Tag Archives: forgiveness

Love Who You Are

 

 compassion

As I contemplated jumping into this enormous project, I was grateful to get the following comment from a reader:

“Having compassion for ourselves and letting go of unrealistic expectations is a life long journey. A few simple steps to help us move forward would be helpful.”

—Judith

That sounded to me like a mighty fine place to start . . . a few simple steps.

I’m certain the first step involves coming to understand what is blocking our self-compassion and self-acceptance. As far as I know, we weren’t born with self-contempt or an active inner critic. Does it enter a baby’s mind that she might be crying too loudly or burdening her parents with yet another dirty diaper? Are babies born with a list of expectations in hand?  I don’t think so.

Guilt is learned—acquired later after we’ve been here for a while. If we don’t like ourselves, or if we’re accustomed to beating ourselves up mentally, it’s due to what we’ve been exposed to in the world—our conditioning. At some point, we bought into the idea that our flaws are unforgivable, that we’re unlikable or that we need to be hard on ourselves for failing to live up to certain standards and expectations.

We are shaped by the prevailing culture of the time, and the many with whom we share our life experiences. Our job is to disentangle ourselves from the limitations of all that.

The key to escaping this murky quagmire of self-degradation is by disbelieving how we’ve been conditioned to see and think about ourselves. But what, you may ask, does this look like in my daily life?  What is disbelieving and how do I do it?

We’ll tackle that the next time . . . stay tuned! As always, I welcome your feedback.

 

(c) 2014 Salee Reese

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Filed under Contemplations, General Interest, Get Free

Let’s Lighten Up . . . on Ourselves

feather

Perfection is elusive. Maybe there’s a reason for that. Perhaps . . . life is merely about building muscles. If that’s the case, we need to ease up on ourselves. Could it be that this classroom we call life is one gigantic planetary fitness center? I tend to think so. 🙂

We shouldn’t use past regrets—or past wrongdoings—as clubs for beating ourselves up . . . but we do.

Becky and Duane provide two examples that I’ll be including in my book on guilt and shame.  So, as promised, here’s a bit that’s going to show up somewhere. I’m not far enough along in the process to know where, exactly, but I’m trying not to beat myself up about that (ha—physician, heal thyself).

When it comes to life here on Planet Earth, imperfection is simply built in. The skater—no matter how well-trained—will fall. The car—no matter how fussed over—will get dinged. The plan—no matter how polished—will be altered. Count on it.

But knowing this fact about life doesn’t keep us from being hard on ourselves for the mistakes we make. Many people find it easy to forgive others but are hard pressed to forgive themselves. This shouldn’t be the case—forgiveness is forgiveness. Why be discriminating?

Fifty-year-old Becky is a perfect case in point.

“It’s killing me how I squandered money in the past,” she said in our counseling session.

Now her finances are pinched. Yes, she could be tempted to place the blame on the economy, but she doesn’t do that.

“I just didn’t plan well and I wasn’t disciplined,” she explained. “I spent freely and without thought.”

Her sense of shame ran deep—fermenting for a long time.

“How do I get beyond this awful sense of disgust toward myself?” she asked.

“Becky,” I said, “realize that the shame you’re feeling simply means you’re in a different place now. The person you are today wouldn’t have squandered money. Correct?”

She nodded.

“You’re ashamed of who you were,” I continued. “But you’re not that person anymore. A better choice would be to feel warmly toward that younger and less mature version of yourself—just as you would toward a child struggling to learn how to walk.”

I told her to imagine her life as a tapestry that she’s weaving. Each strand signifies a certain time period and aspect of her life.

“Realize that each strand has been necessary for contributing to the entire picture of who you are,” I said.

Like all of us, Becky cannot unravel what she’s already created. All she can do is step back and examine her tapestry, taking inventory of all the lessons she’s learned.

“But I’m so angry at myself,” she said.

