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FORGIVING FOR YOUR HEART, SOUL, AND PEACE OF MIND

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From the time I was a child, I’d heard that people born under the sign of Scorpio couldn’t forgive others. They held grudges forever, and these diabolical creatures, when wronged, were never satisfied with sticking the knife to their enemy (figuratively speaking, of course). They had to twist it from side to side.

Yikes! I happen to be a Scorpio (as if it matters), and this isn’t a blog about astrology. It’s about what I’ve learned about forgiveness, Pluto be damned. (Yes, Scorpio is ruled by a rock that is no longer considered a planet, so that tells you how much stock you should put into these things.)

Further, believing such a thing about yourself and committing to it is demoralizing, self-sabotaging, and self-destructive— not just for people born in the latter part of October and earlier part of November but for anyone.

The good news is, I was never doomed to be an unforgiving Scorpio or anything else I didn’t want to be, and neither are you! Nobody can tell you who you are, and you alone define your limitations. Our wills are more powerful than our experiences if we want them to be, and it’s a safe bet they’re more powerful than any effect the sun may have had on us at the time of our birth. The whole idea that we can’t help being who or what we are and have no control over it is utter nonsense. We can do whatever the hell we want, and we alone are responsible for what it is we decide to do.

Besides that, if we want to recover from our afflictions and tragedies, we need to heal and learn and grow and continue to evolve until our dying day. For this reason, we must come to understand forgiveness and the vital part it plays in our lives.

Those of us who’ve been in twelve-step programs for one affliction or another have likely come upon literature that explains the whole forgiveness thing better than I can. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states that, “Resentment destroys more alcoholics than anything else because deep resentment leads to futility and unhappiness and shuts us off from the Sunlight of the Spirit.” Addiction Treatment magazine notes that “Harboring anger can encourage you to be in a constant state of anxiety, which then can cause numerous physical health problems. Too much stress and anxiety can lead to cardiovascular issues, a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, and other potential ailments.”

Now, if you ask me … (You are asking me, right?) Forgiveness involves coming to terms with the truth.

For trauma survivors, like me, that’s not as simple as it sounds. All our lives, survival instincts had kicked in when necessary, leading us to strategize, justify, deny, etc.—whatever we had to do to cope. We may have even learned to deceive others with or without realizing, because we were deluding ourselves. That’s quite the dilemma when coming to terms with the truth is the only way to determine our level of responsibility for what happens in life.

Bear with me now because the first time someone told me I needed to own my part in everything that happened to me, I was royally pissed. If that included some horrific thing I surely didn’t deserve, it seemed downright cruel.

Well, when it comes to trauma survival, the idea of ‘owning our part’ is indeed cringeworthy, but it’s about addressing the issue of what we might do differently going forward. It’s the same question we’d ask in any other life-altering experience that leaves us shaken. The wording is appropriate when applied to the more typical betrayals or arguments—people hurting and rejecting one another in the way imperfect humans do. Either way, if we are the victim of someone else’s bad behavior, self-evaluation doesn’t mean the culprit is absolved of wrongdoing or that he or she is any less vile. It’s not to say that you or anyone else is okay with what happened, or that you are required to understand the reprehensible motivation behind what this person did.

The things that happen to us in life, good or bad, are learning opportunities that can increase our awareness about the world we live in, about others, and ourselves. No one says it’s fair or easy. Children can learn it from loving adults, what to do, what not to do, going forward, understanding that what happened wasn’t their fault. The acquired knowledge does not guarantee anything, I know, but it certainly helps. That’s what we’re owning.

You may have heard it a million times, and it’s still true: forgiveness is, first and foremost, for the one who suffers. It takes place so that whatever or whoever has hurt you no longer owns you or has control over your life. It’s a letting go that allows you to live and breathe and move on, survive and thrive by not allowing the perpetrator to cause you more suffering than you’ve already endured.

Excluding any justice sought in a criminal act, it didn’t take me long to see (even as an evil, menacing Scorpio) that retribution happens to abusive people without any help from me. They are their own worst enemies, and, sooner or later, the piper catches up to collect what he is owed. Some people balk at me when I say this, but I’ve learned to send love whenever these damaged souls come to mind. They surely need it. When I was at my absolute worst, I needed it, too. I still do. In fact, we all do.

However, despite all I’ve said here, nobody can tell you how to handle your feelings.  We can talk about what works for us, with the hope that it might help someone else find the peace and joy that we’ve found, but that’s as far as it goes.

