Saturday, August 26, 2006

It Doesn't Have to Feel This Way Forever

For so many things, we may feel as if what we feel now is what we will feel forever. We may believe that we can never be happy, never have anything go right in our lives. That’s the most common fear if we were ever abused.


Case in point: Parenthood. If you were abused as a child, odds are you are afraid you will not be a “good enough” parent. I had that fear. And for a very long time, I distanced myself to some degree from my children for fear I would “taint” them with my own fears and self-doubts and anxieties. Even as I let go of my fears and self-doubts, I continued to worry about being a good enough mother. It didn’t help that I went through some rough patches with my kids.

Don’t get me wrong—they’re good kids. But it wasn’t always easy and I had to learn to ask for respect from my children. I had to learn not to accept abuse from them.

And there was a time I felt as if I’d failed them and would never be able to make it right.

The good news? My kids are fine. Well, okay, one has an attitude but there are signs that may be improving a bit. The other...the other is a shining star in her work and she’s growing closer and closer to me as I trust myself to know what to say to her and she trusts me to be a support and sees me with new respect for who I am and what I can do.

One of my daughter’s endearing qualities is that she doesn’t realize how extraordinary she is. This week she got some indication of how others see her. And it was a reminder to me that others may see me with very different eyes than I see myself.

I look at her and I can see how her perceptions of herself affect the possibilities that open for her. Had she been afraid to take one particular step, she never would have had the wonderful experiences she’s been having this past week. And it reminds me that we can each, all too easily, cut ourselves off from wonderful possibilities as well.

As she turns to me for advice in areas that are my expertise and I see how well that advice works for her, it helps me recognize the value of what I have to offer. And it brings the two of us closer as talk about things we could never talk about before.

We can’t control what will happen to us in life. But if we are only able to see the negative possibilities, those are the doors we will open. If we are able to take that leap of faith and believe that things can be different and better and that we are deserving of good things in our lives, then we will see and open doors and take steps that bring those good things into our lives.

When we stop clinging to the darkness, we find the light. When we let go of the familiar anchors to which we are clinging, we may discover we can fly. When we let go of past anger and hurt and fears, we can discover laughter and love and a whole new world of possibilities.

If we make mistakes, so what? This is how we learn. This is how we grow. This is how we move forward in our lives.

What will YOU let go of today? What good possibilities will you welcome into your life?

Sending safe and gentle ((((((hugs)))))),

Monday, August 21, 2006

Forgiving Ourselves

Comments Brian and John Michael both made reminded me that this is a special category of forgiveness. How many of you find it easier to forgive others than to forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made—or think you’ve made?

That last is important because I think sometimes we assume things are our fault and blame ourselves when we haven’t done anything wrong.

Now I am NOT advocating blinding ourselves to mistakes we DO make! That’s part of the problem with abusers—they find it way too easy to tell themselves they did nothing wrong. What I am advocating is looking at situations as clearly as we can and only take responsibility for the part that is in fact due to our words and actions.

I DO advocate making amends for harm we’ve caused whenever it is possible to do so without causing even more harm. Perhaps I should say that it’s important to find a way to make amends that does not cause additional harm. We need to do so NOT to get forgiveness from the other person but rather so that we can forgive ourselves. Because in the end, that’s what matters. No one can tell us it’s okay to violate the code by which we believe we should live. Even if we try to believe them, there will be a part of us that knows/insists we are doing wrong. Whether or not the other person forgives us, we cannot and will not be at peace with ourselves until we are able to find forgiveness within ourselves for what we have done. And that means making amends if possible and if not then doing what we can so that we do not repeat the harm in the future.

That’s when the harm we’ve done is real. What about guilt we feel that’s misplaced? What about when we can’t forgive ourselves for things that weren’t our fault? Or because we hold ourselves to an impossible standard?

That’s the tricky part—knowing what’s impossible and what isn’t. Often, we look back and with the knowledge we have now, we believe we should have done things differently in the past. And perhaps we would have—if we had known then what we know now and had the tools then that we have now. But we didn’t. We did the best we could at the time.

I look back at choices and decisions I made at various points in my life and wish I had done things differently. It is a struggle sometimes to realize I did the best I could. But that’s the reality.

We can’t go back—we can only go forward. And it is choosing to live our lives NOW with honor and with kindness toward others and with a protective wisdom toward ourselves that we can find forgiveness for ourselves for past perceived mistakes.

It’s crucial that we find ways to forgive ourselves. If we cannot forgive ourselves for choices we made or ways we got hurt in the past, we won’t be open to love now. If we cannot forgive ourselves for past mistakes we won’t dare try new things now. If we cannot accept ourselves as human, our energy will go into trying not to hate ourselves or to blaming ourselves and not into changing and becoming the people we want to be and living the lives we want to have.

If we were abused as children, we are accustomed to taking blame onto our own shoulders because we needed to believe that to survive. We are accustomed to failing because we once lived in situations where we could not win and that became our reality. But it does not have to stay that way. We can love and accept ourselves as human and forgive ourselves. If we need to make amends we can find ways to do so. And for those we may have in some way harmed, isn’t it better anyway to put our energy into making those amends rather than into trying to punish ourselves?

The more we love and accept ourselves, the more we will be able to love and accept others and the more likely we are to become the people we want to be. After all, it is much easier to become good and honorable people if we believe it is possible for us to do so!

I’ve said before that I believe all harm comes out of a person’s self-hate or hurt or fear. Therefore, the more you are able to love and accept yourself, the less likely you are to want or need to hurt others. And if it happens unintentionally, the more quickly you will be able to take whatever steps you can to make amends.

