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Letting Go of Resentments
A friend of mine in recovery sent me this email years ago . . .
"Maybe there is more 4th and 5th step stuff I need to address with regards to him. I know last go-round I didn’t want to touch it, aside from a couple of resentments."
This is my reply . . .
I have done lots of 4th and 5th steps around my resentment for my mother. But nothing got resolved until I got into therapy and faced my anger. Eventually after two years of raging and I forgave her.
Then I continued to tell her a story . . .
As long as I could remember, I had been angry with my mother both as a child and as an adult. Once I had a dream in which I was so angry at my mother that I was paralyzed. I couldn’t move. I opened my mouth to scream at her, and the words got stuck in my throat. Later in the dream I was talking to my father, and he told me that my mother was pregnant. I went into a rage. Then my mother appeared and I screamed at her, “You are going to do to another child what you did to me?” I was so angry I woke myself up.
I didn’t tell my therapist about the dream right away. Instead I went to my mother. I wanted to process my feelings about my childhood with her, so I asked her a lot of questions about what was going on in the family when I was young.
Mom just stared at me. She didn’t want to talk about it. “I don’t remember,” she said. I was livid. Not only had she neglected me as a child, and exposed me to the parent who had abused her, now she was impending in my attempts to get better.
When I finally talked to my therapist about it, he said something interesting. He shrugged his shoulders and said sympathetically, “Oh, she couldn’t do it.” I stopped dead in my tracks when I realized that he didn’t say “she wouldn’t do it.” He said she “couldn’t do it.” What a difference a letter can make. I suddenly began looking at my mother in a brand-new light.
Of course there was more to this story that this. One day while venting about my mother my therapist asked me why I was so angry at my mother. I told him that she had really hurt me. He said is that the only reason. I got angry and said, “What are you talking about.” “Go deeper he said.”
I was livid and then I blurted out. “Don’t you understand that when I am angry at her I do not feel so guilty about doing the same thing to my children.” He just smiled and ended the session. I went home and had a good cry.
Later, I wrote my mother a letter offering her my forgiveness. When she received the letter she cried (since I had asked her not to call me, my sister phoned to tell me). It was almost six months later that my mother went into the hospital for emergency surgery. As I sat by her bed in the recovery room she reached out and took my hand. Tears started streaming down her face and she said, “Susie, you will never know how much your letter meant to me. I love you so much.” I started crying too and we just sat there in silence the wounds healing and the peace settling into our hearts.
This was the beginning of my life-long attempt to let go of the past and forgive all the people who had harmed me. After mom, everyone else was a piece of cake. Interestingly enough, after forgiving my mom for her shortcomings, I also found it easier to forgive myself for the mistakes I had made with my own children.
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