When I was in my mid-twenties, I can remember sitting in a psychologist’s office complaining bitterly about my father, and every time this woman tried to offer me a different perspective about him; tried to help me see him in a new light, I intensified my accusations against him, giving her tons of incriminating evidence to support my case. I finally gave up on her. She just wasn’t willing to see him as the monster that he was, so I decided that I wasn’t going to waste my time in that therapy anymore.
Fast forward 20 years.
I was yet again in the process of trying to forgive my father (for him being a horrible parent), but found that I simply couldn’t make much headway. Every time I thought about him I felt deep resentment, judgement, and even disgust. My mind would not drop the story it had believed “forever”. And it had lots of proof. No one in my family said anything different.
But this time I was serious about forgiving him because I couldn’t live with that resentment anymore. …it was beginning to make me sick physically.
One day, and idea came into my head to ask someone (who had not grown up in my household, but knew my father) if they could tell me anything that was positive about him. I called up my cousin Nancy and posed the question to her, figuring it might take her some time, but knowing that she would be very thoughtful about it, and try her best, since she has always been someone who tended to look at the positive, spiritual, and more expanded view of things.
Much to my surprise, she didn’t say she’d get back to me or that she’d have to think about it. She instantly said, “Your dad was always so much fun to be around.” And she said it with such love and happiness in her heart that I could feel she meant it. …and I could tell that she really liked him…loved him? Really? My mind instantly wanted to say, “Oh yeah, a lot of fun but he spent all the family’s money and drank and …..”
But I made myself consider a different point of view, and the shell of hatred toward him, that had been slowly calcifying around my heart since I was a child, got a little crack in it. Eventually it fell away. The old perceptions, that I felt were protecting me from getting hurt anymore, were actually prisons. Prisons of limited perception.
So many of the judgements that we hold against people, so many of our ugly thoughts, are not even our own. They are the remnants of our parents thoughts, grandparents, our social circle, society at large, religion…
If there is someone who you cannot seem to make peace with in your mind, consider asking a new question about them…maybe to someone who actually likes or loves them…and then allow yourself to ponder the reply; to consider that it might be as true as your story.
“In the musical Guys and Dolls, my favorite moment is when Vivian Blaine says to Frank Sinatra,‘The doctor thinks my cold might be caused by psychology,’and Sinatra says, ‘Naah, how does he know you got psychology?’
Have you got psychology? Do you suffer from thinking too much? Most of my clients suffer from psychology. Their being is fine; their thinking is not. Psychiatric units are full of beautiful people suffering from ugly thinking.
The intellectual violence of the ego can be especially devastating when you feel vulnerable or low. Little self-doubts can quickly escalate into full-blown self-abuse and self-attack. Nothing has caused you more trouble than your own psychology. Nothing has hurt you as much as your own thinking.”
from the book, Shift Happens! by Robert Holden Ph.D ( a leading psychotherapist who coaches leaders in business, healthcare, politics and sports)