Our relationships with parents, children, siblings, and spouses can be very complex puzzles of love and frustration — we can’t live with them and can’t live without them. We often have long-held patterns and barely conscious formations of painful feelings formed by repetitive incidents related to our sense of worth and power that began when we were infants. Family members can trigger these patterns or painful feelings in the present.
For example, perhaps when you were a child your older brother hit you a lot and frequently called you “stupid.” He did this because he was six, no one was watching, and someone at school had done this to him. You were four, and no one came to your aid at those times, so you logged some beliefs about your brother, yourself, and your relationship that still drive you in an embarrassing way, at times, in the present.
He’s nice now, you’re both in your forties, and you have a PhD, yet you feel nervous and stupid around him. That’s because there’s a chunk of uninformed old energy inside your relationship that is like a stone in your shoe, keeping some tension there and making the relationship less rewarding than it could be.
Successfully Navigating Family Dynamics & Healing Family Relationships
Most people have managed to navigate this sort of family dynamic successfully. But in many family relationships, the hurtful incident or series of incidents is more serious than that, and this creates a lifelong ache in the heart, or a pattern of reactivity that keeps stress alive in the family system.
Forgiveness gives you the power to be yourself with your family members in the present. You will have healthy new boundaries in place, and your attitude of unconditional love will smooth out the sharp edges and help you to enjoy these people.
It is a very interesting phenomenon that as soon as one person does forgiveness work in a family system, there is a ripple effect that begins to change the dynamics between all the family members.
To Be Able to Move On, Forgiveness is Imperative
In the case of a more serious injury, betrayal, abandonment, or disruption between family members, the need for unconditional love and forgiveness is even more imperative. These emotional ruptures can keep you feeling sick and torn up inside and can consume your energy to the point of obsession.
Resentment makes you harm your own character. You must forgive your family in order to re-establish your own self-respect again. It’s an entirely separate issue whether you will remain married to your spouse, or allow a mean uncle to attend your Christmas party, or sue a relative who is cheating on the will.
You might have to take actions that help you hold a boundary with a toxic person. Forgive the person completely first, and then make a decision regarding your healthy boundaries and right actions, and stick with it. Forgiveness is a cleansing experience that you do for yourself, and one of its many gifts is more mental clarity.
Clearing Out the Buildup of Irritation & Healing a Family Relationship
Painful dramas aside, the people in our family are ours for a lifetime, to live with, to learn from, and to enjoy the best we can. There is so much more enjoyment to be had in our relationships if we consciously try to see the good in people and take the responsibility to clear out the buildup of irritation that gathers inside us from a series of disappointed expectations.
I am so thankful that I managed to forgive and heal my relationship with my father, which was the most painful relationship I’ve ever had with anyone. He was a practicing alcoholic until I was fourteen. I was the oldest child, and in some ways I took the brunt of that family disease.
For twenty-five years, I hated my father, and my discomfort with him caused me to stay away from my family for a long time. My long-held negative feelings toward him alienated me from my siblings as well. None of them shared my history with him, and they could not understand my negativity toward the sweet, positive guy everyone knew and admired in the present time. When I did come home for a visit, the tension between my father and me was so thick you could cut it with a knife. “Why does Mary hate us?” my youngest sister asked once, after I left.
My father sighed and said to his plate of meat and potatoes, “She doesn’t hate you, honey; it’s me that she hates.”
It Took Five Years to Completely Heal My Broken Relationship with my Father
It took several distinct chunks of forgiveness work, which spanned a period of about five years, to completely heal this broken relationship. My wounds ran the gamut from intense rage about being mistreated to extremely tender feelings of abandonment and the vague and desolate feeling that my father didn’t like or respect me. I did all of this work privately, as my father had made it clear to me that he was unable to talk about my emotional issues directly. So I had to forgive him for that too.
Each portion of forgiveness that I completed brought new strength and detachment to me and my story. As I healed, a calm, clear flow of unconditional love began to grow between my father and me. Step by baby step, we awkwardly sought ways to connect with each other in sincere goodwill during the last five years of his life.
We found our peace with each other in simple moments: watching a basketball game on television or taking an autumn walk around the neighborhood, our conversations and our silences growing increasingly natural. He managed to show me in shy, indirect ways that he did like and respect me. By the time he died, our relationship was truly resolved, and my grief for him was soft and easy.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Beyond Words Publishing,
a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. www.beyondword.com
©2011 by Mary Hayes Grieco. All Rights Reserved.
unconditional FORGIVENESS: A Simple and Proven Method to Forgive Everyone and Everything
by Mary Hayes Grieco.
Forgiveness is about healing wounds and wiping away scars. It’s about living your life with purpose and truly moving forward. In Unconditional Forgiveness, Mary Hayes Grieco offers a simple, effective eight-step program that teaches readers how to completely forgive in order to achieve both emotional and physical well-being. This step-by-step method incorporates emotional, energetic, and spiritual components that are accessible to everyone and offer lasting success.
About the Author
Mary Hayes Grieco has taught her powerful method of forgiveness in a wide variety of venues since 1990. With her background in psychology, and her ten years of intensive personal training with Dr. Edith Stauffer PhD, Mary has refined her method of forgiveness, as well as the way it is taught in workshops, making this life-changing process accessible to everyone. She spoke at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum in 2005 and is currently scheduled to present her forgiveness work in Kuwait in March, 2012. Mary has served on staff at the Hazelden Treatment Center for over sixteen years, and at The University of St. Thomas' Management Center. She is the director and lead trainer of The Midwest Institute for Forgiveness Training, providing programs for the general public, for mental health professionals, for future trainers of this work, and serious students of self mastery. Visit her website at www.maryhayesgrieco.com.
Watch a video with Mary Hayes Grieco: Forgiveness and Your Health
as well as another video: The Eight Steps of Forgiveness (Live Demonstration)