During this holiday season, many of us gather with family members and see the same old patterns arise. Yet for some, the patterns arise whether we see our family members or not! Which means the source of the patterns can be very well hidden.
That’s why I want to share this story from my book Forgive Your Parents and How to Do It With Ease and Grace.
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“I hate my Mother!” Gwen growled, glaring into the distance across the large square cushion she was kneeling in front of, as if her mother was right there. The tennis racquet which she had just used to beat that cushion with remained poised in her hands, ready for more — a lot more. It was like she was in a trance, replaying her experience in her mind, remembering and feeling the incredible rage she had bottled up over the years. Her lips were drawn tight, her eyes glaring and her entire body was trembling.
“Why do you hate her, Gwen? I asked very quietly.
“Because she didn’t love me!” she shouted and immediately sprang back into action, bringing the racquet back over her head and thrashing that cushion as energetically as she possibly could, over and over again until she collapsed from total exhaustion, her head on the cushion, her body curled over, panting. After a few seconds, she began to sob. Softly at first but then loud anguished sobs that came from somewhere deep down in her body and from the furthest recesses of her mind. It was clearly very old pain. It had to be — Gwen was 92 years of age. She was, to date, the most senior person I have ever had at one of my workshops and one of the most courageous.
I just rubbed her back and comforted her for several minutes without saying anything. The sobbing eased off and for a few moments she was completely still, virtually catatonic. I wasn’t sure what was happening within her so I took my hands off her and just watched. She was still curled over the cushion with her head buried in her lap, but suddenly her whole body shook quite violently for a couple of seconds, just like a dog shakes its body after coming out of a lake.
I heard a strange muffled sound coming from her mouth that, for a moment or two I couldn’t identify. Then I realized. She was laughing. She rolled over and continued laughing quite hysterically for quite a time as if she had seen the point of a great joke and couldn’t stop laughing at it. It was a joyful laughter. Everyone else in the room began to laugh with her and moved closer.
“I just got it!” she spluttered, still laughing. “She wasn’t able to love me.” Pausing to get her breath she blurted out — “She didn’t have it in her . . . . the poor woman didn’t know how to love . . . . . . She didn’t even love herself. . . . . she hated herself, poor thing. How could she possibly have loved me?”
Suddenly the laughing stopped as quickly as it had begun. The sadness suddenly took over and she began crying softly. “Colin, I’ve spent my whole life demanding that she give me what she was unable to give and blaming her for my pain. And it wasn’t her fault. She loved me in the only way she could.”
“That’s exactly right, Gwen.” I said. “And you’ve carried that pain for almost 90 years haven’t you?”
“What effect do you think that has had on your life? Have other people you loved rejected you in the same way or similar?” There was a pause. She was thinking.
“Wow!” Gwen looked up at me, with eyes wide. “The lightbulb just went on,” she said. “How ridiculous is this? I’ve spent my whole life attracting people into my life who I thought really didn’t love me. In all their different ways, they did exactly what my mother did to me. Rejected me. My first husband was quite affectionate and caring and we got along fine for 12 years but he eventually left. He couldn’t take my jealousy and neediness. I was so demanding. He just couldn’t give me what I wanted, he said, and left.”
“That’s because you wouldn’t let him,” I said. “You wouldn’t let anyone love you because it didn’t fit your story.”
“What story?” she asked.
“The one you made up as a result of your feeling unloved by your mother,” I replied. “You decided right then that you must be unlovable. And you’ve held that belief your whole life, haven’t you?”
“That’s right, I’ve always felt that I didn’t measure up or was never good enough. I spent all my time trying to prove that I was enough and trying to get people to love me. But it didn’t work.”
“Look, Gwen, your story is not entirely untrue,” I said. “Your mother really did reject you and it hurt, right?” Looking back, you have to admit, she treated you very badly, didn’t she?” Gwen nodded.
“That’s right, and no one is going to say you are not entitled to feel that pain. We all want to be loved, especially by our mothers. But as any child would, instead of seeing it being about her and her inability to love, you thought there must be something wrong with you; that you were not OK; that you must be unlovable. Over time you elevated that to a belief and that belief has run your life.”
There was a long pause. She lowered her head but stared at the cushion that a few moments ago had been the container for her rage. After about a minute she raised her head turned towards me.
“What do I do now, then?” she asked, quizzically.
“Give up the need to have your mother love you,” I replied quickly. “It’s your need for her love and approval that keeps you stuck, because she can never give it to you! Needing it disempowers you. You can never be free until you give up the need.”
I then put the tennis racquet back in her hand and told her to hit the cushion again, just like she did when she was being rageful, but this time she was to say in a very loud voice, with each stroke, “I give up my need for my mother to love me. I am lovable already and I am open to receive love now.” She pounded it in about ten times.
Upon completion of that process, she looked triumphant and simply glowed. The group applauded loudly and brought her the center of the room and laid her on a blanket. We played her a song called “How Could Anyone Ever Tell You That You Are Anything Less Than Beautiful,” sung by LaWanda Badger, one of our RF coaches. She had some tears but all the sadness had vanished. They were simply tears of joy.
This was not the end of the process by any means. She was on the way to forgiving her mother with Radical Forgiveness, but there was more to go yet.
The point I want to make with this true story (I swear to you that it really did happen though Gwen was not her real name), is that it proves it is never too late to forgive your parents. For a few moments I saw this 92 year old lady become a small child again. She touched into some pain that she had buried almost 90 years prior, but pain that she had acted out all through her whole life without her knowing it.
You might ask, what’s the point when you are that age? Why not let sleeping dogs lie? Why rake up the past? Her parents were obviously long gone anyway, so what difference would it make? Well, I can tell you, it made a huge difference to her. She may have been 92 but this woman was full of life and had plenty of reasons in her mind to find peace with her own parents before she died. She knew that her own death was more likely to be peaceful and pain free if she passed without a whole lot of repressed rage in her body.
What she didn’t realize at the time, though, but came to appreciate soon afterwards was that she had ‘infected’ her own children with the same energy. They were carrying her pain in their own energy field, particularly her daughter. She, too, was playing it out by also creating relationships where love was both withheld and not received.
By doing the Radical Forgiveness process on her parents, which works by collapsing energy fields built up around such issues as she had, she was collapsing the energy field that her children were carrying too. She was releasing them from the need to carry her pain any longer. It was a huge gift to them, and Gwen didn’t realize it until that moment. The children didn’t realize it either and probably still don’t. But I would nevertheless wager that their lives changed from that point on and that they found it easier to receive love. That’s how it works with Radical Forgiveness.
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For more of Gwen’s story, read the Forgive Your Parents book. Click here to learn more about it. You can find tools that can help you start forgiving your own family members in the Free Stuff section of our website.
As always, I encourage you to experience Radical Forgiveness as soon as possible—so you can lighten up and experience more joy this holiday season.