This week in my therapy groups, we discussed the concept of forgiveness. As we read through the materials, many participants had stories to share. They struggled to forgive others who wronged them. They struggled to forgive themselves for the mistakes they’ve made. I had a profound gratitude for these individuals, in their willingness to share these struggles honestly. In some respects, I had to admit I was really looking into the mirror upon myself. It is for this reason, I felt the insights learned during this group session, were worth a blog post…..
…Before I get to my big “aha moment” this week, it might help if you read this post titled “….And Cancer Trumps PTSD” as well as my post “Anatomy of a Misunderstanding”….
What Forgiveness Isn’t…..
Over the last 2-3 years, I’ve really worked hard to put some unresolved hurt behind me that I’ve buried too long. My desire to forgive comes from a burning desire to make room for the “good stuff” & leave the B.S. behind me. As I’ve discovered, failing to forgive, leads to unresolved grief and resentment. Here are a few huge Aha’s that occurred to me during this group session. I witnessed them in client’s stories that day and found I myself looking in the mirror.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean sweeping things under the rug….
….Oftentimes, in interactions with my family, I can tend to “sweep things under the rug”. As I’ve learned this week, overlooking doesn’t equate to forgiveness. It simply entails covering things up with a thin veil of denial. My problem is that my family doesn’t fully accept and/or understand the PTSD, or what it means. They don’t realize the extent to which some experiences from my past have really traumatized me. They were physically present but mentally and emotionally MIA. I overlook things they do and say that trigger emotional flashbacks, by either withdrawing, slapping a smile on my face, or numbing out. This is a dis-service to nobody….
Forgiving is not psychoanalyzing yourself &/or others….
I bet if you went to the search bar on the bottom of my blog and google “sister”, you would find quite a bit of evidence of psychoanalysis. I could literally write a ten page dissertation on why my sister don’t really get along, and be entirely correct in my analysis. What good is this? As far forgiveness is concerned, it really doesn’t help. In fact, by examining and ruminating over why somebody did this bad thing, all you do is become steeped in anger and frustration.
Forgiving isn’t the same as feeling good about the person &/or situation…..
When you forgive someone you’re not endorsing the wrong, or saying its okay that they did what they did. You’re also not saying it felt good that this bad thing happened. It might still hurt – even excruciatingly so. In fact, some pains are impossible to forget. As I’ve come to realize, forgiving simply means you make healing a priority and that you take responsibility for yourself. Nobody can heal you but yourself.
What forgiveness is….
Forgiveness requires an acknowledgment of the wrong & how it hurt you…
It is vital to acknowledge the wrong that was done to yourself even if it brings up a well of unresolved pain. Avoiding it requires a complex interwoven network of self deception and denial alongside a sprinkling of dissociative numbing. Your life is filled with missing pieces, and clarity is forever outside your grasp.
Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself….
Contrary to what you think, forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person. Instead, you make healing a priority before all others. You take charge of growth through healing. Doing so, challenges you to give up destructive thoughts and allows you to experience life which is not defined by old baggage.