“To be angry at your younger self is pointless,” I said. “And it will remain pointless until they invent a time machine so you can go back and yell at that self for the mistakes she made.”

Becky smiled—she caught the humor.

“I never looked at it that way,” she said. “Mistakes were never acceptable in my household growing up. We were expected to be perfect. Perfect grades. Perfect at sports. But once I was out on my own, I threw that all out for a while. I guess I really do wish I could go back in time and slap myself!”

“Perfection is never attainable,” I said. “You’re parents burdened you with an unattainable goal. No wonder you rebelled and went a little wild afterward. And now that same perfectionist upbringing is filling you with emotions of regret. You still have the voices of your parents inside your head.”  Her parents had become unfriendly “roommates,” taking up permanent residence in her head, judging, criticizing, and generally being nuisances.  Like all bad roommates, they needed to be evicted.

After our session, Becky was noticeably lighter. In subsequent sessions, we worked on her gaining control over her shame . . . er, unwelcome roommates.

Duane is another client who was riddled with guilt and shame when he came to see me. He had almost entered into an affair, and when his wife found out, she was devastated.

Duane loves his wife and family with all his heart—he never wanted to cause pain.

I saw them individually and as a couple for several sessions. In time, as he made amends, his wife’s wounds began to heal.

She has forgiven him, but Duane is still having trouble forgiving himself.

True, he can’t undo what he did—he can’t unripple the pond—but he can and has worked to rectify the damage.

The problem with shame is that its focus is too narrow and therefore distorted.

“Duane,” I said, “Your shame doesn’t acknowledge your heart and all the good you bring to your family.”

“Even though you are convinced that you’re undeserving of forgiveness,” I said, “the people who love you disagree with you. Shouldn’t you listen to them?”

He cried.

In life, self-forgiveness is underappreciated. The people we are today evolved out of each messy path, terrible decision and mistake we ever made. If we hadn’t made those mistakes, we wouldn’t be who we are now. And unless we learn to forgive those bad decisions we made—especially those we know we’ll never, ever make again—we’ll just continue to torture ourselves.

When I bumped into this quote, I had to chuckle:

“In order to profit from your mistakes, you have to go out and make some.”

—Jacob Braube

I like that. Not only are we given permission to mess up, we’re encouraged to do so. Sweet.

I would so welcome your feedback on this section: Does reading this make you want to read more? Did anything grab or pop out at you? Did reading this raise any questions in your mind that you would like to see addressed?  Thanks!

 

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

(c) 2014 Salee Reese

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Filed under General Interest, Get Free

The Unboxable Gift

gift box

How would you define a gift? A few years back when I posed that question to various people, I learned that a bumper sticker held the truth:

“The best things in life aren’t things.”

Hmmm . . . truth shows up in the least expected places at times. (Fodder for a new post, wouldn’t you agree?)

I wrote a column about my finds—many shared their viewpoints. In that column, I also wrote about the difficulty several of us have in being on the receiving end. In other words, we can easily give but can we just as easily receive? Melanie, a former client is a perfect example. I told her that allowing others to give to her was a gift in itself.

We all agree it’s rewarding to give, so when we let others give to us we’re doing them a favor.

Some people don’t see the gift they are to others. Kay was one of those people. Sadly, she was blind to her own value. So immensely wrong she was! You can read about her here.

For something to qualify as a “gift,” it need only be paired with the heart.

How would YOU define a gift? I love getting your feedback. And by the way . . . happy holidays!

Names are changed to honor confidentiality

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Call It a Relationship Virus

Bacteria 1 under microscope

I’ve written about Beth and Sam before (on 2/7/13 and 3/21/13). After divorcing Sam, Beth decided she didn’t really want to leave him after all. Within a few months they were back together. When I asked her what changed her mind, she said, “I’ve discovered that anger fades a lot faster than love.”

