Monday, September 29, 2008

Forgive Yourself

We didn't ask to be abused, but healing from abuse requires forgiving ourselves for our reactions and our vulnerability. When we look back at our past it is easy to feel shame over both the things we had some control over and the things over which we had no control. It can be a tangled mess that we either wallow in or avoid at all costs.

Some of the things I have needed to forgive myself for include the following:

--not succeeding in my attempts to protect myself from my abusers (in reality, my experiences as a minor were beyond my ability to stop--but I tried to end the abuse and I judged myself for the failure. I needed to let go of harshly judging myself as a failure)

--the years of my life that were negatively affected by my attempts to suppress all memories of abuse

--marrying at 19 to escape abuse--only to marry another abuser

--the lies of omission that I participated in to keep the abuse a secret

--the decision as a teenager to not tell the family doctor about the abuse

--continuing to date one of my abusers for several more months after he raped me, giving him the opportunity to heap more physical and emotional abuse on me

--being unsuccessful in protecting my little sister from my Dad (I'd already been a victim as incest and took it on as my responsibilty to protect her from incest)

--the times I have not trusted trustworthy people because of my past abuse

--the times I have allowed lots of my energy to be sucked away in codependent relationships

--the times that I have doubted God because of my history of abuse

--over-reacting emotionally to something because of my past experiences of betrayal

--under-reacting to my internal cues of danger (which have been amazingly accurate)

--ignoring my radar that tries to tell me when a new acquaintance is prone to codependency relationships

--the years of blaming myself as the cause of abuse

Each time I forgive myself for a real or perceived "failure" I move forward in my journey of healing and claiming an abuse-free life.

You have your own list of things that are crying out for forgiveness. Abuse is not your fault--you do not need to spend the rest of your life punishing yourself. Resist being your own emotional abuser! Giving yourself the same compassion and forgiveness that you would be willing to give to a friend, or even an acquaintance, is not too much to give to yourself.

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Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft