Self forgiveness

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    • #3842

      Who else out there finds self-forgiveness really hard? Right now it feels like my biggest stumbling block. I can forgive others so why do I find it so hard to forgive myself when I have a rupture with my precious boys (2.5 yrs and 6 months)? I know that forgiveness wasn’t modelled for me growing up. The Catholic mentality of self-flagellation and guilt are deeply ingrained, not that I am a practicing catholic now or even believe in any of it. I always repair the ruptures with the boys and I know they both forgive me. I try to say to myself “I forgive myself” but it sounds so fake and inauthentic. Any suggestions on other strategies to try?

    • #3862

      Colette, I hear you! And also growing up in Ireland, I also know how deeply ingrained that whole focus of “shame on the sinners” can be.

      I was already struggling to keep my heart open to myself after accidentally flooding some of the rooms of my lovely house! (Not the end of the world and not as bad as it first appeared). Then earlier this week hubby was heading out to band practice and I said to my girl to set the laptop up to the bigger screen so we could watch one of these episodes that she’s loving where the central character is a teenage girl, and loves me watching with her. It’s just too cheesy for hubby to cope with so it’s a thing that she and I enjoy when it’s just the two of us.

      But then my sister rang and I should have told her I couldn’t talk. I should have put it off. I got into a really very stressful conversation about our mother, I felt very misunderstood and then suddenly a few minutes had turned into 50 minutes. I was in my room and imagining that my girl was watching the episode without me, but she was waiting for me and feeling very sad and neglected!

      I just felt so crap because now it was nearly her bed time. She was really upset and I felt really disappointed that I’d neglected spending that precious time with her and getting her to bed on time. After some tears, we watched it for a while and then the speaker blew and we had to give up the mission. But there’s a history of me failing to prioritize my children’s needs when I’m around family and I was suddenly feeling the grief and regret of times in the past when I’ve gone back to Ireland to visit family and lots of tensions.

      She had a good cry and I did the best I could to repair it. Then later when my husband came home I told him what a crap mother I felt like. He was telling me that I’m a great mother and I just wanted to contradict him so strongly. He was all very sweet and I let myself feel how hardened I had become towards myself and had a good cry.

      I’m sharing this wee story to answer your question about whether other’s struggle to forgive themselves. This was a moment when it felt like there was an inner battle going on. Choosing to feel the grief beneath my anger at myself felt like swimming against the tide, it took a lot of strength. But I knew that’s what I needed to do to open my heart again.

      It’s not easy to get to the sad beneath the mad when we let our kids down and I see this all the time in my work, it’s really hard for most parents to come back to peace with themselves after ruptures.

      But what’s really valuable to think about is how powerfully healing it could have been if your own parent had shown that level of remorse that you do when repairing the ruptures when your little ones. How much it could have helped you regain your dignity and helped you feel like a good person again.

      I’ve watched my son (now 18) in how skillful he can be for many years now, in repairing conflicts with others, us, friends, bosses, teachers, and I’m reminded that as much as I can’t help always wishing for their not to ever ever ever be any stuff ups which result in me hurting my beautiful children in any way – yet in the repairing of ruptures that my children have gained amazing skills in restoring harmony and clearing up misunderstandings in relationship.

    • #3866
      Wendy Andrews

      Hi Colette, I offer you this poem by Mary Oliver, called Wild Geese (you may know it). I cry every time I read it and every time, I heal a little more:

      You do not have to be good.
      You do not have to walk on your knees
      For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
      You only have to let the soft animal of your body
      love what it loves.
      Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
      Meanwhile the world goes on.
      Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
      are moving across the landscapes,
      over the prairies and the deep trees,
      the mountains and the rivers.
      Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
      are heading home again.
      Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
      the world offers itself to your imagination,
      calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
      over and over announcing your place
      in the family of things.

    • #3867
      Meg Rodney

      Self forgiveness has been one of the toughest things for me to learn to do. A few years ago I came across this status from a Facebook page called ‘Free Your Kids.’ These words really spoke to me and have helped me understand that forgiving myself is essential in order to move on and to choose to repair my relationship with my kids when I make mistakes. I can’t fully repair things with them if I haven’t forgiven myself. And I need to show them what self-forgiveness looks like; if not from me, where will they see it and learn it?

