Wednesday, March 30, 2016

When is apologizing wrong?: It is wrong to apologize for having feelings.

Living apologetically I have been discovering is about the things we avoid doing or are ashamed to admit to. 

I have lived my life apologizing for having feelings that I felt were bad or wrong.  

It has taken me this long to learn that having feelings, even the bad ones, is not the issue.  Those feelings are there to protect me.  

When I feel anger because I have been wronged that feeling is there to alert me to the fact that something is wrong with the person or the action that allowed that feeling to surface.  

When I feel hurt by the actions of another, that feeling is there to serve to awaken me to the fact that my personal safety boundaries have been violated. 

When I feel sad it is because I have been hurt by people or circumstances and my body is expressing sorrow for having had to experience this event. 

There is nothing to be ashamed about for feeling feelings.  

However I have been conditioned by my life experiences and society that some feelings are bad and need to be banished and replaced by the “good feelings”,  happiness and enthusiasm and joy.  

Those who promote this have done me a great disservice for in neglecting what the emotions of anger and sorrow and hurt are meant to warn me about what is “wrong” in a situation I have been untrue to myself.  I have failed to honour that what I feel about a given situation is my birthright.  

Feelings have a purpose.  They are a sign of the conditions we are experiencing.  The so called “bad feelings” indicate that there is something wrong, something dangerous, something detrimental to my well-being in proximity.  They should serve to tell me to “get out of that situation”.  Instead I was taught that feeling those feelings meant there was something wrong with me! These are the false lessons that I learned:

  • I was at fault for feeling hurt when someone else treated me badly. 
  • I was at fault for feeling angry when someone betrayed me. 
  • I was at fault when I was sad because someone harmed me.  

How ridiculous is that!!??   

I look at those statements written down on the page and realize that I have been betrayed by those who taught me about feelings and that because of that I spent years of my life betraying myself!

I said nothing to speak up for myself when my feelings were trying to tell me I was in a disrespectful relationship.  Instead I beat upon myself for being “too sensitive”.  

I lived my life apologizing for having those feelings because I was conditioned to believe my feelings were wrong!  

This set me up to be a doormat.  I backed off when people invaded my boundaries and the reason I backed down was because I had been given the mistaken information that my feelings could not be trusted. People realized that I would back down so they felt it was okay to mistreat me.  It became a viscous circle.  The more I backed down the worse I was treated. The worse I was treated the more I hated myself for having those angry, hateful, hurting vengeful feelings.

Of course the problem with always backing down is that eventually you find yourself in a situation where there is nowhere to back down to.  You are on the edge of a cliff with no rope to scale down.  If you fall your spirit will die, that spark of you that is you, the individual will be gone, you will be only a puppet dancing to the desires and pleasures of others.  That position is literally “do or die”.  From that position you either cave and fall or stand up and fight back.

I stood up and fought back.  

For the first time in my life I listened to my hurt, angry, sad feelings and heeded their message, they were telling me that I was in danger of losing myself.  I expressed my anger for the first time in my life, not against myself, but against the people attacking me. 
  • It was such a scary moment. 
  • It was a revolutionary and revelation-ary moment.
  • It was the moment that changed my life and the future pattern of my life.

For in that expressing I lost those people who got joy out of oppressing me.  They turned against me for daring to express my anger.  I went from being their door mat to being their scapegoat.  When I would no longer do for them as they manipulated me, I became the person to take the blame for their bad behaviour.

Gradually over the years of healing and coming to understand myself and my reactions better I have learned that my feelings, especially those of anger and sadness and hurt are my dear friends.  They tell me when my boundaries have been invaded and violated.  They warn me of dangerous manipulative people.  

When I feel that churning feeling in my gut that means these people mean me harm, they want to control me, tell me what to think and how to behave for their benefit, not mine. I now heed those warning signs.  I welcome them as friends who keep me safe. I will never again apologize for feeling those warning feelings.

Renate Dundys Marrello

2016 – 03 – 30

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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Coming to terms with Forgiveness - Day 2

My thoughts of Forgiveness:
Day 40 of last year or Day 2 of this year’s repeat cycle.
Last year I started a 40 day journey of learning about forgiveness and the process of forgiving.

