It’s Sunday and as I write this I’ve been listening to inspirational talks online. I’ve been listening to one and then another when a video of Oprah came up called, “The One Person Oprah Could Not Forgive,” about her challenging relationship with her mother. It’s one of the things I have in common with Oprah, a challenging relationship with my mom. That and the food/weight thing.
Inspired to write about forgiveness yet again, I wanted first and foremost to talk about the concept of forgiveness. For most of us, we’re taught to forgive and forget when we’re very little. To say, “I’m sorry” after we’ve hurt someone’s feelings. We’re basically programmed. And sure, apologizing for hurting someone, letting them know you didn’t intend to hurt them, goes a long way to help them release their pain and move on, which makes us feel better, too.
Receiving a heart-felt apology for being hurt goes a long way. But what about when someone doesn’t apologize? What about when someone hurts your feelings or physically hurts you repeatedly and you just have to move on and live with it?
In this case, forgiveness is often misunderstood. People think forgiving someone means that you’re finally able to accept what happened and that what happened is now magically ok. And that it is forgotten. Not necessarily so.
In the video I was watching of Oprah, I like that she talked about forgiveness being the acceptance that the past couldn’t have been any different. That’s a biggie.
In my experience, forgiveness is healing my own inner pain. It’s healing my emotional triggers that keep coming up as I think about when someone hurt me. It’s being able to think about and talk about painful events or the pain in a particular relationship, without feeling the pain, the anger, the fear, or the sadness anymore. Forgiveness is separating and dissolving emotions from past memories.
And I can tell you from experience that true forgiveness only comes through the heart. You can’t will it into existence with your mind.
When I first used hypnosis to address food cravings back in the year 2000, I had no clue what lived beneath them. I had no idea the desire to eat certain foods was born out of deep, inner pain. No clue at all. All I knew was a pattern I’d developed and couldn’t stop.
When I was first regressed, my world changed. For the first time, I was able to connect an unmet emotional need, which I responded to by eating, with its root: my wounded inner child. Following feelings back in time to the first time I felt them, I saw an event from early in my childhood of my mother becoming upset with me and berating me severely. The hypnotherapist walked me through a process where I looked at the scene through my inner child’s eyes and felt and vocalized her upset feelings, and then I looked at the scene through my wise adult eyes. With adult wisdom, I recognized that at the time my mother was mentally ill, wasn’t medicated, and her behavior was not appropriate. However, as a toddler, I was acting very age-appropriately when mom went off on me. The problem was hers, not mine.
When my inner child was able to take in the new perspective, she suddenly realized she hadn’t done anything wrong other than act like a typical toddler who was beginning to exert her own independence. And she let go of the pain she’d been holding onto for over three decades. With my inner child healed, I noticed a decrease in food cravings.
Over the next twelve years of having hypnosis sessions once in a while, I’d meet many other parts of my wounded inner child who had created a host of beliefs that kept her stuck. Beliefs created through painful interactions with my mother. With each encounter, I helped my inner child address and heal beliefs, helping her see that she wasn’t defective: it was a belief she picked up from her mentally ill mother. And helping her see she wasn’t bad or broken or worthless. And bit by bit, my inner child has been healing.
Most of the healing work happened after my mother’s passing because it’s harder to heal when you still have to deal with the person who was abusive toward you. In my parents’ final few years, I was the one of my siblings who took on the role of caretaker. I was the one who, despite being the only one of us who was verbally abused by my mother, made sure she was being taken care of on a daily basis. An especially difficult job when her mental illness went off the charts after my father’s death. Especially difficult when I live on the opposite coast from my mother. But I did it. The dutiful daughter.
Within a few months of my mother’s death, the Universe conspired to introduce me to a hypnotherapist who blended spirituality with her hypnotherapy practice. Having taken about a three-year break from hypnotherapy and going through a spiritual awakening, I was ripe for working with this new hypnotherapist. And our four years together were magical. Anger and resentment toward my mother dissolved more and more, and my memories of her shifted to the good times.
I was able to remember her making us matching dresses and skirts when I was little, and playing our violins together. I remembered the fun we had going on a trip together when I was in my early twenties, and how proud she was of me when I became a mother to a child with special needs.
And eventually, the pain associated with my mother’s passing by suicide began to heal as well.
After Kundalini energy opened, my ability to heal deepened significantly. And one day, I had an experience of shifting something deep inside, letting go of the rest of the pain from my relationship with my mother. It felt like I could finally see through her eyes and understand what she was feeling every time she verbally abused me; and at the root of all of it was fear. All sorts of fear. The moment my heart accepted that my mother’s motivation was based in fear that was beyond her control, part of my inner world shifted and let go. My heart melted. Any residual anger and sadness dissolved.
It felt like the challenge of having a relationship with my mother was finally done. Letting it go felt like mission complete. All the anger and pain associated with our relationship dissolved. Vanished. Transmuted, so what began to flow again was love.
It was a magical moment that set me free. And that is what real forgiveness is. Setting yourself free. Letting go of stuck emotional pain. And it doesn’t have to be dependent on anyone else. You don’t need to hear, “I’m sorry” when forgiveness is an inside job.