      Here are the words that spoke to me: “So, today you failed. Maybe you yelled at your little boy. Perhaps you freaked out or physically punished your daughter. You lost it. You snapped. You wigged out. You reverted to your old behavioral patterns. You had a meltdown. Maybe, like I did a few weeks ago, you threw a bottle of baby powder across the floor and then kicked it.

      Your heart is still racing. The adrenaline’s flowing. What do you do?

      First, stop making things worse. Remove yourself from the situation. Stop speaking, because you’re only going to exacerbate things. Now, breathe. Deep breaths. Regain control. Look at yourself in the mirror. Talk to yourself. Keep breathing. Slow down. Become calm. Reset yourself.

      Once you’ve regained your positive, peaceful outlook, go to your child. Apologize. Explain what happened. Give them all the love in your heart.

      Then, forget about it. This is difficult, but the moment is gone. It’s over. You forge ahead. You have the next moment and the moment after that. You have the rest of the day. The rest of your life. One bad moment does not define your relationship. You set aside the negative and embrace the positive. You move on, you do the best you can, and you act with love.

      You failed. You have regrets. Let ’em go. None of us are perfect. Be better in the next moment. Ultimately, you’ll fail again. It will happen. We’re all human. Dust yourself off, pick yourself up, and try again. Don’t live in your inglorious past. Every moment is a new opportunity to love.”

    • #3879
      Anja Mohn-Mitchell

      Thank you, Wendy, for this poem. A friend had shown it to me many years ago and I could not find it as I had forgotten the title. It makes me cry too.

      And thank you Genevieve and Meg for your words and sharing, so encouraging.

      I find self-forgiveness also very difficult, but as I continue my healing, I am getting a little better at it. Meditation helps me a lot. To give myself a warm embrace and see how the intention of my negative behavior (defense mechanism) was to protect me from feeling inner pain: The pain of my own inner wounds from back then when I was little.

      Today I thought: In the moment when I start feeling stressed or triggered, maybe, next time I can remember that it is more important to protect my son from pain in this very moment than it is to protect myself from feeling inner pain from experiences that happened so long time ago. I feel if I can allow myself to feel and release these old, stuck painful feelings, then the choice to protect my son in the present and remain calm, loving and patient will be a lot easier.

    • #3880

      I love that perspective Anja, that it is more important to protect your child than to try and protect yourself from feeling the old pain. It’s these little gems of insights isn’t it that inch by inch help in changing the old patterns. Whatever helps us stay in, or return back to, the adult state, while caring for the more vulnerable, sore, child aspect of self.

      I just think this is so important to talk about, the shared experiences of how hard it can be to soften, to open our hearts to ourselves after a rupture of some kind.

    • #3882
      Sara Donetto

      Hello again. And thank you for sharing your stories. I was reading this thread on self-forgiveness and started weeping. Today. Exactly 23 months after the fact, when I thought I was mostly over it, the word ‘self-forgiveness’ brought back the memory of my experience of labour and birth and I was in a flood of tears. Again! When this happens (it hadn’t for a while though!) I get cross at myself for being so “hung up” on myself (my rational self does not see what was so traumatic about the birth we had) and it all ends up in an unhelpful loop. But this time I managed to stop at least the loop. I breathed, I let the tears flow because I’m sure it’s good if they do and maybe I’ll do some tapping in a moment. I just wanted to thank you because it is also because of this forum and other forums on this website that I can now stop or address some of my unhealthy ‘loops’. So, thank you, peaceful parents. Very much.

