Broken bones and bruises heal, but for many victims, the emotional damage is lifelong and life altering.
Experiencing abuse can affect how you feel about yourself and how you respond to other people. These effects might be easy to see if you’re observing them in someone else, but they can be nearly impossible to recognize in yourself without help.
The emotional and physical abuse that I grew up with set the stage for becoming a perpetual victim as an adult. The choices I made and my interactions with others were often unwittingly self-destructive.
Lifestyle changes that involve healthy choices include eliminating dysfunctional patterns, such as manipulation and abusive behavior — the things children of abusive parents learn from their role models. A healthy lifestyle comes first through recognizing unhealthy behaviors and then laying the groundwork for positive change.
For me, that groundwork began with forgiveness.
You have to forgive. You have to forgive yourself and you have to forgive those who’ve hurt you. When you’re a victim, you’re often angry — because you have every right to be angry, right? But anger, focusing on blame and thinking of yourself as a victim only perpetuates the dysfunction and the pain it brings.
So, how does one begin to forgive oneself and others? Please allow me to share these steps that I put together which helped me to learn how to identify what would move me forward on my healing path. I started by creating a list of the people and circumstances I needed to forgive and systematically worked through the process:
1. Identify the people who have caused you pain and why you feel that pain. This validates your pain; it was real and deserves to be acknowledged.
2. Identify the pain you feel from others and consciously release it to the universe in a personal ritual that has meaning for you. You might write it down on a piece of paper and burn it. Or speak the words out loud and blow them away.
3. Allow yourself to forgive those who have caused you pain as a means to your physical, emotional and spiritual healing.
4. Identify the people you have caused pain to and recognize why you caused them pain. It’s important to acknowledge that you, too, are capable of causing pain in order to forgive yourself and those you’ve hurt.
5. Identify the pain you have caused others with your actions.
6. Allow yourself forgiveness for the pain you have caused others as a means to your physical, emotional and spiritual healing.
While forgiving others for hurt caused intentionally is difficult, the hardest is forgiving yourself for pain you caused. But this is vital; in order to forgive others and to open yourself to positive energy, you must forgive yourself.
From every hurtful moment, I learned something, and part of my process is to acknowledge each lesson and to be grateful for it. Forgiveness was possible when I released the hurt because it no longer served a purpose.
(Editor’s Note: This guest “Viewpoint” was written and submitted by Amrita Maat, a nurse who reached a turning point in her life when she was injured while trying to avoid the advances of a physician who had sexually harassed her for years. She eventually took her aggressor to court, but was unsuccessful because she had waited too long under statute of limitations laws. Due to the nature of her subject, Amrita Maat is a pseudonym. She is the author of a book titled, “Wearing a Mask Called Normal.”)