The ability to forgive oneself for mistakes, large and small, is critical to psychological well-being. Difficulties with self-forgiveness are linked with suicide attempts, eating disorders, and alcohol abuse, among other problems. But self-forgiveness has a dark side. Research suggests that while it can relieve unpleasant feelings like guilt and shame, it can also reduce empathy for others and motivation to make amends. In other words, self-forgiveness may at times serve as a crutch, producing a comforting sense of moral righteousness rather than a motivating sense of moral responsibility. Just as you probably wouldn’t forgive someone else until they make it up to you in some way, forgiving yourself may be most beneficial when you feel like you’ve actually earned it. So how do you know when you’ve adequately paid your dues? In some cases, it’s obvious what needs to be done (e.g., if you borrow your friend’s favorite sweater and lose it, you would probably want to find a way to replace it, at minimum), but in other cases the criteria for making amends may be less clear. Receiving forgiveness from others can help facilitate self-forgiveness, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide when you’ve done enough to right a wrong. Rather than simply going through the motions of atonement, it may be useful to consider what kinds of reparative behaviors will actually make a difference for others, or for your own personal growth. Even certain forms of self-punishment may be useful when motivated by a desire for self-improvement rather than anger at the self, though researchers recommend that such punishment be mild and time-limited, and never physically or psychologically harmful. For example, a teenager who engages in shoplifting and feels remorse might decide to refrain from shopping for three months and instead focus on her schoolwork. Problematically, research has found that self-forgiveness is negatively associated with empathy for victims. As self-forgiveness increases, empathy decreases. This disconnect is understandable: when you’re feeling compassion for the suffering of those you’ve hurt, it’s difficult to also have compassion for the person who caused that suffering. But self-forgiveness is not supposed to be easy, and without incorporating empathy it seems more like a form of avoidance. Importantly, self-forgiveness need not be all-or-nothing. It’s a slow process that may never (and some may argue should never) result in a full release of negative feelings or an exclusively rosy view of oneself. Rather than being a form of self-indulgence, healthy self-forgiveness might be better seen as an act of humility, an honest acknowledgment of our capacity for causing harm as well as our potential for doing good. From an article by Juliana Breines, Ph.D http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-love-and-war/201207/the-dangers-self-forgiveness-and-how-avoid-them
To forgive is to set
a prisoner free
that the prisoner
Louis B. Smedes
Denial is similar to suppression, in that the person knows what he or she is feeling. In this case, the choice is to insist that the issue and resulting feelings do not exist. This is a very willful response: “I refuse to admit that this is real.” For example there are many people who can’t admit they ever have feelings of resentment toward their parents. Very likely, they have convinced themselves of this. But we all have resented our parents at some time, for real or imagined wrongs. Simple denial can produce very serious problems. Yet it is possible to admit and overcome such resentments. We can discover the source of the emotion, analyze it, learn to forgive our parents, and go on without lives. This simple “denial of reality” can produce serious emotional problems. From “The Enabler: When Helping Harms The Ones You Love” by Angelyn Miller
A man who denies his past
is a man who truly
denies himself a future,
for he refuses to know himself,
and to deny knowledge of oneself
is to stumble through life
as handicapped as the blind mute.
Often times the dysfunctional man is repeating some of the behaviors of his parents. The behaviors of the codependent started off as defense mechanisms in order to protect him in the environment he was raised in. Unfortunately, when a person escapes from the destructive environment, he is left with a lot of unresolved issues. These issues tend to carry over into his later relationships if he does not resolve them. The symptoms of codependency in men are of a wide variety. They range from having the appearance of being a servant to having the appearance of selfishness and abusiveness. Often times, codependent men have poor communication skills. They are also insecure. They usually have low self-worth. Other codependency symptoms are a little less common among cases. One of the more common symptoms of codependency is controlling behaviors. Codependent people often try to control everything in their lives. http://about-addiction.com/addiction/dual-diagnosis/codependency/codependency-men/
When you are out of control,
someone is ready to take over.
