Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sacred Sunday: Releasing Unforgiveness, Abusive Mothers, Prejudice

On Sundays I sometimes like to do personal work on issues that are troubling me. Today I went for a long walk and worked on releasing prejudice, unforgiveness, anger, and hurt. There was a lot more than I thought to process, but I felt better afterwards. Such big things will take a lot of work to fully let go of, I'm thinking, but I do feel like I made a lot of progress today.

The issues I worked on today had to do with mothers emotionally harming their children. I've changed the names for privacy.

The first mother I focused on is someone I'll call Nelly. I wrote about her last month in my post called Enemies. I want to release the negative feelings and judgments I have towards her. Nelly is a pious fundamentalist Christian mother who taught her children that God had enough people doing good for others; she wanted her family to work together to help God deliver his punishments to others. She set about doing this vigorously as a life mission--a judgment-based crusade with Nelly as The Judge. She included in her crusade her ex-husband, oblivious to the fact that this would cause her children to reject a part of themselves as they rejected their father.

Today I worked on forgiving Nelly, knowing that she would have to be stunted emotionally to consider such actions. I wouldn't expect someone who is so deeply emotionally developmentally disabled to be able to do more. At some level she probably loves her children. She may even have no idea what she is doing. If she ever does wake up and realize what she's done she may not even be able to handle it.

My part in this is that I am one of the people Nelly thinks deserves ongoing punishment for my sins, administered by her and her children. I worked on expressing anger towards Nelly first, then forgiving her. I worked towards trying to send blessings and healing energies her way.

Now as adults not all of the children still follow Nelly's ways, but some do. It hurts me to see this way of thinking passed down. I am powerless over all of it, though, and can only send love their way.

Next came Minnie. Minnie is a very self-righteous woman, someone I grew up with and cared greatly about. Minnie and Nelly share a worldview in that they are both fundamentalist Christians. Minnie thought that it would be better to alienate her children from people who didn't have "Christian lifestyles" that measured up to Minnie's standards. This would protect them, she thought.

I was one of those people that didn't measure up in Minnie's mind. At that time I was a Christian, but just not the right kind. So Minnie made sure that her children had no contact with me. I disagreed with this and it hurt, especially since I was related to Minnie and her children.

Now as I try to forgive Minnie, I can see that her intentions were good. She was trying to protect her children from someone with dangerous ideas (any ideas that were different from hers) and with ways of being in the world that were threatening to her worldview.  I experienced a lot of hurt and sadness as a result of her actions, and continue to experience it even now because Minnie's adult children continue in her lifestyle as adults.

I followed the same process here: first anger, then feelings of sadness for the loss of relationship, trying to establish some empathy, forgiveness, then sending love.

Then came Queenie. Queenie is a mother who tries to control her children and everyone else. She also is a Christian, therefore many things are done because it seems to her that this is the way God wants it. She did some things to one of my family members that tore their family apart, and caused them to lose custody of their children because she lied. Queenie is a really hard person for me to forgive. I have a thing about lying, and really struggle...

Anyway, she has nothing in particular against me; it's just that if you don't let her run your life, you'll be very sorry. She bullies people into doing what she wants.

More of the same here for me: releasing resentment, forgiveness for so many things, struggling to send goodness her way.

Empathy helps. I have never done this type of thing to anyone, but if I really felt like I had to have control to the point that I would die or implode, I might. We are all capable of anything, I believe, given the right past, the right experiences, etc. I don't believe that I'm any better of a person than Queenie--or for that matter, than Nelly or Minnie. I just have had a different past and am a different person.

Then I focused on my own mother. She was verbally and physically abusive to us. I went through the same process with her because it just felt like I needed to. This is probably why I feel so keenly about mothers who hurt their children--because it happened to me.

Even though she hurt her children deeply, I'm sure she didn't want to. I'm sure she would feel devastated to know the damage she did. I remember her crying each time afterwards, telling me how much she loved me and how sorry she was. What a life to live--to beat and verbally abuse your children--to hate yourself, and then get up the next day and do it all over again.

When you are abused and you survive and you still love your parent, it shows you that you are strong enough to make it through, and that you have an amazing ability to love. I don't know that I have much love left for my mother (mostly just relief that she is gone--she died over 30 years ago) but I don't hate her anymore, which I think is a good thing. I know that she did many good things for us and did the best she could.

Lastly, I thought about another mother I know who I'll call Bunnie. I had a long conversation with Bunnie this week, and she is a different kind of mother than the ladies above. Bunnie loves her children--really loves her children. She had a difficult upbringing, but had a mother who truly showed her all the love she possibly could. She told her every day that she was special and made her feel loved and valued. Bunnie was truly mothered.

Bunnie has taken a different approach to raising her children. Instead of "protecting" them from family members with different beliefs, instead of lying to them to alienate them from people she disagrees with, instead of manipulating people to try to control her children's experiences, instead of insulating them from life with religious beliefs--she has loved them. She's had integrity in how she has cared for her children.

But she learned how to love from her mother. She was taught well. Nelly, Minnie, Queenie, my mother--none of them had that. All of them were repeating what they knew and trying so hard to get it right.

