.  None of it worked and I still couldn't forgive.  I just hated myself more.  I ignored my physical and emotional needs.  I pretended they never existed, just like my parents did when I was a child.

I often tell others that I was blessed to have a dad and grandfather who were alcoholics because when I  was able to see myself as an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, I was able to finally see who I was and what the family disease of alcoholism was doing to my life.  Add the incest on top of that and the mixture was even more dysfunctional and often intense.

Getting a sponsor in my 12-Step programs was my second blessing in recovery.  Thank you, Jack.  He made me start attending Al-Anon meetings not long after I started Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings.  I can honestly say that Adult Children meetings saved my life and my sanity and helped me find myself where I was finally able to do forgiveness further down the road.  The Al-Anon meetings were about healthy and unhealthy relationships and helped me save my marriage and start a new relationship of healing and forgiveness with myself and my family.

I had to heal me before I could even think about forgiveness.  I had to feel and work through my feelings of anger, rage, shame, hurt, betrayal, trust, abandonment and safety.  I had to first create a feeling of safety before I could begin to trust myself or anyone else.

My 12-Step sponsor had me make a list of people that I needed to make amends to.  Then he told me to put myself at the top of the list.  Then I had to make a list of things that I needed to forgive myself for first.

That list for self-forgiveness included:

Forgiving myself for believing the lies of my abusers.

Forgiving me, the adult, for ever believing that the child me was capable of protecting herself.  I wasn't given the tools to do that by my parents.  I was just a child.

Forgiving me, the adult, for blaming the child me for the incest.

Forgiving me, the adult, for staying silent about the incest for so long.

Forgiving me, the adult, for abandoning my own inner children when they really needed me the most.

Forgiving me, the adult, for adding on more abuse by listening and believing my inner critic voices for so long.

Forgiving me, the adult, for using food to keep my feelings buried inside for so long.

Forgiving  me, the adult, for being so afraid all the time instead of living my life to its fullest.

Forgiving me, the adult, for allowing my rage to control me and for using that rage to hurt others.

Forgiving me, the adult, for living in denial for so long.

Forgiving me, the adult, for being so controlling of people and circumstances and becoming my dad the dictator, in the early years of my marriage.

Forgiving me, the adult, for hiding behind a mask and not allowing the real me to shine my Light for others to see. 

Forgiving me, the adult, for carrying around the shame of my abusers and believing it was mine.

Forgiving me, the adult, for not seeing the abuse of bullying that my daughter went through in her teenage years of high school because I was so focused on my own needs at the time.

Forgiving me, the adult, for not being a better protector of my daughter when a teenage boy made sexual advances toward her when she was 10 years old.

Forgiving me, the adult, for passing so many of my fears on to my children so that my son suffers from panic attacks today.

Forgiving me, the adult, for not being more emotionally present for my children, when I was so focused on my early recovery that they probably felt that I wasn't there for them.  In many ways, I wasn't.

Forgiving me, the adult, for lashing out at my husband with my rage before I reached the stage of being able to control it and hurting the person, other than my children, that I love the most.

The child that I was doesn't need forgiving.  The abuse was never her fault.  She didn't deserve to be treated the way that she was by her abusers.  She was blameless and shameless for what was done by the adults in her life.

Links to other posts on forgiveness:

Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker's post
"Forgiveness Is Not Forgetting The Child Abuse"
@ http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2010/10/forgiveness-is-not-forgetting-child.html

Emerging From Broken's post
"Forgive the Abusers? A bit of a Rant"
@ http://emergingfrombroken.com/forgive-the-abusers-a-bit-of-a-rant/

Overcoming Sexual Abuse's post
"What About Forgiveness"
@ http://overcomingsexualabuse.com/2010/10/28/what-about-forgiveness/

Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker's post
"Revisiting Forgiveness"
@ http://patriciasingleton.blogspot.com/2009/06/revisiting-forgiveness.html


Matthew | Loving Awareness said...

Most times I get angry when someone preaches forgiveness. That's because there's usually an undercurrent of "that pain makes me uncomfortable. I don't want to feel it. Get rid of it please - and let's call it forgiveness."

One journey I am on now is just letting myself feel hurt. Being hurt. There was half a lifetime of hurt. Trying to 'heal' was a way of trying to get rid of it. Thoughts that being hurt isn't lovable. We have to be productive, passionate, loving. If you're hurt you should go see someone - but away from me.

I wrote something on forgiveness a while ago. I've gotten a bit less abstract, but it's still there:

Now I like the language "giving space for". I can give space for my feelings of hurt, anger, and rage without needing them to heal or go away. I can give space for my parents at the same time. Part of that space is knowing I don't want to be close to them, because they'll just do the same thing. But in that space is also not needing them to be different. Perhaps that's what forgiveness really is.

Patricia Singleton said...

Matthew, thanks for stopping by and leaving a link to your post on forgiveness. Forgiveness is a difficult topic for many of us to deal with. Forgiveness is a choice and not everyone chooses to do it.

Anything that makes me uncomfortable reflects to me something that I need to look at to see why there is pain. That is where much of my growing comes from.

Hopefully I am not coming across as "preaching" forgiveness. I believe in having options. In saying this is the way that I did it or this is the way that worked for me, I am not saying that my way is the only way. I learned a long time ago that there are always many, many paths to acheive a goal. There are definitely many different paths to healing and to forgiveness. Choose a path that works for you or don't choose a path at all. Both are choices.