The Magic of Forgiveness: Emotional Freedom and Transformation at Midlife, A Book for Women

by Tian Dayton PhD, TEP

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780757300868
Publisher: Health Communications, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/30/2003
Pages: 350
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

Tian Dayton, Ph.D.,TEP, holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, a master's in educational psychology and is a certified trainer and practitioner of psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy. A fellow of the American Society of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy, she is in private practice in New York City. She speaks nationwide at conferences and has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, The John Walsh Show, Montel, Rikki Lake, Geraldo, America's Health Network, Gary Null, NPR and many more. She is the author of thirteen books.

Read an Excerpt

from Chapter 7

Acceptance, Integration adn Letting Go: Coming to Terms and Releasing the Past

Unconsciously, we're all writing the story of our own lives. It's important that we unearth the details of our unresolved pain, tease out the meaning that we've made of the events of our lives and share our stories with others. We need to hear the sound of our own voices, to create, uncreate and re-create our own meaning, and write the next chapter with our eyes open.

Lying to ourselves about how we've experienced the events of our lives doesn't work; our unconscious will hold us to our own truth, whether we like it or not. The truth will reveal itself to us, consciously or unconsciously, that much is for sure. The choice we have is not whether or not the sins of our past will visit themselves upon our present—they will. The choice we have is whether or not that visitation will be conscious or unconscious. When it is unconscious, we live out our own cycle of hurt, blindly passing the pain on to others in one form or another, or keeping our own lives from flourishing. When it's conscious, we're choosing to use the circumstances of our lives to grow. We till the soil of our lives, turning over the contents of our inner worlds, digging deep, weeding, planting and nourishing new growth. We tend the garden of our own soul.

Integration, by now, has been happening naturally as we honestly accept, confront, explore and experience parts of our personal history that have combined to make us who we are. That exploration has taken us from meaningful moments in time to relationships that have shaped us and formative family styles that have acted as our classrooms on how to live.

By now we have learned what it means to process repressed emotions by feeling and understanding them, making connections between the past and present behavior, and identifying repetition patterns (dynamics from the past that repeat themselves in the present). When we allow ourselves to revisit these pieces of personal history and explore the impact the events of our lives have had on the person we are today, we reintegrate them with newfound awareness and insight. This allows us to use the events of our lives as opportunities for growth, to extract meaning from them, and to separate the past from the present. We learn to see how the past might be playing itself out today, getting in the way of our ability to have nourishing relationships and move freely and productively through our lives. We also learn to work through what was difficult and learn from it, while claiming what was good and using it as a solid foundation upon which to build a life. This is how we grow; it's an undoing and a redoing, a deconstruction and a reconstruction, a working through and a letting go. What preoccupied us moves from the foreground to the background of our minds, and though it may, at times, reemerge, it does so with greater understanding and less pain attached to it.

Breaking the Chain:
How Forgiveness Pays Foward

We do our partners, children and grandchildren a tremendous service when we own our own truths and fight our own tigers in the night, so they don't have to. "The sins of the father are visited upon the children," in more ways than one. If we are not willing to cry our own tears, someone else will have to cry them for us, but not by choice. We have learned enough by now about the dynamics of interrelationship and the impact of emotions on ourselves and, in turn, those we're close to, not to doubt what the impact on those around us might be if we act out, rather than feel and talk out, the powerful emotions that have wound themselves around our thinking, feeling and behavior. Unhealed pain from one generation gets passed along to the next in ways we hardly imagine, attaching itself like vines onto the foundations we build, seeding itself into the soil of our relationships, and disseminating itself into the irrigation system of the newly growing family.

The feelings that we walk around with are known at a deep level by our children, and affect both our parenting and partnering. What we can't move past within ourselves will inevitably be passed on to our families. They will have to live in our wound.

Parent and partner are two of the most splendid, meaningful and taxing roles that we can play. They stretch us to the max, and in the places that we're unhealed, that stretching can cause us to behave in ways we thought we'd never behave, to do what we swore we'd never do. This is the family legacy; the past gets re-created in the present in subtle, hardly perceptible ways, but their impact is more than felt.

People who have deep, unresolved pain from their own childhoods carry that pain into their parenting and partnering. Along with it may be a need to hide their fears of feeling vulnerable or needy, or of being "found out," so they put on a false face, drive their fears downward and play them out in dysfunctional ways with their own children and spouses. The emotions we deny have even more power because they make those close to us feel crazy. They sense one thing, and we tell them something else. What comes out of our mouths doesn't match up with what they pick up on at a more intuitive level. Sometimes, our loved ones try to make sense of this split by discounting their own reality and joining in adopting a façade.

Or maybe parents need to be needed a little too much. Since they haven't really self-defined themselves vis-à-vis their parents (that is, they live physically apart, but emotionally they haven't left home), they may have trouble fostering healthy autonomy in their own kids or allowing their partners to have a separate identity. The hot-and-cold emotional patterns from their childhoods can get lived out in their relationships with their own family members. They may connect, but not easily; or maintain rigid control to keep the chaos that they carry in their childhood hearts from erupting into their own homes. When the intimacy of partnership and parenthood makes their childhood feelings of sadness and loss vibrate beneath the thin membrane that separates their child from their adult selves, they may not know how to balance their emotions. They may withdraw, smother, explode, or all of the above. When parents don't make it a priority to resolve wounds from their own pasts so that they don't impact their ability to partner and parent well, they will inevitably seed their wound into the next generation, in one form or another. Closeness requires a secure sense of self. If significant pieces of our emotional world lie buried in silence, those zones of numbness will keep us from connecting fully with our partners and our children. Intimacy also offers us one of the most available passages toward personal and spiritual growth if, when we get triggered, we're willing to back up and use our emotions as indicators of where our work might lie.

So forgiveness can be explored as a way of staying connected in a manner that is ultimately self-preserving. Though we may feel like we're giving up a piece of ourselves—say our resentment, our wish for retribution or our anger—we may actually be preserving some more useful and valuable parts of self. Peace of mind, for one, or feeling good about ourselves as human beings. We give up the moral high ground that we feel we gain when we hold onto the anger we may feel toward someone we're constantly cutting down to size in our minds and, to our utter amazement, we're on a whole different kind of high ground. We gain solidity within our center. We no longer constantly feel torn up inside. Instead, we have a center that holds. We have, paradoxically, found a way to gain emotional space—through letting go. Our commitment and love for our partners and children motivate us to see things from another point of view, from their perspective. Children, especially, get us to do this because we identify with them so strongly. We understand them intuitively, so they train us in the emotional skill of empathy. Even before they can speak, we try to divine their needs and thoughts, and because we love them, we forgive them for everything from ruining the new carpet to changing the youthful shape of our midsections. They teach us to take the feelings of someone else into account, which actually is very freeing.

2003. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The Magic of Forgiveness by Tian Dayton, Ph.D. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.

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