I found that often the common quotes about forgiveness give rise to more questions than they answer.  I actually found myself at day 39 unable to complete the project.  I actually became angry with all the platitudes.

This year I will be looking at some of the same quotes only from the perspective of what has changed in me as I have had another year to work on my own healing journey.

First I want to say that I have come to the conclusion that most of the rhetoric about forgiveness is rather shallow.  We are almost bullied into "forgiving" as if that is the path to healing.  There are so many statements stating that forgiving will allow you to move on and heal, or the healing power of forgiveness.  Etcetera, etcetera!  If you have been struggling with the concept of forgiveness you possibly have read all the platitudes that I have.  If you have walked away from those oversimplified proclamations on forgiveness feeling diminished for your inability to “simply forgive” then you know what I am addressing. 

The reality, I have come to believe is that it is the other way around.  First we must find a way to heal our emotional wounds and when we are healed we find that we can forgive. I don’t think there is a short cut to forgiving.  Forgiving comes after a lot of deep soul searching and hard work on the self, personal values and core principles that are central in the way you see yourself.

Since healing is not an easy journey; I feel that getting to that place of being able to forgive is not easy.  I know in this day and age of “instant everything”, we don’t like to hear this.  Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just accept the platitude of “forgive and move on” than to spend time learning about yourself, what motivates you, what your character weaknesses are, how your weakness either contributed to the situation, or your response to the situation.  Self-awareness and self-analysis is not for the timid.  To look in the mirror and fully reveal yourself to yourself requires courage and beyond courage, bravery to face even that which is struggling to remain hidden.

However I can say this; the more I heal, the more I understand myself and my needs and accept that I am allowed to go through all the emotions I need to get through, the closer I find myself getting to a place where I can contemplate forgiveness, not as a absolution of guilt, for their guilt will always remain for making the choices that they did, but as a starting point for letting the past be truly in the past

Walking the healing path toward forgiveness also means that I will be at a place of being ready to hear any attempts at atonement should that be somewhere in the future.  I believe we can't listen to contrition, if we are still filled with hurt and anger and resentment.  

In order to be in a place where atonement meets forgiveness, I have to face all that makes me angry and work through those emotions and make peace with my right to be angry.  Then I have to bravely face what it means to translate that anger into something that will become a building block towards managing my responses, not for them, but for me, so that I act and /or react in the kind of manner that reflects my principles and my values. 

By changing how I self-talk, I effectively change my reactions, not by suppressing what were or are inappropriate actions or behaviours in others, but by being able to build up strong boundaries that protect me from reacting in a negative manner. To instead develop ability to react in a positive self affirming manner that reflects self respect and the refusal to be treated badly.  

Healing for me leads to forgiveness because the changes in me allow me to be forgiving.  

Healing leads me to a place where I can conceive of being willing to forgive. 

Healing leads me to a place of compassion for the person who did the hurting (and their own inner issues that they have not yet resolved), which is very different than acceptance of the hurting behaviour.

Healing allows me to see the mistakes of others from a place of compassion and tolerance, again without condoning their behaviour.

Healing allows me to realize that I deserve and should expect certain changes in behaviour in those who have hurt me before I give them the opportunity to re-enter my life. 

Forgiveness does not mean I have to accept once again that which was unacceptable before, rather, forgiveness allows me to embrace the possibility of personal growth and changes in those who have hurt me, to give them the benefit of the doubt that they won’t repeat those actions.

Healing teaches me that I must remain aware and maintain my boundaries and to not be blind to the possibility that there is a possibility of repeat offense.

Healing teaches me that I have the right to hold others accountable for the way they treat me. This is key for me, that I have the right to remove myself from harms way!

Yes I do believe that healing comes before forgiving, healing is what I do for myself so that I am capable of forgiving those who have wronged me. The other way around I am just once again putting the needs of others before my own, and that is exactly what landed me in the mess that I am in in the first place.