    • #3883

      Thank you all for your insights and sharing. For me the very act of posting seems to have allowed me to say the words “I forgive myself” and for the first time not feel inauthentic. I was in my happy place running on Friday night and suddenly said to myself “I forgive myself” repeatedly and it felt so freeing. Genevieve, I finally ‘heard’ you when you told me it’s not my fault but it is my responsibility. All my life I’ve thought that if I forgive myself it in some way excuses my behaviour and “let’s me away” with it, which is not what I want for myself when I get angry and say hurtful words to my precious boys. I also hear that I need to give them a model of self-forgiveness. Although I forgive myself for all that I have done in the past, I wonder if I can do it in the future? I do know that the last three days have been very peaceful despite having very broken sleep. I’ve woken in the mornings thinking ‘this could be a day where I lose it’ because of lack of sleep, but I haven’t lost it and haven’t needed to be hypervigilant about it either. I do have my amazing 2.5 year old Max to thank. I was very frazzled searching for a missing marble to keep out of reach of 6 month old Hugo. I started to get terse with Max, asking him to help me find it and he asked for a cuddle – instant diffusion of all anger. Sara, I have cried so much since starting the peaceful parenting journey. I had no idea how much pain I had inside but the tears help it go away. Thank you all.

    • #3916
      Jenni Clearwater

      Hi all,
      My intro to this group flowed from this forum – the lines get rather blurred. Thank you all for your comments, stories and wisdom, reading them felt like the unlocking I needed. Meg, your post really spoke to me. I really loved this part ‘Don’t live in your inglorious past’.

    • #4064
      Andrew Petrie

      Thank you Meg, for sharing your thoughts and the Free Your Kids Facebook post. It really touched me. I struggle with self forgiveness a lot. It is not something I have ever really done much at all, and life as a father is teaching me, and providing so many opportunities to learn it. I feel that if I don’t learn self forgiveness I won’t make it.

      When I stand back to look at the inner turmoil it feels like I have to make the choice between self forgiveness and self destruction. I’m choosing self forgiveness, and posts like these are helping me to find ways of doing it; inner tools that I can use until it becomes more automatic.

      And Anja, thank you for your thoughts as well. My own pain and frustration stems from past experiences, and my inner voice simply keeps it fresh and weeping within me. But it is my own pain that I am trying to avoid and brush off responsibility for when I let my anger and frustration bubble out in the moment.

      When I do that I lose whatever connection I had in the moment with my son (2½ yrs), and simply increase his feelings of poison and vulnerability on the face of me losing it.

      Your perspective of choosing to protect our children from pain in the moment, rather than protect ourselves from our own old pain made me really stop and think.

      Thank you.


    • #4075
      Wendy Andrews

      Hi Sara, I just want to add the perspective that the tears that seem to be connected to remembering the birth of your child may be tapping into something deeper in you…..sometimes, believe it or not, the birth of our own child can trigger our own experience of being birthed, or a multitude of other unprocessed events in our lives (including assaults on our bodies). If there are tears, they are real and just need to be released, whether they seem rational to us or not…..part of ‘self-forgiveness’, I’ve found, is being kind to WHATEVER arises in us, even if it seems to make no sense.

    • #4152
      Sara Donetto

      Hi Wendy, thank you for this.
      It’s all very interesting particularly in view of other things that are going on in my life. I have been invited to work on a research project focusing on early labour care (which triggered tears on more than one occasion). I am also struggling with another low moment in our sleep deprivation journey and suddenly or the anxieties bite back (worries that my child is being hurt at childcare, worries that there is something going on for him that I am missing – i.e. I’m failing him again, anguish for his discomfort mixed with “I can’t cope I NEED to sleep at least a little bit I can’t care about anything/one else” feelings and the guilt they bring). The disproportion between the actual issues (i.e. Alex’s poor sleep, what’s new about that? or Alex being a bit more challenging due to being tired) and my reactions makes me think that there is something else going on for me that I do not have access to yet. Uhmmmm.

    • #4186
      Wendy Andrews

      I hear you Sara. This is where our children are the can openers into our own tightly sealed past. Awareness of the possibility of this is a good start. The great thing is, you don’t need to remember any details for yourself. You can just aim the same kindness at yourself that you are aiming for with Alex. Kristen Neff is a person who comes to mind of having some useful ‘radical self-compassion’ guided mindfulness exercises. I use them and find them very healing.

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