There were many times I’d witnessed a person expressing anger and grief over a traumatic experience, and others got upset about it. The others, in response, would say things like, “Well, I have a friend who went through that, and she had counseling, bla bla bla. She’s fine now, and maybe if so and so did that, he or she wouldn’t have to dwell on it and could move on.”

Well, no, people don’t necessarily react to trauma in the same fashion, so expectations of how people should behave are absurd. As for therapists, there are some who make it worse by revictimizing, or re-traumatizing because they don’t deal effectively with the repercussions of trauma. If you’re lucky enough to find the right counselor, therapy is excruciating work that leaves you raw and vulnerable to your very core. You have to be ready for it and strong enough to see it through.

So, yeah, no one has the right to decide for another person when it’s time to stop being angry, and to forgive and let go. Anger, like every other stage in the grieving process, must run its course.

If a person is never ready to stop being angry or forgive, it’s not for me or anyone else to judge. Healing is an ongoing process that, for all we know, may continue beyond this lifetime.

As I see it, we don’t forgive for the sole purpose of appeasing others.  We do it when we’re prepared to rescue ourselves from the onslaught of continual suffering. And that’s where, in situations that are not so cut and dried as to who did what to whom, coming to terms with the truth helps determine our level of responsibility.

In any case, we cannot allow people to deny our reality of what we experienced or accept their spin on it if it has no basis in truth. We don’t want justification for what cannot be justified or for others to minimize the damage. We may be guilted and shamed into keeping quiet or making concessions, but to do so would impede our progress. Deciphering what is true and what is not is more important than appeasing others who need to deal with their own wounds. Their place in the healing process is different from ours, and we can’t wait there with them. We have work to do.

For us, the secrets and lies must end. It’s a fight for our well-being and our sanity. We’ve already endured the pain of silence. We’ve suffered too much already from the consequences of denial. We went through years of being protectively dishonest. We told ourselves we were okay when we weren’t yet. We said we’d survived while our brokenness continued and thought we were thriving when we were hanging on by the seat of our pants. We can’t afford more delusions about any of it. We have a right to be well and whole again.

It is critical that we stand up for ourselves and find out who we are as opposed to what other people want or believe us to be.  It is crucial that we slowly and continually peel off every layer of the false self we present to the world, that we become more and more honest with ourselves and others.

After that, forgiveness exists at different levels, all of which amount to some form of healing and resolution. Perhaps it is forgiveness for resolving differences, where two people have worked through it, allowing the truth to sort things, and their relationship to resume with a clean slate. Maybe it’s forgiveness for peace, where you don’t have to trust this person again or have what you once had, but you’ve relinquished the hard feelings. And maybe it is purely for self-love and healing, and it doesn’t involve having to deal with that person again.

No matter how it plays out, we’ve taken our power back. It doesn’t mean we won’t be triggered when we see the same thing happening to us or to someone else in the future, especially when those people are silenced or dismissed. But we will be whole again.

All I can say is, if I’d bought into that nonsense of being unable to forgive, I’d be permanently screwed.  It would have kept me from rising in my power and from the ability to summon my courage and my strength whenever I need it.

The hell with that!

 

Copyright © Kyrian Lyndon January, 2019

Feature photo courtesy of Pixabay

Posted in Blogs

HAPPY SURVIVAL: THE TRUTH ABOUT LIFE AFTER TRAUMA

People run from life in many ways. We can want a hug so desperately and yet recoil from it. We can crave love more than anything and build fortresses to keep it away. There’s this idea that the more bridges we burn, the harder it will be to go back to the things that caused us pain. Sometimes, that is true, but, at the same time, we keep looking for that place where we belong, and, in some situations, trying almost too hard to fit in, until we accept, with a great deal of shame, that we need to move on. Reaching out to people is overwhelming and terrifying, but we try it, and when we feel unheard, we vanish again. So many goodbyes––until we don’t want to do the relationship thing anymore or the intimacy thing or ask anyone for help or love or whatever the hell we need. Intimacy doesn’t seem worth any of that, and we lose interest. We shut down, close our doors for business, and thrive in our safe, predictable worlds.

We wonder if we are crazy, but people tell us only sane people question their sanity. Sometimes we think we’re monsters, but we come to learn that monsters feel no guilt, no shame, and no love. We do love, from a distance and we absorb the world’s pain.