Renate Dundys Marrello

2016 – 03 – 18

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Coming to terms with what forgiveness is and what it is not

Day 1 of my 40 day journey toward forgiveness

My intention for focusing on forgiveness has three different intentions.

First I intend to forgive myself for making mistakes.  To accept that I am human and to err is human. To accept that just because I have made a mistake does not make me a bad person.  To learn that making a mistake is not grounds for punishing myself.  Mistakes happen; we are to learn from our mistakes.  Mistakes make us humble and give us an opportunity to learn and grow. When we use our mistakes as a launching place we can become better people, more connected to the hearts and souls of others walking that pathway together. 

My second intention is to come to understand that there is a difference between apologizing to “keep the peace” and apologizing for an actual wrong doing.  In the past I have been too quick to apologize to keep the peace, to avoid confrontation.  I can no longer do this. This kind of apology is a lie and I am no longer willing to live this kind of lie to protect the feelings of others.

I am perfectly willing to atone for any wrongs I may have committed.  I welcome those who feel I have done them wrong to come forward and tell me exactly what it is that they feel I have done wrong.  Don’t sit back and expect me to guess what it is you are angry with me over.  Tell me to my face; walk with me down a path of forgiveness and atonement. And yes expect to hear my side of the story.  While I am willing to atone for mistakes I have made, I will not be the scape goat for your bad behaviour, and I will not apologize to save you from facing your own mistakes. 

Walk beside me as an equal; do not punish me from afar hiding behind a veil of insinuation.  If you can express to me what I have done wrong, you give me something to work with.  However, know this; I will no longer apologize blindly in the hopes of gaining your favour.  Do not hold my apology over my head as a way to get me to acquiesce to your needs and wants.  I no longer come with strings; I no longer will allow myself to be manipulated to gain your acceptance.

Apologies are not a way of gaining control.  If you seek to control me by my apology then we are not walking the path as equals but as master and slave.  My days of apologizing for the sake of apologizing are over.  I also will not apologize for my emotions or my feelings or my reactions caused by the way you treated me.  If you take offence with my reactions to your cruelty then possibly you were at fault for abusing me. I will not apologize for refusing to be your victim. Do not come to me expecting a willing victim. My groveling days are over.

Third and hardest part of my journey will be to find it within my heart to forgive everyone who asks me for forgiveness.  To allow those who have hurt me to come to me humbly asking for forgiveness and to be willing to give them the opportunity to atone is my intention.  I want to become willing to listen to a sincere apology.  I want to be able to forgive. I want to create the pathway to future hopes paved with good intentions for mutual reconciliation.  Only forgiveness that is walked together in a united pathway can lead to reconciliation. 

Forgiveness as a solitary exercise is about healing and moving on alone.
Forgiveness as a joint exercise is about reconciliation and new beginnings. 

Either way I will walk my path toward forgiveness.
The question is will you who accuse me walk beside me? 

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2016 – 03 – 12

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Post estrangement: facing my “Green Monsters”

Yes it is time I look self-pity, envy and jealousy in the eye and acknowledge that I am weak in those areas. 

I am not proud of this but it is a fact.  I spend a significant part of my thoughts on feeling sorry for myself.  The words in my thought speak go like this:  “I did not deserve this, why was this done to me?  This is not fair, how could they?  Woe is me.”  

Then another part of my time is spent being envious and jealous of others who have their grands in their lives.  When I see other grandparents enjoying time with their grandchildren the first thought that comes to my mind is “Why can’t I have that?  I want that!” 

I look at that side of me and realize it is the un-grown up part of me coming forward, the childish part that wants what it wants! I am humbled to realize that I have an unrealistic view of what my rights are.  My right as a human being is to accept that which had been given me. I cannot change what has happened, but I can learn from my emotional response that I am not yet the kind of person I would like to be.  I am selfish, filled with self-pity and jealousy and envy of others who have what I want.

I am not saying that what happened to me is right.  The right or wrong of it has nothing to do with my responses.  I am also not saying that the act of estranging is in any way acceptable, it is and remains an unacceptable way of dealing with conflict.

