Now that the holidays are upon us and knocking at our door I think that this would be a good time to consider reviewing, and then celebrating the people who we feel emotionally and possibly physically constricted by. More often than not this can be a parent, a sibling or even an offspring. Sometimes it is a spouse or an ex-spouse or lover especially if there were more than 5 years involved in the relationship.
Too often we are crippled emotionally by the very fact that we come to “hate” or “despise” these individuals for what they have done to us, or for what we think they have done to us. If the toxic relationship happened in our adult lives then it might be easier to see things for how they really were, but it can be quite difficult to do this if we were at the adolescent stage or even pre-puberty stage. Then, the circumstances or perspective of what happened is less than clear but so emotionally volatile.
I have spoken with some of my clients who regret these dark emotions but do not know how to get past them, and, more often than not they want to get past these feelings of animosity for their accused. We can all relate to this condition because we all have families, friends and a past, the odds are that there is a relative or family friend who we just would rather not face during what many feel should be a celebration of family and friends during the holiday season.
What I try to convey to those who are in these types of circumstances (disliking, hating and other emotionally traumatizing expressions) is that they survived this past no matter how difficult or tragic it may have been. However, dwelling or pushing the emotional past down (both literally and figuratively) to the regions of one’s soul and physical body we only harm ourselves. Nothing positive can spring from ruminating or even ignoring how we feel towards the person(s) we feel responsible for how we feel. There has to be a some kind of balance.
Key to one’s happiness is what many people feel unable to do and that is forgiving the person or people we feel did us harm. I know, I know, easier said than done. Still, again, by the very fact that one has survived walking this difficult path tells the story of who we have become. Without these past traumas whether emotional, physical or both, is a statement to the person we have become. There is survey after survey that suggests that those who have survived difficult life events would not trade them for anything because of the lessons and insights learned.
Carrying these dark and angry emotions with us will quite literally cripple us as we know through medical research. Our physical health is directly related to our emotions. Ill health can be reversed if we can change how we feel. You might think that this is an over simplistic thought, but it really is quite simple if you think about it. So what can one do about such emotions, does one simply forgive and forget? Well, if we could change emotional directions so quickly we would not be discussing how to do this right?
What can be done is to acknowledge and even celebrate the people we feel anger towards, thanking them for these hard earned gifts because if it were not for them we would not be the people we are today. Life is about learning, and lessons of this nature are the ones that quite literally forge us into the caring, understanding and compassionate individuals we are today. Without these lessons we would probably live somewhere else, be married to a different person or not have the creative abilities and expressions we found along the way.
So, whether alone or with others raise a glass to yourself and celebrate those who forged you into the person you are today! Without them who would you be? Happy Thanksgiving!
Curtis Williams MA, A.P.D., CRTM