Forgiving Our Parents
There are no perfect parents.
For many of us, there are things that our parents have done that we could never imagine doing to any child, let alone our own. This can include abuse and neglect, addiction issues, being emotionally unavailable to our children, abandonment, being ignored, being emotionally unavailable....the list goes on.
The simmering rage and resentment that comes with this can be overwhelming, yet in some cases, we cannot or do not want to cut our parents out of our lives. So how do we deal with this? The process of forgiving our parents is similar to forgiving others, except that it cuts to the very core of who we are.
The other wrench is that our parents, who are used to being in a position of power in our lives, are often unable or not willing to fully take responsibility for what they may have done. For them, it may hurt them too much to even admit how much they have hurt us, so they push it down, ignore it, blame others, downplay it, or even blame their children. Their lack of accountability of the past often leads to even more anger and resentment.
So what can we do?
An important step is to thoroughly explain to our parents how these feelings are affecting our lives and our relationships. Chances are, their unresolved "stuff" from their own childhood is the exact reason they have done what they have to us, and it is important that we stop this cycle so we do not do the same to ourselves and in our relationships.
Chances are, we may not be able to have this conversation with them. We may not be able to afford to bring this up. And what if what they've done is unforgivable? They may not be available, or it may hurt too much to hear. Even if they are willing to hear us, they may never "get" it the way we need them too, and we may never get an apology. The important thing is to get this resentment off of your chest, even if it means writing a letter you can't send. If you're lucky, you may even get some insight into who they are and what led them to make poor decisions for you.
Working with a counselor can also help your process these feelings, and help you figure out the right way to move on. Carrying such deep resentment will undoubtedly affect every relationship in your life, and burden you with anger, resentment, and stress. You deserve relief.
Leana Sykes is a Relationship Counselor and the owner of Leana Sykes Relationship Counseling in Oaklyn, NJ. In-person and online appointments available.
Dealing with Regret
There is nothing worse. That feeling of sadness over a missed opportunity or disappointment over something that we've done wrong or, well, severely messed-up can be consuming. We run the situation through our minds over and over again, clearly recognizing where everything took a wrong turn, and worse, the part that was all our fault.
So what do you do about it? How do you handle the feelings?
If it's a Person You've Wronged
If it's a person that you've wronged, you should make amends and get some closure. If the person is accessible, you may want to apologize and ask for forgiveness (I have a very helpful post on how to do this). Let the person know that you are taking responsibility for what you've done, and you want to know what you need to do to make the situation right. They may or may not accept your apology, but at least you can put the situation to rest and know that you tried your best. If the person is not around, or you can't get in touch with them, try writing a letter to them that you may never send. At the very least this may get some of your feelings out and help you process and make sense of them.
If it's Poor Decisions You've Made In the Past
In this case, you may have wronged yourself. Was it an addiction? Did you not live up to your potential in school or at work? Did you get into a toxic relationship? In this case, you may need to be honest with yourself, forgive yourself, and make some difficult decisions that may require you to change your course.
No matter what the situation, these are issues that your counselor can help you work through and help you move on.
One advantage to regret is that it can help us learn from our past mistakes and help us examine how we treat others and ourselves. Regret has a negative connotation in our society mainly because all negative emotions have a negative connotation in our society. Forgiving ourselves as we reflect on the situations can motivate us to make different decisions in our lives.
Leana Sykes is a Relationship Counselor and the owner of Leana Sykes Relationship Counseling in Oaklyn, NJ.