What I am saying is that my being jealous and envious of others who have a better fortune is wrong of me.  I resolve to try hard to be filled with joy for the happiness of others.

It is unacceptable for me to walk about in a state of self-pity, for that is counterproductive and gives in to the childishness of desiring gratification from outside myself to become content.

I will work hard to overcome my green monsters.  I will battle self-pity and envy.  I have much to be thankful for, I have been given many opportunities in life and still have new unexplored opportunities before me.  I will not give in when the green monster strikes! 

I pray:
  • Let my sorrow not turn into self-pity; rather let it lead me to greater compassion, understanding, kindness and empathy.
  • Let my pain not turn into envy of those who have that which I desire; rather let me rejoice in the goodness that is present in their lives, holding this up as a shining example of the goodness that is possible. 
  • Help me to grow to emotional maturity so that I don’t give into the forces of jealousy and coveting that which others enjoy.  Rather let me give thanks for the gifts in my life by showing appreciation and gratitude for what I do have. 

Renate Dundys Marrello
2016 – 03 – 11 

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Saturday, March 5, 2016

post estrangement: misconceptions about letting go.

Memes are often posted about topics like "letting go". I find most of them over simplified advice and they really do very little to address the challenges of actually making such a transition in life after a traumatic event.  

Often people will post memes about letting go and then make statements about how hard it is.  What is really needed is a discussion about what are the steps that contribute to the action of letting go. 

The act of "letting go" is not an instant decision as implied by those memes.  Letting go of an emotional state is not the same as opening a hand to release a string.  If it were that simple then no one would remain stuck in the hurt filled stage of suffering through grief and sorrow. 

Letting go is a journey, it is not an event.

It is not a single decision rather a series of decisions, a commitment to a progressively changing thought process, a turning away from through conscious effort.  The effort of moving in a new direction post trauma is more like building a new road than letting go of a string.     

The problem with most memes on this topic is that they imply it is a choice made in one moment and then the action is done / complete. This leaves those struggling with the concept of moving forward, letting go, feeling like they are failures for somehow not getting over it through the simple action of letting go.  Or in the above meme, even worse is the implication that if you don't "let go" it is because you are not courageous enough!  So you are left not only facing the sorrow of the grief, you are now facing the thought that the fault lies with you, that you are somehow defective, because letting go is difficult for you. 

How much kinder it would be if instead we were encouraged to understand that the reality is that the process of letting go is an action that happens every time you consciously remember what you have lost and then choose to turn your thoughts to other things, such as what you can do now in this moment to build a foundation for your pathway toward a new and very different future. 

Even more hurtful is that the above meme also implies that it takes courage to let go.  I feel that courage has rather little to do with letting go.  Courage is what you use to face something that causes fear and yet you do it anyway.  

Letting go of expectations in relationships that have been broken is not about overcoming fear, it is about overcoming sorrow.  There is a need to overcome the sorrow for lost relationships and lost innocence and lost possibilities.  

I think it is wrong to say you face sorrow with courage.  You face sorrow with grieving and then with healing.  You don’t overcome sorrow with courage; rather, you face change with courage.  

I believe that a more accurate way of expressing healing after estrangement is to say;

“We face with courage an uncharted future, by slowly releasing the grip that sorrow has upon us.”

I welcome your thoughts and feedback. 

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2016 - 03 - 05 

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Post Estrangement: Grieving and the well Intentioned advice to "move on"

When we are grieving we often hear the well-meant advice to “move on” or “let it go”. 

The problem is that when “they” think we need to move on and when “we” think we should move on works on different schedules.  They are not experiencing our pain; they are only seeing the effects of our pain as it affects them. For you see, we are different while we grieve.  We are withdrawn, we don’t fully engage and they miss the “us” they knew in the before times.

However there is a lot that we can learn from our reactions to hearing those words and this is where I want to encourage you to look. It is in understanding your reactions to words that there is an opportunity for revelations that can actually help you on the path toward moving on.

