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Forgiving ourselves

Old 05-16-2003, 05:45 AM
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JT
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Forgiving ourselves

When this forum started I grabbed a couple books at the library and looked at that website I posted. I curled up with the books and waited for the lightbulbs to go off. What I found when trying to focus on my own past was something I did not expect.

My own mistakes were staring me in the face. I have been working the steps a long time and I thought I had put my mistakes where they belong, but it is hard to read about how children are treated without looking at my own parenting.

I know that my parents did the best they knew how to do...I want to really, in my heart, give myself that same forgiveness.

Now my mom came from a truly abusive situation coupled with the fact that her parents did not speak to each other...not one word...for the last 10 years of my grandfathers life. When I think of these things I feel empathy and compassion for her.

Why is it so difficult to do the same for myself? I am pretty strong but the ice still gets thin when I go there.

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Old 05-16-2003, 05:52 AM
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JT,

I asked myself how I felt about this post.....the answer was clear:
go away!

My son took his own life 3 years ago....I try to forgive my mistakes, but with an outcome like that!?!?!?!?!? It is pretty hard to find balance there.

This will be a lifelong issue for me.
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Old 05-16-2003, 10:56 AM
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GULP

I didn't mean to scare everybody off!!!!!!!!!!!

You can well imagine that when I talk about this....other people often get mighty uncomfortable.
It's things like that I appreciate most being able to be honest about.

I'll be back...I have granted myself a siesta
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Old 05-16-2003, 03:58 PM
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(((((((((Live)))))))))))))))

My first reaction was to get the heck away from this thread!!

I can only imagine how hard it must be to lose a child, especially in a situation like yours. I have no words of wisdom, just a bunch of hugs!

About 6 months ago I experienced a situation with one of my best friends. She killed herself as her 16 year old daughter watched. When I found out, my first thought was, "It can't be true, she would not do something like that". After I talked with her daughter, my disbelief turned to anger. I was so angry with my friend for not calling me & talking to me, I was angry that the last memory she left her child was the trauma of watching her kill herself, I was angry with myself for not knowing that something was wrong. I struggled with whether to even attend her funeral. I did go to the funeral and I am glad I did. I was able to forgive my friend for what she had done, and I was able to forgive myself for not being able to stop her. I had been so caught up in my own problems with my A, that I didn't have the energy to deal with anyone else. I thought, "What if I would have been a better friend, what if I would have been more available to her, what if I had just called her when I couldn't get her off my mind?!" I was more angry with myself than I was with her. I know in my heart that nothing I could have said or done would have changed the outcome. I have never discussed this with anyone, it is just something I've kept inside. It feels good to get it out!

As for forgiving ourselves for our parenting mistakes...I can only say that none of us is the perfect parent. I try so hard to be the kind of parent I wish I'd had and sometimes I think, "Maybe my daughter needs something different than I needed". I know I've made some mistakes with her & hopefully I can learn from those mistakes. I catch myself sometimes, sounding just like my step-mom. The things that I couldn't stand about her when I was growing up! That's when I shut my mouth & take a look at the situation. I've learned that if I'm wrong and I admit to my daughter that I handled the situation poorly, she respects that! I think we do tend to beat ourselves up over things while trying desperately to forgive others for their wrongdoings. In my case, I think it's "Mini Me" coming out, trying to please everyone and thinking, "I'll never be good enough". Someone on another thread said that they detest their inner child. I think that I also do, to an extent. As a child, I was so meek and timid. I was a doormat for anyone who wanted to walk over me. I've gotten much better, but I still find myself being a pretty easy target sometimes.

I've definately started to ramble here! I'm gonna grant myself a siesta!
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Old 05-16-2003, 04:20 PM
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I am not going to talk about myself in this thread until later when I have quality time. I have three boys with capes on running around me screaming and tackling eachother and even though that's quality time in its own right it doesn't make for great concentration.

I talk about how alcoholic my husbands behavior is, but there are ways he deals with things that in a way, seem so much healthier than I'm accustumed to. For example, if we have a fight, I always have to process everything to death until I can have closure with it and feel better. He looks at it as it's a new day, let it go....and he usually does.

His father committed suicide a few yrs. ago and I'm always looking for some underlying reason for his behavior having to do with this issue. He insists he's dealt with it and that's it. The only time he did talk about it, he said he doesn't respect his dad because of what he did and that he thought it was incredibly selfish to deal with his problems that way.

