Some parents have been toxic – narcissistic, controlling, manipulative, demanding, volatile, angry, vindictive, bullying and abusive. Their children’s opinions were wrong, they wouldn’t be successful, they owed everything, they should pay the rest of their lives. Their children grew up in terror – like growing up in a war zone or a concentration camp where you could never win.
But those predictions were wrong. You did grow up. You got away and created a life – maybe a job and family.
Those toxic parents now want you to forgive them and to have a relationship with them. Should you? Pretty scary.
How can we forgive them for the terrible, hurtful things they’ve said and done?
How can we forgive ourselves for not being perfect? How can we protect ourselves from being used and abused, being put down, manipulated and controlled again? More importantly, how can we get even closer to living the life we want?
Politically correct thinking for a few generations has been that we must evolve to forgive them and over look what they’ve done; that to be spiritually advanced (and to increase the chances that they’ll finally love us like we always wanted them to) we must forgive them; that we must open our hearts and lives to them over and over with infinite loving kindness; with unconditional love.
I think these ideas are wrong and they also don’t specify what is meant by forgiveness.
The true results of forgiveness are that:
- We spend little time and energy thinking about people who’ve been cruel to us.
- We’re protected from further harm by those people (no matter what the label is of the relationship).
Typically, we replay horrible incidents to remind ourselves to beware; as a motivation strategy to remind us to protect ourselves.
When we’re sure we’ll protect ourselves from further negativity, bullying and abuse, when we’re sure we won’t get sucked in again too far, then we can relax. We can stop obsessing on what they did because we won’t need the motivation any more. We can move on mentally, emotionally and spiritually in our lives. Those people and their attacks can recede into the background because we don’t need the painful motivation strategy anymore. We will protect ourselves naturally, automatically and easily.
Then we can forgive them in the sense that we wish them well, we hope they’ll have happy lives and we won’t think of the horrible things they did because now we’re safe. We can love their spirit unconditionally even though we don’t like their personalities and refuse to volunteer for whippings. We stop worrying and obsessing.
Forgiving ourselves – stop “self-bullying.”
We weren’t perfect. According to who? And so what? Whatever we did in our struggle to get free; good for us. We don’t have to be perfect in order to get good treatment. We simply have to get rid of people who treat us badly.
Now we have to stop beating ourselves up in ways typically called “low self-confidence” or “low self-esteem.” We know they treated us the way they did because they were bullies, not because we weren’t good enough.
Should we trust them?
No, we should trust ourselves and our accurate assessment about what they’re likely to do.
Even signs that they’ve changed – public apologies, public admissions of their lies and vicious attacks – are not enough. Behavioral change is what matters.
Is there a Right Way?
No. You choose how you want to live. Your test is how great you feel, not the judgement of other people according to their standards.
A five-step process.
- Let go of the need to be appreciated, respected, approved of, loved by them. Create the true family of your heart, mind and spirit.
- Specify the adult relationship you want. Don’t use big words like “love” or “caring” or “nice.” Write scenarios of specific behavior in specific situations. What will you talk about that interests you? What won’t you talk about? In what areas don’t they get to voice their opinions? When don’t they get to vote?
- Mentally and physically, keep them miles away. How must they treat you over how many months or years before you allow them a foot closer?
- Their need does not mean you have to take care of them or let them closer. Your terror counts more. It’s always better for you to send a check if you feel you must than to put your body in harm’s way.
- The first time they fall back into old habits – telling you about you or about what you should do – move them back to the original distance and cut off contact for another few years. The first time you feel the old terror or hate – move them back to the original distance and cut off contact for another few years
Of course, there are many complications depending on your situation. The best way to learn how to take power in your life and to be the person you want to be is to hire Dr. Ben for personalized coaching and counseling so you can:
- Develop the strength, courage, will and determination to be and to act your best resolutely, diligently and effectively.
- Develop a plan and master the skills necessary to create the life your spirit has always hungered for.
Since all tactics depend on the situation, call me at 1-877-8Bullies for expert counseling and coaching by phone or Skype.