This past week, things have been a mental and emotional rollercoaster for me. I am going through a barrage of extremely difficult transits and progressions, and besides, there’s the worldly situation that is so very challenging right now. Lots of old pain has been coming up. Old pain and old detrimental beliefs, old problems, teaching me that I must adapt and heal, adapt and heal. Of course, dealing with conditions like PTSD and dysthymia (chronic mild depression), I must take extra care of my soul, of my emotions, and my mental state. So, self-love has become a really important practice for me. What is self-love, I have asked out-loud recently? How do you define it, how do you do it? It doesn’t mean buying yourself stuff, or masturbating. Often I have seen tropes in articles about how “treating yourself well” can be done with “taking yourself to the spa” or whatever sort of fleeting, privileged-class activity someone thinks of. Well, it can mean that, sometimes, every now and then if you have the means, but that’s not the core of it, and it certainly is not going to be a solution long-term. You don’t need any money to love yourself. Instead, you just need to be willing to go inside your own heart. It comes down to this stuff we call “inner child work.” Yet another vague term that can frustrate those who are already really fragile. When we feel fragile, resorting to avoidance, or even mockery of the very processes that are necessary to help us, can arise. Well, if we were wounded as children, we aren’t going to consciously want to feel that pain again. But, if we are working on forgiveness, we have to be willing to go deep into that pain. I forgive myself for causing damage to myself. I forgive myself for causing damage to others. I forgive myself for being damaged by others and carrying that damage. All of this requires being willing to face it. I mean, we don’t want to stuff it down anymore, right? We want to let it go, and forgive, right? But, the ironic part is that, it hurts more to not forgive. We are at this point because we have carried this pain for so long that it must go. And, when we do forgive, that pain doesn’t hurt anymore. We may still feel the pain, but, it isn’t leading to suffering anymore. We forgive that we spent so long not forgiving ourselves. We are willing and able to walk in Love, not in Anger or Fear. Of course, anger and fear have a function, and a place in the world. We are not seeking to eliminate everything. But we are seeking to heal these wounds so we can have the life and love that we need, want, and deserve. This is all Forgiveness!
For me it comes down to this. It requires a little bit of imagination and being willing to be out of your comfort zone, because, well, emotional healing involves Feelings. What I do that really helps me, is, simply, imagining a Mother Figure. I choose a female spirit because I am female, but, you can choose another gender, or genderless, or switch it up, even. It doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t matter if your parent(s) are alive or dead, or what your relationship with them is like. This is all in your mind’s eye, and is more of an Archetype than a real person, but you can make them an image of a real person. Whatever your inner child wanted or wants. And you don’t even have to imagine a face, or a body. It’s just a feeling. I imagine some sort of feminine Goddess being giving me exactly what I need in that moment. It’s usually something like holding me, stroking my hair, saying kind and soothing words like “I love you” or “You are safe with me” or “Everything’s going to be alright” or “You are so amazing!” This can be really overwhelming, because, once you’re in a safe emotional space to allow yourself to receive that, tears can start flowing. And, old pain can come up to be healed. Self-love is really important here, because, no Nurturing Being would push a child past a point that they cannot handle. Being gentle and non-judgemental with yourself is the key to self-love.
A Nurturing Being also would work to cultivate forgiveness. Often, it is the hardest thing to forgive ourselves. Forgiving other people is one thing; forgiving oneself is even harder. I have found that a barrier that I have experienced on the road to self-forgiveness is Shame. Shame is when we feel as though we are essentially bad, that we don’t deserve to be forgiven. It is an extremely painful and toxic emotion, and also a thought process. Some old friends of mine have joked about “shame spirals,” because, well, Shame really can send a person down a spiral. Forgiveness is the way out. Forgiveness is the opposite of Shame. Why? Well, Shame says that we are Bad, and that we will Always be Bad. Forgiveness says that we are Good, and that we have Eternal Opportunity to Heal. Shame says that once something bad is done, we can never take it back, we are condemned forever. Forgiveness says that we can start over, that Now is Always The Time to Recover. Shame is Toxic Fear, and Forgiveness is Sacred Love.
