DEAR SAGE: I am writing to you from Europe! A mutual friend of ours introduced me to your lovely site and I so enjoy reading your content! Thank you for this gift you share with us all. I love that you speak so much about forgiveness and I’m writing to you because even though I’m 40+, I am still receiving counselling regarding ill feelings about my parents…especially regarding their behaviours during my teenage years. I’m educated with a successful career and know that I should be over this but I can’t seem to work through it. I thought I’d give it a go and message you for your thoughts on how I can forgive them and remove this blockade. Cheers!
DEAR TRYING-TO-FORGIVE-MY-PARENTS: Thank you so much for your support from across the world! I’m delighted to have you as a part of the SelenaSage family and I really appreciate you taking the time to submit such an excellent question! Working through feelings and emotions about parenting really does lie at the heart of so many things. It is an important topic and one that I’m happy to provide my insights! Though, please allow me to say, I have great respect for the counseling and coaching professions and make no attempt here to override any advice you may be receiving. My disclaimer is only to attempt to help you view the situation from a different perspective, but I am in full support of you receiving any kind of care you feel appropriate. With that said, let’s begin!
The first point that I believe must be realized is that there are no perfect parents…and there are no perfect children. Please let that statement sink in for a minute because the implications are huge. (As you may know, this site is dedicated to abused and homeless children, so this in no way gives abusive parents a pass. I believe those situations require immediate intervention for the safety of the child.) What I mean here is that even though there are thousands of books written about parenting, the experience is always individual and bound to be imperfect. Can you say that you did absolutely everything right as a child? And furthermore, that you’ve never made any missteps as an adult? This would be unreasonable to expect! Similarly, parents have a tough job…trying to balance the challenges of everyday life while still caring for, supporting, and nurturing a child. Not everyone is as capable of this as others (not to say that parenting is a competition, but there are many factors which influence success as a parent). We don’t get to choose our parents, so this is just a reality that must be accepted. What matters is how you choose to deal with the reality that is your life.
So, without even going into the details of your parents’ behaviors, I just want to point out that your ill feelings date back to your teenage years and you’ve disclosed that you are 40+. You are clearly educated and intelligent (especially if we share mutual friends!) and have found ways to advance your success in many areas of your life despite whatever happened as a teenager. But whatever you are holding onto from being a fifteen year old (to average the teenage years) is controlling you emotionally over 35 years later!
Therefore, you have one basic choice to make: you can either continue to discuss what happened over and over again and try to figure out why why why…or you can leave the past where it belongs (in the past) and focus all of your energy and attention on the present. This sounds really simple…and that’s because it is. Many therapists would probably disagree with this and supply other strategies, but I believe your reality is created by what you focus on. And even if you figure out the why, will that really make it better? As stated in a recent post, if you keep focusing on that event, you give it energy and attention that can take over your life and creep into your dreams. If you question your own memories and thoughts (please read this post about the inquiry method for healing), and stop believing everything you think you can create a new reality for yourself. You can change your whole frame of mind and take personal responsibility for the person you choose to be right now. You ultimately decide how you want to live your life…and that is up to you, not anyone else.
My dear, you have held on to this for so long…and I would hate for you to be 50+ or 60+ still holding on to these painful, toxic memories. So I would like to ask you a different sort of question…do you remember what you wore to school on the fifth day in fifth grade? If you are like 99% of the population, you probably don’t. Why is that? It is because you didn’t deem this memory to be important enough to hold on to. Now even though you cannot control thoughts that flow into your head at any given moment, you get to choose which ones you attach importance to and repeat those thought patterns (which just strengthens the memory you don’t want!). You get to choose. Choose wisely and refuse to continue your focus on the negative which we can say is not even real.
Also remember that forgiveness is a sign of strength and it is always for you. Having ill feelings toward someone hurts only you. The person you are trying to punish may feel your anger through interactions (if you even have any!), but you live with that poison constantly. Forgetting frees you up to create a new reality. And living in the moment is the true way to forget about it…you stop visiting the past because you become so focused on what is happening right now. You become busy helping others and enjoying yourself that you shut down that nagging in your brain that keeps trying to pull you into the black hole of the past. And that is the true beauty of volunteering and being of service to others…you stop focusing so much on yourself! And you open yourself up for love. And love is always the answer! So, we are going to close with some affirmations just for you!
YOU are a divine being having a human experience. YOU represent light and love. YOU are holy and can only benefit by treating everyone you meet as holy too. YOU have the power to forgive, forget, and move on with your life in a beautiful way. YOU have within you the power to love those who you feel deserve it…and those who you feel don’t. When YOU recognize God in all things and all people, you will be free. And you have everything you need to do that now.
So my special wish for you is to recognize the love that is always there and refuse to allow any negative situations in your past to override the beautiful, wonderful, and intelligent person that you are now! You have so much to give and I hope this post will encourage you to stress less and give more! It is never too late to live the life you imagined! And I imagine a life for you full of forgiveness and freedom! :)
Love and light,