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Archive for November 13th, 2007

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On my post, Forgiveness and Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse, a reader left the following comment:

The person I need to forgive is me. I did nothing wrong, and have no reason to be blamed for anything that happened, yet I feel dirty, ashamed, guilty and a million and 1 other negative emotions. They are dissipating, slowly, and as I let go of each one, I come closer to the self forgiveness and the peace that I so need.

There is so much wisdom in that comment. The reader captures well the struggles that survivors of childhood abuse face as they wrestle with finding a way to forgive themselves.

I, too, used to feel very guilty and filled with shame over my childhood, even though I did nothing wrong. I was just an innocent child. I did not choose to be abused, and I did not choose the things that my abusers forced me to do. However, no matter how much I knew these things in my head, I still felt very guilty at a heart level.

In my post Forgiveness and Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse, I described the forgiveness of others as the act of letting go – of choosing to stop nursing the bitterness and, instead, using that energy to heal yourself. I used the same process in forgiving myself.

Whether or not I “should” feel guilty about my history of abuse, I did feel guilty. I needed to choose to stop nursing that guilt and shame. Whenever I felt filled with shame, I would choose to be kind to myself and think about positive things, even when doing so felt foreign to me.

One resource that really helped me was the book, Trauma and Recovery, by Judith Lewis Herman. In this book, Ms. Herman talks about different causes of trauma, including soldiers who are traumatized by war. I could look at a soldier’s situation more objectively: They were drafted to fight, so why should they feel guilty? Then I thought about what that guilt-ridden soldier would say to me about things that I suffered as a young child. Taking a step back from my specific circumstances helped me to see my circumstances more objectively.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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