I did something pretty shitty recently that involved getting rid of a gift that my mother spent a month making, and hundreds of dollars on materials. I had my reasons for eliminating it, and, I thought that it was the healthy choice for me at the time. But, after a while, I realized that I had acted out of Fear. I confessed to her, and she forgave me. Yet, for a while, I had trouble forgiving myself. I felt so horrible. I felt as though I had been so ungrateful and destructive that I deserved to be punished in a very severe way that did not match my “crime.” I even asked her to punish me! As a 34 year old woman! Obviously, I was feeling toxic shame. I felt as though I deserved at least to suffer terribly for an entire month, to make up for the loss of time that my mother spent thinking all sorts of thoughts of love and care about me, wanting me to have something beautiful. And I eliminated it, and then told her on top of that, which probably made her feel hurt, even if she didn’t show it. At least I was honest, and that was a great step because I was able to face the healing process, but, I felt so badly for being ungrateful and causing more pain for my mother. I felt so evil and bad. I was punishing myself! I was so angry at myself that I wanted to even destroy my own self! And actually, it probably hurt her more that I wanted to suffer, than because of what I actually did. It took me a few days after this confession to really get a handle on the emotional process I had begun, and begin to forgive myself.
Honestly, this healing work is not just emotional. It’s intellectual, too. We have to be able to “understand the mechanisms” or logically be able to understand what we are trying to do. Well, maybe some people don’t. But, indeed, the entire field of psychology is based on intellectually framing phenomenon that are emotional and mental: inherently illogical processes, being discussed in an intellectual way. Emotions have no words. But, words are logical. How confusing, especially when we are dealing with such spiritual and heart-felt things like Forgiveness.
Finding a point or phrase that is so logically foolproof and airtight that it Guarantees The Work is important. Otherwise, in the throes of emotions, we can flail about in insanity, even if we WANT to, say, practice forgiveness. But, when it just makes Perfect Sense, that insanity subsides. Taking a step back and seeing the big picture, beyond life and death, is really helpful.
I found this really great article tonight that, for me, makes a really crucial point: “Your Legacy After You Die: Will It Be Anger or Love?”
I don’t usually link popular magazines, but, often, you can really find some gems there. Often it’s sort of “yeah I’ve read this before a million times,” but, sometimes, yeah, a real gem.
So, it’s like this:
It is so worth forgiving yourself. Being angry at yourself only begets more anger and leads to more suffering.
It is my duty to love myself and forgive myself for everything that I have ever done or said.
How else can I move on? There is no other way.
This is not easy. It involves allowing myself to be truly vulnerable, truly honest. It doesn’t mean I have to share my honesty with Everyone Everywhere, but it does mean that within my life, I have to practice this. I choose to write about this publicly because I’ve already been writing about these healing topics for some time, and I personally feel that I am at a point where I can cast out a helping hand to others. I have read so many helping articles over the years, from Psychology Today to random blogs. Who knows? Maybe my writing will be found by someone in the middle of the night when they are in complete emotional agony because they can’t get a grip on how to find Forgiveness, and maybe this writing will help them find it, even for a second. But I am also writing this for me, for my own healing process. I mean, why not?
My example of trashing a physical object is just one example. We can be forgiving ourself for anything, from lashing out at someone and saying terrible things, or, assaulting a loved one. I personally have no experience, myself or in council, of forgiving for seriously heinous crimes (involving loss of life or limb, for example), but, I do believe that the forgiveness process would be the same for those as anything else, and more importantly, that forgiveness is possible for all things. The reason for this is simple: forgiveness is a gift that you give yourself. Indeed, being forgiven by the person that you have wronged, is a HUGE step and a HUGE help, and, it helps to ask for it, if you feel like you need it, and can get it. But, true forgiveness comes from inside. If you are having trouble, ask someone else for forgiveness. In fact, this is what the Sacrament of Confession is all about: being reminded that we are forgiven by God. I personally am not a member of the Catholic religion, however, it is in my ancestry, and I have given confession to a Catholic Priest once in my life. There is a reason why the Confession Booth is legally protected: Forgiveness is that important. You owe it to yourself to embrace the process of forgiving yourself. On the other side of that process is the peace of heart that you have been searching for.
Thank you for reading, and, please stay safe.