In my twenties and beyond, I kept changing my name, my hair color, my address, my phone number, my job–you name it. It was as if I couldn’t run fast enough, couldn’t hide in a safe enough place. Without realizing it, I was running away from the trauma of childhood and teen years.

At some point in the healing process, something tells you that you don’t need to hide anymore. You don’t need to run, so you try not to. What’s unsettling is how far you can come in your healing and still get thrown back there in a heartbeat.

Progress can seem slow, but it keeps happening. I’m not a patient person, but I’ve learned to be patient about healing. I’ve had to, and I love healing because I’ve reaped its rewards. Often, I look back and ask myself, “How did I survive, being such an idiot for most of my life?” That may seem harsh, but in light of how far I’ve come, it makes sense. We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. We can’t benefit from learning the truth about ourselves until we feel safe in rejecting the lies.

As survivors, we want this healing for everyone while needing to learn, too, that people are only ready when they’re ready. And it’s painful when we love people who need desperately to heal but remain trapped in their fear. Sometimes we wish we could absorb every bit of their agony; even it means holding on to all of it ourselves because we know we can handle it. We have.

We can’t get stuck in that inability to forgive either. It’s understandable because we witness so much unnecessary cruelty toward ourselves and others, and we don’t know what to do with that. For instance, how do you come to terms with the fact that someone willfully tried to destroy another person, or that person’s reputation, or his or her life, that they did everything in their power to annihilate another human being?

What I realized, quite a long time ago, is that revenge and punishment are not up to me. Divine retribution happens without the least bit of my help—no matter how we interpret divinity and even if we are divinity in the sense that we represent it in the universe. It works that way because we can’t destroy people without destroying ourselves. If it’s destruction we want, it’s destruction we’ll get, and it’s never one-sided.

A better solution is to keep following our path and goals and  let go of the burdens people give us to hold. The weight comes from feelings of not belonging or being worthy and accepted as we are. It comes from others mischaracterizing us or our actions to suit their agendas and punishing us for not being who they need us to be, not wanting what they require us to want.

We have to find our own happily ever after. It’s undoubtedly not the same for everyone, and that’s another place we can get stuck—wanting what we don’t have and realizing it’s not even what we want but what we think we’re supposed to want and have. Most people want to find that special someone, get that dream house and job. From the time I was eight years old, what I wanted was different—maybe, in some ways, the opposite of what everyone else wanted. It took me a while to realize that I have everything I’d ever wanted or needed in my life and, while I may have moments of feeling sad for another or sad for the world, I am happy.

One thing I’ve always known is to never give up. It does get better, a little at a time, but it gets so much better. Our survival not only gives hope to others but sharing our experiences allows us to help in their healing. We help each other, yes, and we give each other the love that’s been so hard for us to ask for or accept.

I’m not a religious type, but the prayer below has always been my favorite. It can certainly get you through it. ❤️

Copyright © Kyrian Lyndon November 2018

Feature photo credit: unsplash-logoSaffu

Posted in Blogs

THAT DEVOTED GIRL SHATTERED BY YOUR TRUTH IS FREE

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I had a dream about you last night and woke up crying. I couldn’t sleep after that.

In the dream, you were angry with me—full of anger, full of hate. You had shut the door on me and left me out in the cold. I kept calling to you with a child’s unbearable anguish. You didn’t hear.

At some point, I cried, “Help me, daddy,” and finally, you came. I thought you were going to hit me or hurt me with your scarred and violent soul, but you didn’t. You hugged me. Well, you didn’t just hug me. You gave me the kind of hug I’d wanted from you since childhood, the comfort I always needed, and I didn’t want to let go.

I miss your smile and your jokes, Dad, your handsome face, and all of your wisdom, but I have to ask. Does a father realize he is the first man a girl gives her heart to completely? The first man she trusts blindly and devotedly? Did you realize?

I used to think I was hard to love.

Whatever people said—men especially—I wanted to believe them. Deep down, I didn’t. Not a word. And every time a man took something from me that I didn’t want him to have, every time a man tried to silence me, belittle me, or make me doubt myself, I punished him, pummeling him with words and crushing him with goodbye. I could be angry with them but not you.