When we are in the midst of grieving this advice to “move one” makes us estranged parents once again question ourselves as in “What is wrong with me?  Why is it taking me so long?  Should I be ready to move on?” With our confidence already shattered by what has been done to us by the estrangement this advice from others can actually be counterproductive to our healing.   

However there is also opportunity for healing in confronting those feelings.  It is in becoming aware of these self-doubting thoughts that we can find the seeds of strength to change the harmful self-talk words into powerful self-enhancing words.  I started to dislike the negative way I was talking to myself and resolved to change that habit. It was a huge change for me and became a huge step forward in my healing. 

For me it was this small first step in healing, that actually stated me on the path of "moving on".  I was still grieving the loss and all that had been taken from me but I started to learn that there were better ways to encourage myself, better ways of relating to myself and my feelings than constantly negatively judging myself.  I started to accept the sadness and the hurt and the sorrow and stopped putting judgements on my feelings.  I started to accept that they were my feelings and I was entitled to feel my feelings.  They were neither good or bad they just were.  The time to process them was not too long, it was the amount of time that I needed, because of my unique temperament and my unique circumstances.

I also remember very clearly a time when hearing that advice from others used to make me angry about their insensitivity.

Looking back now I realize that this actually was another early sign of my healing.  I was starting to reassert my rights to grieve and heal at my own pace.  I started to say “my feelings and stop telling me how to process my feelings”.  I started to acknowledge to myself that my healing was not something I do for their convenience; it is what I do for myself.

No one can tell you when or how to move on.  That has to come from inside of you and at a time when you are ready. When you react badly upon hearing the words "move on" you are simply not yet ready to move on. 

When you are in fact ready, you start to respond, "yes that is what I am doing".   

What most people do not realize is that the act of moving on and letting go are not instantaneous.  You don’t say the words and magically the process is over.  Rather, the first time you say “I think it is time to move on” is actually a small shift, a change in direction, a new beginning.  But the process is far from over.  

As I write these words, I have been in the process of “moving on” for 3 years now.  I am much more clear now in knowing what parts I “can let go of” and what parts I know will always be part of the sorrow and the regret that remains.  

And even now I realize that “moving on” is a daily choice to be made.  It is not simply a state of being, it is a state of choosing.   I am now far more forgiving of myself on those days when I don’t choose to move on.  I accept that there are days when I need to grieve, and that too is alright.  I have also learned that those are moments or days that I can only share with those who do understand because they have walked the same path as I have.

I realize that I live most of my life now in “moving on mode”, and yet I retain the right to have the stuck in sorrow moments.  And I no longer judge myself for having those moments.  They are now a part of who I am, I come by that sorrow honestly, by surviving the trauma of estrangement.

When someone says those words now I understand that the thought that comes out of their mouths is really about what is going on in their own minds, and those thoughts are what prompts the words.  

What they are really saying is they are tired of hearing our story because it makes them feel uncomfortable.  When they hear our story they feel fear about what it would be like if they were faced with a similar situation.  They don’t want to face that fear.  So they offer the poor advice of “move on”.   What they are really meaning is “move on to a different topic because this one causes me fear and discomfort.

It really is a poor way of communicating and it is actually less than honest.  But I forgive them, for it truly is hard to face the fear of estrangement.  To come face to face with the thought that they too could suffer abandonment, that life’s relationships are never guaranteed. That is a dark thought to contemplate.

So next time, when someone asks you to “move on”, try to hear what they are really saying; “I can’t deal with the fear and pain of facing the reality that there is no protection from being abandoned so I really can’t talk about it anymore, so can we please change the subject”

Now that I understand where the message comes from I no longer hold it against them.

I have also learned to recognize my own desire to avoid certain topics.  When parents start talking about their own families and their children and grandchildren and all the joy that goes with that, I am often tempted to say “move on” to other topics.  Facing their joy opens up the well of fear inside me that I will never experience those moments with my estranged daughter and her family. I now can temper my need to change the topic with more kindness and compassion and acceptance of their joy. 

Learning to understand the sentiments behind the words “move on”, has made me a better person, more accepting of those things I cannot change.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2016 – 03 – 02 

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