Today, they’re still doing well. “It’s because we talk things through,” Sam said. They don’t let things fester or go unsaid. They use a technique I taught them called “Checking-In.” In a calm conversational tone—the kind that doesn’t invite defensiveness—one partner asks: “What are you thinking right now?”

“We use it when we want to know if everything’s okay,” Amy said. She readily admits that she needs this more than Sam. “I’m guilty of making assumptions,” she said, “and then I react poorly.”

A book that keeps her on track—one she swears by—is called The Four Agreements by Don Ruiz. In a delightful, simple and oftentimes humorous way, he illuminates how we sabotage our relationships and inner peace. Making assumptions is one of the pot holes.

As I pointed out in my post, “It All Took Place in a Sunny Cafe,”  studies show that 90% of the assumptions we make are untrue.

In terms of well running relationships, instead of making assumptions or jumping to conclusions, we need to stay open-minded and seek clarification—get the other person’s story.

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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Stuck in Anger

A client of mine—I’ll call her Anna—shared this tidbit by Garrison Keillor:

“When you’re angry at people, you make them part of your life.”

That’s so true! Prolonged anger usually has a focus, and that focus usually involves a particular person. I can’t imagine being angry at my printer for two weeks—20 minutes yes, but not for two weeks.  On the other hand, I can imagine—at an earlier point in my life—being angry at another human being for two weeks. And that encrusted anger didn’t free me in any way. It kept me mentally fused to that other person.

So the lesson is clear: If we don’t want bothersome people in our life, we have to give up the anger. How do we do that? By making a decision to either walk away—as Anna chose to do with an unkind friend—or by changing the way we think about that person.

This is what Sophia, another client, did. She doesn’t have the luxury of merely walking away because the unkind person in her life happens to be her brother.

“His nasty comments just leave my blood boiling,” she said. “How do you see him?” I asked. “As a jerk!” she said. I commented saying “As long as you see him that way, you’ll feel tortured by him.”  I went on to suggest she view him as a younger version of what he’s becoming. “If he were fully evolved, he would treat you with more sensitivity and respect.”

Ever notice that our well-being is never at risk in our encounters with advanced souls?

This way of thinking doesn’t excuse her brother’s behaviors. Disrespectful and rude behavior is never okay. I made sure Sophia understood that and advised her to be protective of herself. “It’s just that this different way of viewing him takes the sting out of it,” I said. “You suffer less.”

After Sophia and I talked back and forth about it all, she had an illumination: “Ahhh. That’s why forgiveness is important. It has more to do with what it does for us—not the other person.”

She’s got it!

I think this quote by Carrie Fisher, the actress, expresses what being stuck in anger does to us:

“Resentment is like drinking a poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality

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The Latest Wow: The Power of Love

Remember Beth? I mentioned her in an earlier post.  She and Sam got a divorce several months ago but then decided to give it another go. In that post I asked her, “What made you change your mind?” She said, “I’ve discovered that anger fades a lot faster than love.”

They’re living together now to discover whether the love that joined them initially is stronger than the issues that separated them.

In our last session, Beth talked about a recent ah-ha moment:

“It used to irritate me when Sam would leave lights on. Now, it makes me smile. I just see it as a quirk. Besides, I can find him anywhere in the house. All I have to do is follow the lights.”

Hmmm. Same issue, just a different way of seeing it. Nothing is changed, but everything is changed. Now that love is a dominant force in their relationship, the colors in their world are brighter.

Happy for them!

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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Introducing ‘The Latest Wow!’

I’m setting up a new category of posts called, “The Latest Wow.”   Sometimes when I’m meeting with a client, I’m utterly moved by something they say.  That’s when I interrupt them with, “Don’t say another word, I’ve gotta write that down!”   So, without further ado, here’s the first ‘Wow”:

After getting divorced, Beth and her ex decided to give their relationship another try. I asked her, “What made you change your mind?” She said, “I’ve discovered that anger fades a lot faster than love.”

 

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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Filed under Couples, The Latest Wow!