What if things had been different between us, though? Would I had been less vulnerable or had the confidence to be my authentic self, knowing I was worthy and lovable? Would I have chosen more wisely? Would I have stopped running and hiding, oblivious to my weaknesses and my desperate needs? Would I have respected myself more? Might I have found someone I could love, for real? Someone who could have loved me back? Because I didn’t let them … I made sure they couldn’t.

Well, no matter, that’s all changed now. I picked up the shattered pieces of my heart and began to love myself.

It’s hard not to feel that twinge of emotion when I hear father tributes of the heroes who boosted confidence and taught children to believe in themselves. I honestly wish everyone could beam with that pride, feeling safe, content, and protected in that eternal bond.

It’s easy to defeat someone when you have all the power, when you are on a pedestal from the start, and you make all the rules. You can create vulnerability and punish the very same, though you don’t mean it. You can erase one’s humanity because of your denial, your self-loathing, and your shame, though you’re not aware. You can damage a person almost beyond repair. And, after the wrecking ball, cleanup of that wreckage rests solely on those tiny shoulders. Yeah, those shoulders get bigger, but somehow it all gets harder and more complicated.

I cleaned up that mess, though. The void lasts forever, and many people can attest to that, but I got those things I needed. It just takes ongoing effort to hold on to them.

And by the time I had a child of my own, I knew all too well what a child needs. I was able to give him that, but I couldn’t give him YOU. Oh, he’s brilliant and kind and funny, and so very loyal. Like you, he’s hard and strong but with such a tender heart. He needed you, and he still needs you, though he’d never admit it now. He’d been shattered right along with me, but we rose to the challenge, and he loves with his whole heart like I do. I’m proud of him, and I’d like to think you’d be proud of him, too, but it doesn’t matter now.

Look, maybe you didn’t give me what I needed, but you gave what you had. I saw a brave and modest man, generous with assistance and advice—a hero to many, and I know why they love you. I know why I loved you. Sure, it’s easy to love someone when you think they are perfect; when you hold them up on a pedestal and pretend they are everything you need and always wanted. You fell off that pedestal when I was twelve, Dad, but I loved you so much, flaws and all, and I still do. That’s unconditional love, and though you couldn’t give that to me, you still get it. Because guess what? You deserved that, too, from the people who didn’t give it to you.

Yeah, I knew why you were the way you were, though you accepted no excuses from me when I fell short. You could never understand me, but I understood you. Though you couldn’t hear me, yours was the loudest voice I’d heard in my entire life—a voice that continued to bellow in my ear for a lifetime. It kept me from standing up. It kept me from fighting, and it kept me from winning until I did all those things because I couldn’t lose any more. I climbed in spite of you, because of you and for you, because you couldn’t do it yourself, and I understand that.

When you were angry, devastated, and tortured, I tried to tell you it would be okay, that I was sorry for you, and that I loved you, but it seemed too much for you to bear at the time. Then, in the end, I forgave you, and you forgave me. It took a lifetime, but we got there.

Sigh. There are many things we never got to do, Dad, and it’s too late now. You’re gone. But I do have some fond memories of you that I will cherish always.

And here’s what I wish.

I wish I could go back in time with you—to those boyhood days when you were punished severely for no good reason—when you were invalidated, shamed, ridiculed, and ignored, just to tell you how awesome you were, and all you could be and do with your life. I’d say I believe in you, and that you have everything you need to succeed. I would say over and over that I love you to the moon and back, so you would know how worthy you are of that love. And maybe you would have grown up to be what you wanted, and have felt no shame. Then when it was your turn, you could have done the same. You would have known I was not an extension of you and didn’t have to represent you or your ideals. Perhaps you would not have expected such a conformist “go with the flow” type of kid who didn’t make waves but sang to a song you couldn’t possibly hear. You would not have lost empathy. You wouldn’t have cared how others saw me or what they would think. You’d have simply treasured me for the person I am. Imagine that!

The aching in my heart is that I want that for everyone. I wish all men and women who didn’t get what they needed as children would give that and get it back in abundance however they can. And I’m infinitely grateful to every hardworking mom and dad who gets up every day ready and willing to get it all right, including you.

Rest easy, Dad, and know you will always be in my heart.

“Children are the most fearless souls on earth.”― Lailah Gifty Akita, Think Great: Be Great!

Further Reading:

10 Ways Strong Women Move Past Their ‘Daddy Issues’

Why Dads Matter — Especially to Girls

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© Copyright May 31, 2016 by Kyrian Lyndon at kyrianlyndon.com. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted without permission.