I complain about his inability to look at his part in things but on the other side of it I tend to question myself and beat myself up for everything. I was the scapegoat in my family so I'm used to thinking everything is my fault. I mean he seems a lot healthier in regard to forgiving himself.
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Old 05-16-2003, 04:40 PM
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I am always tickled by Live's honesty and directness!

This whole forum has gotten way way low and I don't think that is what it needs to be. I am new to this. The fact that I am powerless over alcohol...that I am powerless over other people places and things is made stonger by looking back. The realization that there is a Higher Power working in my life is made stronger by looking back.

I have done alot of work already on guilt. I have done my crying and grieving over things that cannot be changed. And I did all of that in Alanon. I have already beaten my self up over things I regret and I did come out the other side. Maybe that is why I feel relatively safe doing this.

The contents of my life have brought me to this place...to this program and to this forum. For that I am grateful. What happened in my past just is...I couldn't control it then and I cannot control it today.

If something causes intense pain then perhaps the time is not right. Or perhaps it is and we just have to move through it. Only you can know that.

I care so much about all of you and I hate to see people hurt....if you don't feel safe then don't go there. I been getting PM's and I need sunglasses for all the lightbulbs flashing...

Just like Alanon/Naranon and AA/NA...one day, one step at a time. There is no cap and gown at the end of this gentle program.

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Old 05-16-2003, 07:02 PM
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There is something that I have been unable to forgive myself for also. I have talked about it for years but it doesn't ever seem to get resolved. My best friend of 18 yrs got ovarian cancer during my bottom. When she was diagnosed we were both living in CA. I was so wrapped up in my addiction and everything that goes along with it that I was not there for her at all. By the time I finally called her she was too sick to talk. She died 6 months after she was diagnosed in June and that was when she was suppose to get married. She had asked me to be the maid of honor. I didn't find out until the night before about the funeral and by then she was back on the east coast and I couldn't go to the funeral. I went to rehab shortly after. While I was in rehab my grandfather, who had cancer died and I couldn't go to his funeral either.

Baby crying....gotta go
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Old 05-16-2003, 07:29 PM
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M,

I am glad you didn't head for the hills.....



I don't blame myself for my son's suicide,....but it is easy to hate that he was in so much pain and so hopeless...and I wonder how I contibuted to that. Or what I coulda, woulda, shoulda done.

My counselor would like to see those words taken out of our vocabulary...coulda, woulda, shoulda....
They are useless words, all we can deal with is what is.

Jt, thank you for the gentleness.
Before we can forgive ourselves, we have to name what our percieved error is/was.
Bring it to the light of day to examine...and the sunshine shine through.


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Old 05-16-2003, 07:55 PM
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Steph....I am chasing you with the skillet...you know why!!!!


I have a young grandson, he'll be 2 in July. What a delight!!!
Life goes on!!!

I love rocking him, playing with him, and learning from the wisdom of having raised two and being a grandma (that's mema to me).


Please don't tiptoe around me!!!!
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Old 05-16-2003, 08:14 PM
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Well said Live!

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Old 05-16-2003, 08:38 PM
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My favorite person in the whole world was my grandma and I called her Mema. I have never heard of another Mema until now. I have tears in my eys. Mema's are the best.

There's something special about grandparents. Even my parents have totally stepped up to the plate with my kids. They are more present and more available for them then they ever were for me and they live 7 hrs. away. They call everyday just to hear the baby gurgle.
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Old 05-17-2003, 01:39 AM
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10 ways you can stop beating yourself up--no matter what you've done

Okay, you did it. You spent half the month's food budget on a new coat, didn't get to your son's soccer match before the second half, put your mom in a nursing home, and, when the cat's yowling got on your nerves, you--you awful person!--let him outside where he was promptly hit by a car.

Yikes! Your family and friends would never forgive you if they knew half of what you do. Unfortunately, you know the whole. And the sheer awfulness of it rocks you with guilt and sinks you with shame. God may forgive you. But how on earth are you ever going to forgive yourself?

Why You Can't Forgive
Probably one of the few people who can tell you is psychologist Fred Luskin, PhD, director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project. A tall, rangy researcher who regularly lopes across the Palo Alto campus in khakis and running shoes, Dr. Luskin has been conducting studies and workshops on forgiveness up and down the California coast for the past several years. From Berkeley to Big Sur, he's worked with men who've cheated on their wives, wives who've cheated on their husbands, kids who've dumped their parents, parents who've dumped their kids, and a whole lot worse.

