By Beth Burton-Krahn
A huge component of recovery is about living in a state of self forgiveness. When we really think about it, there is no greater salve for a wounded heart than forgiving ourselves. So many of us have tried so hard to be the perfect wife, or mother, or daughter or friend or employee. We’ve worked our fingers to the bone trying to make up for something, some deficit somewhere, that we are convinced we are somehow responsible for fixing. It might be our parents’ unhappy marriage, thinking somehow there unhappiness was our fault. Or it might be thinking we are responsible for so much of our childrens’ lives’ that we turn our-self inside out trying to keep their world perfect, or safe. Or trying to give them the life we never had.
As life moves along, it is like we collect a thousand little hits daily to our sense of feeling at home within ourselves. The phone call we didn’t return, the surge of anger at a messy house, the feeling of being somehow not quite up to the task of living life in some perfect way. And sure enough, just when we get it “all together”, life does its’ own thing; the car breaks down, or the basement floods, or a good friend gets cancer, or our child gets ill. And we are once again thrust into that state of thinking we just haven’t tried hard enough.
Well, I have news for you, you have tried hard enough, more than hard enough. The task now, is to heal your heart by practicing self-forgiveness. By this point in the journey, we are “all in our head”, thinking, planning and plotting to figure out how to get life nailed down. The mind is sharp and brittle, towards our-self, and others. When we are in the head so much, we feel anxious and speedy, like we don’t know how to rest, or stop, or even breathe.
Self Forgiveness is a Healing Process
Self forgiveness is cultivated by moving into the heart. It involves stopping long enough to notice just how exiled from ourself we have become. Then, we can visualize our heart and all the healing contained within it. As a dear friend once said, “The mind creates the abyss, the heart heals it”. This is so true. When we move into our heart center, time seems to slow down, we are more present and stable. The heart calms us and is the container for everything; our wounds, our judgements, our sorrows, our self-hatred. If we tune into the heart and find it stone cold and brittle, we acknowledge that, and we send well wishes to our heart, that it might thaw, that it might trust life again. To be in a state of self-exile is the greatest pain there is.
Another friend works with a beautiful image of an older version of herself comforting herself at the age she is now. Just an older, wiser version of herself letting the self she is now know that it is ok, that she is doing great, that life is hard sometimes, and that there isn’t an owner’s manual! Sending these words of forgiveness to ourself is deeply healing. Because life is so unpredictable, and because so much of it is outside of our control, self-forgiveness isn’t a nice idea, it is an absolute necessity. May we all grow in self-forgiveness.