Understanding this, putting all of this in perspective really helped me in being able to forgive. Of course, I'm not done yet--this is a process that will take a long time, but I feel freer, as though I've made an excellent start.

Today's work also helped me to release prejudice towards fundamentalist Christians. I've written about this before. This is something I really need to deal with. All Christians are not like Nelly, Minnie, and Queenie. People like these three ladies are attracted to all kinds of groups and spiritual systems that can make them feel good about their actions; fundamentalist Christianity just happened to be the one they picked.

I used to be a fundamentalist Christian, and I was really doing the best I could. I wanted to be a loving person. I couldn't see that judgment and unforgiveness had no place in Christianity. We called it "discernment". We thought we were right. We thought we were righteous. We would project our feelings onto others--all of them that we had no room for--which were quite a few of them. The feelings that we did have, we were told never, ever, ever to trust. Still, there is no basis for me to judge a whole group of people based upon my bad experiences and my experiences with these mothers. They could have picked another kind of group and achieved the same results; it just was easy to pick Christianity because it was there.

Not sure why I wanted to share this all with you, but I did. I hope that there is something to be gleaned from it. I hope that perhaps I might inspire you to forgive those you want to forgive. Or maybe you have some prejudice against some group of people that you want to release. Or maybe it's just to validate that you are a mother who really loves her children, like Bunnie, and is not too emotionally developmentally disabled to show it. Maybe it's to be grateful that you are the person you are, someone not trapped in some weird psychological knot that causes you to act out in destructive ways and hurt those around you. Maybe it's to show more empathy to those people you know who are trapped.

Thank you for listening today, Sacred Sunday, xoO


~Karen C.L. Anderson~ said...

This is powerful and beautiful...and it's something I am trying to practice each and every day.

There's a woman in my life (not my mother, but this particular woman sometimes reminds me of my mother) and I constantly have to remind myself that a big chunk of her brain is not healthy. It's not her fault. And yet when she lashes out and hurts her children, for whom I care about a great deal, it's hard not to be angry...and yes, sometimes petty. But then I remind myself how very lucky I am. Love is the answer.

kate i said...

Wow Olivia...there's not much I can say except that this is really BIG work you're doing. It's important work and something that we all have to do at some point in our lives, if we want peace.

I admire your willingness, openness and courage to BE LOVE! Big hugs to you my friend.

Anonymous said...

This is very powerful and beautiful. It must feel good, like a big relief, to be doing such work.

Olivia said...

Karen, yes...I of course was inspired to do this from your post in our women's group (Karen is in this online group with me). I want to learn to do more of the feeling of the emotion itself (as you did) with more of my body involved. It's so incredibly hard when you love the children--they are at the effect of the inadequacy of their mother. I so agree that love is the answer.

Thank you kate, that means a lot, coming from you. It does feel very big. For the last few years, this problem of mine has been getting bigger and I know that it's too big for me....I need to practice this regularly to stay in a good place.

It does, Kelly, indeed. Thank you for reflecting and witnessing.

Thank you all for commenting...sometimes it is hard to write something so personal. I don't know why I feel compelled to do so, but I just do. It's what's going on with me, and that is what my blog is about...xoO

Kim Mailhot said...

Beautiful heart, for me the most powerful thing you said was "I couldn't see that judgment and unforgiveness had no place in Christianity."I would extend that even further, and say that judgement and unforgiveness have no place in a life well lived.

I am so grateful that you, and I, and some many other wonderful hearts are discovering this truth.
Here's to doing the work of loving and forgiving, one little step at a time, for our good, and for the good of this wonderful world we share.
Light and love to you !

patti said...

It takes a lot of strength to forgive what we cannot understand. With love in your heart, you have found some kind of understanding and forgiveness is moving in.

Hard work! Well done! It can only mean your heart is growing bigger with every healing step you take in this direction...


Olivia said...

Kim, what a great point you make! Judgment and unforgiveness are toxic and have no place in any kind of life well-lived...thank you for your comment and encouragement and Big Love always, xoO

Patti, you know, I didn't think about it that way...I sometimes feel as though I need to understand before I forgive...understanding is helpful in developing empathy, for sure, but not necessary to forgive. Thank you, Patti; it is a lot of hard work. I feel like I have gotten rid of a lot of baggage though, more to process too :) xoO

CrystalChick said...

What a beautiful and deeply thought out post. I'm glad that you're able to do the work of feeling the anger and sadness and then trying to forgive and release and send love.
A process like that with multiple people and intense situations must be quite difficult. You're working through it so well though and it's inspiring!
While I haven't had the experience of dealing with fundamentalist Christians or with bullies or anyone extremely controlling, I have had a few people who were hurtful and a couple others who push my buttons from time to time. I do need to work on that as well as forgiveness and acceptance of self as I get off the track occasionally.

Thanks for sharing this, Olivia.

Olivia said...

Oh, thanks so much Mary. It was difficult but I am glad I did it. I think you are indeed a blessed woman to have had no deeply controlling or aggressive people in this way around you; you're right though, as I think everyone can work on whatever they hold resentment or bitterness towards...thank you Mary for commenting--it encourages me! xoO