Why isn’t there a commandment to “honor thy children” or at least one to “not abuse thy children”? The notion that we must honor our parents causes many people to bury their real feelings and set aside their own needs in order to have a relationship with people they would otherwise not associate with. Parents, like anyone else, need to earn respect and honor, and honoring parents who are negative and abusive is not only impossible but extremely self-abusive. Perhaps, as with anything else, honoring our parents starts with honoring ourselves. For many adult children, honoring themselves means not having anything to do with one or both of their parents. From “Divorcing a Parent” by Beverly Engel
Child, child, love while you can
The voice and the eyes and the soul of a man,
Never fear though it break your heart -
Out of the wound new joy will start…
Child, child, love while you may,
For life is short as a happy day;
Never fear the thing you feel -
Only by love is life made real…
From “Child, Child” by Sara Teasdale
The past doesn’t exist. There is nothing to be sorry for. Today is when we start to live. Look… look at the sea. The sea has no past. It is just there. It will never ask us to explain. The stars, the moon are there to light our way, to shine for us. What do they care what might have happened in the past? They are accompanying us, and are happy with that; can you see them shine? The stars are twinkling in the sky; would they do that if the past mattered? Illdefonso Falcones
You spend your whole life
stuck in the labyrinth,
thinking how you’ll escape one day,
and how awesome it will be,
and imagining that future keeps you going,
but you never do it.
You just use the future
to escape the present.
For years of my adult life I was the consummate advice giver, whether requested or not. It went hand in hand with my tendency to boss around the woman in my life at the time. Why I thought I always knew what everyone else should do I will never exactly know, except that it’s a defining of characteristic of a codependent. Outwardly I also exhibited what appeared to be great self-control, but it was to a large degree a bogus projection. Control, control, control is the hallmark of men like me suffering with codependency. The behavior comes from believing controlling everyone will keep me from getting hurt. That’s a house of cards that began to fall down eventually when it began to show that I couldn’t control myself. Over time bad habits and behavior spilled out into the light of day to show me as only having been “in control of being out of control”. Like a car doing a hundred, one can only control it until the road becomes filled with curves. Crash!
You cannot control what happens to you,
but you can control your attitude toward
what happens to you, and in that,
you will be mastering change
rather than allowing it to master you.
I used to get mad way TOO much, far too easily. I wasn’t angry all the time, but embers of past pain needed little to flame into a blaze. My thinking was it was a natural tendency for me from either heredity or environment and not in my control. Clear in memory is being told numerous times I had a bad temper and needed to do something about it. When one is ‘in-control of being out-of-control” such things are impossible to see. What I know now is the vast majority of my anger was very old and just kept recycling up within me over and over. Like a lion with a thorn stuck in its paw, when pressure was applied the pain came and anger followed that was stored within me form a long, long time ago. Once I began to see my behavior in the present had a lot to do with what was deeply imbedded from my distant past, I was finally able to see and overcome my volatile temperament which was actually a self-protective bad habit.
The more anger towards the past
you carry in your heart,
the less capable you are
of loving in the present.
Barbara De Angelis
When we think we have been hurt by someone in the past, we build up defenses to protect ourselves from being hurt in the future. So the fearful past causes a fearful future and the past and future become one. We cannot love when we feel fear…. When we release the fearful past and forgive everyone, we will experience total love and oneness with all. Gerald G. Jampolsky
Forgiveness does not change the past,
but it does enlarge the future.
Now a few years into codependency recovery it’s clear to see in the past how I was controlled by what was “outside me” to a large degree. That’s ironic since I thought then I was in control. In one of his books Dr. Charles Whitfield calls this way of being as “addiction to looking elsewhere”. It is rooted in childhood. My external focus came about as a means of avoiding pain in my inner world while growing up in an out-of-control dysfunctional family. Then a lot of my thinking was how to avoid upsetting the adults in control of me. What was a survival skill in youth became difficulty as an adult. I was a grown man but still acting like a child, but could not see it since such behavior seemed “normal” to me. Then I never understood why others might say things like “you’re acting like a child”, “quit being a baby” or “you’re acting like you’re six years old”. I get it now and know they were correct. Half the cure is knowing.
is the incapacity
to use one’s intelligence
without the guidance of another.
Resentment is nothing more than compulsive attachment to a set of memories. If you peek through the window of the mind factory when you feel resentful, you would see the production line turning out the same emotion-charged memory over and over: “He did that to me in 1983, he did that to me in 1983…” You are dwelling on something that took place in the past – or, more likely, on how you misunderstood that event and reacted to your misunderstanding. When you keep pumping attention into an event this way, even a limp little memory gets blown up into a big balloon of hostility. If you can withdraw your attention, the balloon is deflated. There is nothing more to it. Brooding on memories not only serves no earthly purpose, it can go on until your mind is so filled with balloons that there is no room for the joy of living. From “Conquest of Mind” by Eknath Easwaran
To carry a grudge is like
being stung to death by one bee.
William H. Walton