Amazingly, the biggest obstacle he's found to self-forgiveness may be the tendency we have to wallow in our own guilt. "It's not just that we feel bad because we know we've done wrong," he explains. Everybody does that. But some of us actually draw those bad feelings around ourselves like a blanket, cover our heads, and refuse to stop the wailing.

If that sounds nuts to you, you're not alone. Wailing should be reserved for the victim, not the perpetrator, right? But some of us try to use those bad feelings like a ******** to ward off the consequences of our actions, says Dr. Luskin. We curl up in a ball and say, "Hey! Look how bad I feel! See how I'm suffering! I'm pitiful! I'm pathetic! I can't be punished any more than this; it wouldn't be fair!"

"It's a crazy form of penance," adds Dr. Luskin with a shake of his head. Instead of taking responsibility for what we've done by trying to repair the damage or make things right, many of us unconsciously decide--mea culpa--to punish ourselves by feeling miserable for the rest of our lives.

It's not just about you

Unfortunately, the decision to feel miserable for the rest of your life can have tragic consequences. And not always in obvious ways.

For one thing, misery loves company. "If you keep beating yourself up, then the person who tries to love you is going to get beat up too," explains Dr. Luskin. It's inevitable. Anyone who's wallowing in guilt is going to be more withdrawn, more critical, and less open than they normally would. So whoever's around--your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, even your dog--is going to suffer right along with you.

Nor does the suffering stop with those around you. Mind affects body in a zillion interconnecting ways, and those guilty feelings you're nurturing are generating chemicals that are headed straight for your vital organs. They increase your heart rate, raise your blood pressure, disrupt your digestion, tense your muscles, dump cholesterol into your bloodstream, and reduce your ability to think straight. And every time you remember what you did and wince, those bad feelings give you a fresh hit of corrosive chemicals.

It's no wonder that studies on forgiveness have led scientists to suspect that those who have difficulty forgiving are more likely to experience heart attacks, high blood pressure, depression, and other ills.

Give Yourself a Break!
Feeling bad about things you've done in the past can create a pretty painful present. So while you're learning how to forgive yourself and move on, give your mind and body a break from all the shame and guilt by replacing them with gratitude, says psychologist Fred Luskin, PhD, author of Forgive for Good (Harper SanFrancisco, 2001). Here's how he suggests you do it.


Walk into your nearest supermarket, and give thanks for the abundance of food that's available.


Go to a nursing home or hospital, and give thanks for your own good health.


When driving, mentally thank each of the drivers who follow the rules of the road.


If you have a significant other in your life, thank him or her for caring for you every day.


Really notice the salesperson in a store who waits on you. Thank them for helping you.


As you wake each morning, give thanks for your breath and the gift of your life.

It's better to do good than to feel bad.
 
Old 05-17-2003, 01:41 AM
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The healing power of forgiveness

From his cramped office on the Stanford campus, Dr. Luskin has spent 6 years studying how people move toward forgiving themselves and others, and it's clearly a process that pulls at his heart as much as it teases his mind.

"Forgiveness is a tool with which we face what we've done in the past, acknowledge our mistakes, and move on," he says slowly. "It does not mean that you condone or excuse what happened. It does not mean that you forget.

"Remember the saying, 'For everything there is a season'?" he asks. "Well, there's a season for our suffering and regret. We have to have that. But the season ends; the world moves on. And we need to move on with it." Here's how to do it.

Categorize the offense.
"Most of us find it hard to forgive ourselves when we've done one of four things," says Dr. Luskin.


You fail at some major life task such as making your marriage work.


Your actions have hurt someone else.


You've hurt yourself by the way you've led your life: drinking or doing something else that's self-destructive.


You didn't do something you thought you should, such as intervene in a family dispute or put money away so your kid can go to college.


"Categorizing the offense begins the forgiveness process," emphasizes the psychologist. "It allows you to break down what you did, look at it, get a little distance, and begin healing."

Know how you feel.
"Articulate the specific wrong you committed and the harm it caused," says Dr. Luskin. "Tell a couple of trusted people about what you did to get support, care, and advice," he adds. Sharing reminds us that everyone makes mistakes. "We commonly think we're alone and unique in our suffering, but this only makes healing more difficult," adds Dr. Luskin. Confessing what you've done also prevents you from slipping into denial, suppression, repression, and forgetting.

Understand what you want.
You don't necessarily want to reconcile with the person you hurt, you just want to get rid of the shame, release the blame, and feel calm and whole at your center.

