“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
― Nelson Mandela
We, humans, are funny critters. We have a fascination with danger, usually in an effort to avoid it. We have been hunted by predators and been on alert to potential enemies for millennia. And had to avoid natural disasters in the environment. It’s enough to leave us hyperalert and paranoid.
Neurologically, we have developed a stronger belief in imminent destruction than in continuous creation.
I understand because I’m right there also. I have to consciously maintain a mindfulness and ‘attitude of gratitude’ by staying attentive and reminding myself there is no wolf at the door right now.
We hold onto our pains and perceived hurts to remind us to be cautious. But, holding onto pain is biologically a signal to the body that we are weak and can lead to more pain and even death.
When our pain is emotional and destructive, such as unresolved anger and grief, it has detrimental physical effects. We seem to cause our own destruction if we don’t have a cataclysm to survive.
And then we consume things to dull and ignore our feelings.
This is my opinion and understanding of how things work.
From my personal experience:
It has required time and effort to come to terms with guilt and vengefulness.
A mother whose love became neediness and desire for control and an alcoholic father who was seldom around at the times he was needed by his children created insecurity in our household.
My father eventually sought help and apologized and worked to make amends. With much conversation and understanding, I was able to forgive and relearn to love him.
My mother was different. You don’t just get to give up mental illness when you realize that it no longer works for you. And if there is little or no understanding of causes, mental illness perpetuates itself.
I grew up loving, hating, fearing, and grieving for my mother in her battle with her own emotions. This led to my trying to individuate myself and her holding too tightly to me and my siblings, who all had our own undiagnosed or misunderstood problems.
Mom never talked a lot about her past, but I can piece together a few things. I won’t try to diagnose her but, I have tried to understand her history. Her parents, who died before I was born, were farmers in the Texas Panhandle. Mom was the sixth of seven children. Her parents were hard, sometimes cruel people. He was from Tennessee and she was a second generation German immigrant. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the late 20s and 30s (when Mom was a youngster) devastated the farm and family, There was never enough prayer or grit to make things profitable and, though oil had been discovered on neighboring properties, none was found there. Mom was rescued from this by her older sister in her late teens and started working in southern New Mexico. She was raped by a group of soldiers at some point in her late teens or twenties.
Mom came by her mental/emotional problems honestly, so to speak.
But, that, in itself, didn’t make anyone's life better. And, I felt angry with her for much of my life. I had to separate myself from her during the last years of her life just to ease my pain and guilt at not being able to live up to her needs.
I realized that to save my own emotional health, I had to forgive her. It took finally having to look at her life, as much as I could, to understand the things that she had been through. And to accept her as human. She was incapable of dealing with a family if things were not on an even keel. And, neither my siblings or I were able to contribute to much stability.
It is possibly my own sense of rebelliousness has saved me. My sister suicided at 25 and my brother is an alcoholic paranoid who isolates from society.
I do have some survivors guilt and CPTSD from childhood which I’m dealing with still. And ADHD which I probably inherited from Dad.
There is no one to blame as each person did the best they could with their own knowledge and resources.
As I have achieved some age, I have gained a deeper insight into living. And have begun to truly do some self-forgiving. Life is messy and chaotic and sometimes unhealthy. I have done things that betrayed my own ideals and values. I have had to accept my human flaws without feeling like a loser at life. I have had to accept that my ideals define me to a larger degree than my flaws, if only because I say so.
Understanding of self and others has the power to allow forgiveness.
Thank you for reading.
Dana Sanford ~ 3/25/2019