“Even if we’ve gotten pretty good and consistent about offering forgiveness to others, isn’t forgiving ourselves often the most difficult?”
Hello again dear friends and followers,
It has been awhile since I have written a blog post, one from my heart and soul that is… It has been an amazing year so far, mostly living a happy and healthy life with my loving wife, Judy, and Simba, our aging kitty. Most importantly, we are growing as senior citizens in a highly active community on the central coast of Oregon near Depoe Bay. We love living at the beach! We are blessed with loving friends and neighbors who look out for each other. But as life usually works, stuff happens…
Just when I thought my own journey of healing was well in hand; you know, a manageable work in progress, I went off the rails big time in late May and early June! I can’t even know why my heart and soul picked this exact time and moment to revisit a very dark and painful time in my young adult life. Sometimes unfinished business and a reckoning with the demons of another life can come at the most unexpected and surprising time in one’s life, especially as we age.
It was like my brain was exploding with grief about a long ago severe traumatic experience that I had kept in a hidden compartment…a state of denial. The last time I grieved with great intensity and healing was while writing my first book, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story. But that was just a first step in 2011, and a very long way to go in taking an honest shot at truly forgiving myself as a challenged young man. I was woefully unprepared for adult life in the 1960’s and early 70’s, in a marriage that failed, leaving my 2 young beautiful children with a single mom, only to see Dad on vacations and short visits. A very sad reality for too many young marriages that end in pain. I feel deep regret and profound guilt from this part of my life as a young adult. But it is now time to forgive myself after 45 years of self punishment and denial. The lifelong nagging and destructive emotional pain of severe guilt stops now! If you are angry with yourself, you behave in angry ways toward loved ones.
When kids grow up in a less than loving home, as I did in the 1950s and early 60s, they tough it out, but often take the emotional pain and baggage into adult life, affecting loved ones and others in too many negative ways. Read my book and learn more about the challenges of a military child growing up in a profoundly dysfunctional post WWII family culture.
“Learning who you are is a life long labor of love.” This quote, on my home page…Children and Families in Life After Truma came to me some months ago while working as a community building project consultant in Lincoln County Oregon where we live. This personal and professional experience has turned out to be one of the most profoundly humanistic learning opportunities in my lifetime… It has been a journey of exploring humanity at worst and best. I’ll say more about this in a later post.
Allow me to share a couple of highlights from my summer visits with a wonderful therapist, a psychologist, from my own boomer generation. He is an ol’ surf dude as well…just like me. There was an instant connection of empathy and compassion…great chemistry. It is very challenging to find the right therapist. It is never to late…keep trying.
Before this last spring I can’t remember ever having a therapist who actually provided me with specific tools to help build skills and techniques that showed me how to meditate. These disciplined self talk and deep breathing exercises proved to me how positive talk can beat back self deprecation and guilt from past emotionally painful life events…post trauma recurring painful thoughts and triggers.
Once the meditation exercises became a daily practice, I was able to effectively divert attention from negative and painful self talk back to the logical part of my brain where living in the moment and mitigating flight/fight responses happens. I learned how to stop the churning of a lifetime of severe guilt from moral injuries during childhood and young adult life…. Peace of mind is a gift at any age!
In my next post, I’ll share more of how my therapy and daily practice of meditation is helping me heal and discover how to live in the moment with a higher level of internal peace and self love. Until then, practice saying to yourself “Curious, Open, Accepting and Loving” or COAL for short. Seeking an attitude of COAL while breathing deeply during a highly stressful encounter or event is worth a try.
With empathy, compassion and love to all who seek happiness, peace of mind and good health.
Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, Mental Health Advocate