"My parents were distant, unaffectionate people. I don't remember ever being held by them. They were never interested in how I thought or felt. I never felt important to them at all."
"My mother was crazy - nice one minute and the next a screaming maniac. My father was sweet but he was never around, and he never did anything to stop my mother from the emotional abuse."
"My father was an angry violent man and my mother was weak and pathetic. He often beat us and my mother did nothing to protect us."
"My mother didn't believe me when I told her that my father was molesting me. She is still with him, and still doesn't believe me."
Many people grew up with parents who didn't know how to love them in the ways they needed to be loved. Others grew up with parents who not only did not love them, but who were physically, emotionally and/or sexually abusive. Unloving and abusive parenting has far reaching affects on our lives.
Many people spend years trying to heal from their childhoods. Often, at some point in their healing process they ask, "Should I forgive my parents? Would it be healthy for me to forgive them? How would I go about feeling forgiveness toward them?"
Forgiveness is not a feeling that you can just decide to have. Many of my clients who decide that they want to forgive their parents find that the forgiveness doesn't last. Something happens and they find themselves once again angry with one or both of their parents.
In my work with my clients and with myself, I have discovered an important thing about forgiveness:
AS LONG AS WE ARE TREATING OURSELVES THE WAY OUR PARENTS TREATED US, WE CANNOT REACH TRUE FORGIVENESS.
• If your parents ignored you and you didn't feel important to them, as long as you continue to ignore your own feelings and needs, you will not be able to forgive your parents.
• If your parents were judgmental toward you, as long as you continue to judge yourself, you will not be able to forgive your parents.
Most of our parents were unhealed, wounded people, doing the best they could. Since they were our role models, they passed their woundedness on to us, so that the wounded part of us is generally a carbon copy of the wounded parts of them.
When you decide to embark on a healing journey, it is this part of you - your wounded self - that needs healing. Healing occurs as you compassionately open to learning about the false beliefs of your wounded self - the beliefs you absorbed as you were growing up. The more you understand the fears and beliefs of your wounded self and learn to live from truth rather than from these fears and limiting beliefs, the more loving and compassionate you feel toward yourself and others.
You will find that your anger and resentment toward your parents gradually fades away as you learn to treat yourself in the ways you always wished your parents would have treated you. As you learn to feel compassion for the wounded parts of you, you will naturally feel compassion for the wounded parts of them. Forgiveness is the natural outcome of doing your own inner healing work.
However, just because you forgive your parents, doesn't mean that you want to spend time with them. If they continue to be unloving or abusive people, you might decide to forgive them from afar. It is wonderful for your wellbeing to let go of anger and blame and feel forgiveness in your heart, and it is also wonderful to give yourself permission to not be around your parents if it is not in your highest good to do so.
If your parents have mellowed over the years, you might find that you enjoy spending time with them, regardless of what happened in the past.
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight books, including "Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?" and “Healing Your Aloneness.” She is the co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® healing process. Learn Inner Bonding now! Visit her web site for a FREE Inner Bonding course: www.innerbonding.com or email her at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone Sessions Available.