Wishing you all the ability to love and forgive yourselves. Sending safe and gentle ((((((hugs)))))),


Sunday, August 13, 2006


I know—it’s unusual to seem me post so often in a week but...

The third edition of the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse is about to be posted. For more info go to: PTSD Today Carnival Post.

One of the things WW is looking for is a post about forgiveness. And that’s a big issue for most people. It’s an even stickier issue for people who were abused as children.

I believe that for people who were abused as children, forgiveness comes in steps.

Step 1: Acknowledge that what was done to you was horrible. As children, we often took on the blame and protected the abusive adults. It’s important to look at those beliefs and realize we did not deserve what happened and that we have a right to be angry about it!

Step 2: Look at our lives now and realize we do have the power NOW to create the lives we want to have. Decide that we will find a way to be happy and to take the steps we need to take to do so. In other words, take back control of our lives.

Step 3: Really see others with all their hurts and fears. I believe that all harm comes out of the person’s fears and hurts and shame.

Step 4: Forgive the person for being so hurt and scared and needing to hurt us because they were.

NOTE: Forgiveness is NOT:
1) Allowing abuse to continue. We can forgive harm done to us and still take protective action to prevent ourselves or others from being hurt again as we were.
2) Minimizing the harm that was done or saying it doesn’t matter.
3) Forgetting or pretending it never happened.

Forgiveness IS letting go of the hurt and anger inside us. It IS choosing to stop putting our energy into rage and instead put it into creating the lives we want to have. It IS something we do for ourselves. We may never vocalize our forgiveness to the person who hurt us—especially if it’s not safe to do so. But we will immediately feel the change inside ourselves when we forgive. It IS letting go of the past so that we can move forward—loving and laughing and being happy.

Anger held onto too long is like a poison inside of us. We may need anger at one stage to get us to walk away from someone or some situation that is abusive but once we have used it to do so, we only hurt ourselves if we cling to the anger.

The more we focus on creating what we want in our lives, the less we need to hold onto the anger. The more we let go of that anger, the more energy we have to draw on to create the lives we want to have.

So...forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. That’s my take on it anyway.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Last week I made dinner for some people new in town. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it? And yet it was.

Snapshot: Me as a kid. Always hungry. My mother portioned out food and I always got the least. Even when I was the one cooking it. When I went off to college I gained 30 pounds and I was STILL underweight!

Adulthood: Me, still underweight though I don’t want to be. Finding it very hard to cook for other people and offer them food. Hating to entertain. Believing it’s directly because of being starved as a kid and something wrong with me that I didn’t want company over.

Last week: Daughter’s friend and mother new in town. I offer to fix them dinner. I have a lovely time and really enjoy myself—and so do they.

That’s victory. It shows how far we can come, how much we can grow.

As I was sharing this with a friend, I realized that there were other factors going on, too. I realized that it makes a huge difference when you can clean up the house and the people around you don’t instantly mess it up. It makes a huge difference when no one is second guessing everything you do or the food you serve or how you fix it. It makes a huge difference when you aren’t worrying what anyone in your family will say or do.

In other words, I stopped and questioned the assumption that my reluctance to entertain for so many years and to cook for people was a flaw in me. I looked at the past and realized that until recently (i.e. after my divorce), there was never a time in my live—NEVER—when I didn’t have someone second guessing everything I did, messing up the home around me, and sometimes saying and doing things that were really offensive to other people.

I realized that on my own, I LIKE entertaining, I LIKE fixing dinner, I LIKE being sociable.

That was both a huge revelation for me and a huge victory.

As I have said so many times, it is the assumptions we never think to question that so often limit us unnecessarily. What assumptions could you question and rethink today that might make your life better if you did?

Wishing each of you your own victories this week and sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Sunday, August 06, 2006


A post I read on another blog made me stop and think. Do I sound too optimistic here? As if it’s easy to get past the effects of abuse? I hope not because it wasn’t easy to get to this point in my life. And even now there are times when I have bad moments, when old fears trigger panic or old messages tell me I’m not good enough and never will be.

The key is that these are MOMENTS. I know they are echoes of the past and that all I have to do is face them to tame them, to uncover the old mistaken assumptions, and let them go.

As Emily said in her blog, ( know that this is a bad moment and it will pass and I won’t always feel this way. I can also look at the situation triggering these feelings and ask myself: What good could come out of this? And these days, I actually get an answer. Something good always does come out of the situation.

Every human being has these moments. I don’t know anyone—abuse victim or not—who doesn’t sometimes feel self-doubt or overwhelmed.

The key, again as Emily pointed out in her post Black Pit Survival is recognizing that things won’t always be bad. Abuse teaches us to believe otherwise which is why so often I post here the tools that helped and continue to help me recognize I won’t always feel the way I do when I’m scared or unhappy. For me, the most important tools were and are:

1) Creating a list of past times I’ve succeeded.
2) Reminding myself that something that has already happened can’t be changed but I can focus on what to do differently in the future and/or ask myself what good could come out of the situation.
3) Reminding myself of people who believe in me.
4) Reminding myself of all the times I have been able to make changes in my life to make it better.
5) Looking at my list of things that make me smile and do something from that list.

No, it isn’t easy overcoming the long term (or short term) impact of abuse. It isn’t easy learning to believe in ourselves and replace pain with the ability to laugh and be happy again. I don’t ever want to imply that it is! But it IS possible and we need to know that because there are too many people (including “experts”) out there who will tell us it isn’t. I post to share the tools that helped me get to where I am now.

In a couple of days I think I’ll post about a recent “victory” over past conditioning. About assumptions I discovered were wrong that I didn’t even know I had. Because we need to know our lives truly can get better and better and better.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),