Recognize unrealistic expectations.
Most of us have a set of unconscious rules hovering in the back of our minds about how we expect ourselves to behave. But those rules, many of which we've absorbed in childhood rather than actually thought about, are not always realistic.

When my friend Susan's mom had a slight stroke, for example, Susan felt she should invite her mom to move in with her. A daughter always takes care of her mother, right? But her mother was and had always been an absolutely miserable human being, a lot like mob boss Tony Soprano's hateful mother on the HBO series, The Sopranos. There was no way to please her. Every word that came out of her mouth was a criticism, a put-down, or a complaint. And it was all delivered in a nasty tone intended to wither everyone around her with contempt.

With the help of her friends and husband, Susan realized that it wasn't realistic--or fair--to bring such overwhelming negative energy into the house. So she helped her mom move into an assisted living community with a pool of trained helpers on call morning, noon, and night.

Identify the hurt.
Realize that the hurt feelings, guilty thoughts, and tummy-tightening stress you feel whenever you think of your offense is what's actually making you feel bad--not what you did 2 minutes or 10 years ago, says Dr. Luskin. It's your reaction to it today that's causing a problem. It's a habit that has to go.

More things you can do

Hit the stop button.
Replaying what you did over and over again in your head isn't going to help you or the person you hurt. It just makes you feel bad. So every time you catch yourself ruminating on your sins, stop, and refocus your attention on something more positive.

Sorry!
When you can't forgive yourself because of something you've done to someone else, sometimes all it takes is a sincere apology to make things right. Apologies are most effective if made in person, of course. But if that's not possible, consider wrapping your apology in a little humor. One woman who owed her husband an apology sent him a copy of the game "Sorry!" with a note asking if they could play. Not to be beaten, her husband responded with a copy of the old Brenda Lee single, "I'm Sorry." Now, isn't that nice?

Practice PERT.
PERT stands for Positive Emotion Refocusing Technique. It's a 45-second strategy Dr. Luskin developed to use whenever you start beating yourself up over past sins. Simply close your eyes, draw in a long breath that gently pushes out your belly, then slowly exhale as you relax your belly. Draw a second breath, and exhale.

On the third deep breath, says Dr. Luskin, create an image of someone you love or of a beautiful place in nature that fills you with awe: a beautiful beach, a path through a majestic redwood forest, a mountain stream tumbling over rocks. Breathe deeply as your mind explores the natural beauty around you. Notice how you feel, and allow those feelings to center on the area around your heart.

Now, ask this peaceful part of you what you can do to help yourself feel better. Then, when you've received an answer, open your eyes, and put it into action.

Make it right.
"To make amends, you look for a way to be kind to those you have hurt," says Dr. Luskin. If you spent half the family's monthly food budget on a new coat, make it up to them by turning out the tastiest meals ever cooked on a shoestring. Didn't get to your son's championship soccer game until the second half? Make it right by volunteering to be next year's assistant coach.

Even if the person you hurt is dead or otherwise absent from your life, you can still make things up by providing a kindness to someone else, says Dr. Luskin. "Think you were a bad parent? Okay, you can't go back and change things now, but can you go out of your way to be an outstanding grandparent? Can you join a Big Brothers or Big Sisters organization and provide some guidance and companionship to somebody else's child?

"Do good rather than feel bad," says Dr. Luskin. Not only will you forgive yourself, but doing so will turn your life around in ways that you can only imagine.

Lose the Wicked Witch thing.
Once you've made amends, it's time to stop telling yourself the old story in which you're the Wicked Witch of the West. Start telling yourself a new story: a heroic story in which, despite your human frailties, you do everything in your power to be a forgiving person.

Susan is my particular hero. As she learned to forgive herself for moving her mom into a special residence, she also learned how to forgive her mother for a childhood of less than loving words. Today, Susan visits her mom once a week and calls her every few days. And although her mom is just as nasty as ever--some things never change--the two women have never been closer.

Put things in perspective.
Once a day, think of all the kind and loving things you've done today alone: the stray dog you picked up and returned to its owner, the crying child you distracted so its mother could eat her lunch, the dry cleaning you picked up after work so that your honey could exercise. Think about it for very long, and you'll realize that you've become one amazing person!
 
Old 05-17-2003, 04:49 AM
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Excellent!!!!!!!!!

Thank you, MG!!!!!!!!!!1
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Old 05-17-2003, 07:20 AM
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Wow MG!

We have choices! We always have choices. We don't have to be a victim...even of ourselves. "Do good rather than feel bad"

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