Emotional healing is hard. We are often in the dark about why we do the things we do. For example, why do we leave one abusive relationship, and land in another? Why is our job never good enough? We leave a job because of relational issues, and the next job seems even worse. Why do we always hope for the best from our narcissistic parents, and are surprised over and over again when they put themselves before us?
One of the great things about getting a Master’s Degree in counseling is the great books I get to read. I recently read The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery by David Benner. There are many profound ideas in this little book. One of them is on pages 54 – 55. Benner writes:
“Freud noted that things about ourselves that we refuse to acknowledge are given increased power and influence by our failure to accept them. It is that which we avoid, he asserted, that will most tyrannize us.”
So, if we refuse to see that we look to intimate partners to complete us, and feel “okay,” we will jump from one bad relationship into another. If we refuse to see that we are stubborn and don’t want to do what someone tells us to do (the definition of “work”), we will leave one job because the boss is “too bossy,” and, after moving to another, we will find that boss “too bossy” as well.
Disclaimer: If you are in an abusive relationship or have recently left one, you may believe the lies your abuser told you. Sometimes it is hard to know the difference between truth and lies. So, in this blog, I am talking about the truths YOU find about yourself, not those that an abusive partner or parent has told you.
Benner encourages his readers to begin accepting the things about themselves that they don’t want to accept. He notes that God accepts us as sinners, so, why can’t we? We can never be anything other than what we are at this moment until we are willing to embrace who we really are. Does the idea that you must accept the (negative) things about you before you can change them rub you the wrong way? Does it seem as if accepting these things gives them more power? In fact, the opposite is true. When we accept that we are …. needy …. stubborn…. etc., our acceptance weakens the hold these things have over us. We can be honest with ourselves, and then look around for some solutions. If we don’t do this, we live in denial, and we never heal.
I have often shared the idea that journaling can help you heal. I have been an avid journal writer for decades. In my journal, I tell it like it is. I write about EVERYTHING that I think and feel about my life and those around me. There is no pretending there. I never gave this any thought until a few years ago. I was working with a woman who was in the process of leaving her abuser. She had a hard time remembering all the abusive things her husband had done over the years. I recommended she write in a journal what he was doing, to get some clarity. She told me she had done that for years, but began thinking about how negative her words were. She did not want anyone to happen upon her very honest journals and think badly of her. So, she destroyed them. When she was finally ready to divorce her abuser, she no longer had any record of his abuse, for herself, or for the family courts.
When she told me this story, I realized I too might not like those around me to read my journals if/when I die. I have thought about this for some time. But that didn’t stop me from being truly honest each morning when I journal. Being “real” to myself seems more important than worrying what others might think about me.
A few weeks ago, I went to the memorial service of the wife of a man I know. I had never met his wife. Her adult son gave the eulogy. He talked about coming upon his mom’s journal that she started writing at a very difficult time of her life. He praised his mom that she only wrote positive, uplifting things in her journal. While he was talking, I thought again about whether I should be so honest in my journals. I thought about what it might be like for my kids to read my real thoughts about them when I was raising them. That might be hurtful.
I mulled this over for a few days and came to this conclusion. Yes, it might be painful for my kids to realize I was angry or disappointed with them at different times in their lives. At the same time, I know they know I love them. I decided it would be a disservice to my loved ones if I pretended to never have any negative thoughts or feelings. If I was “perfect,” like the wife of my friend, wouldn’t that set my kids up to feel like they “should” be perfect too? What would this say to my adult daughter when she struggles with her daughter’s sassy teen years? What about my son when he has marriage struggles? If I never write (or be honest with myself) about the times I get frustrated with my sweet husband, would my son feel like a “bad” person when he has negative thoughts about something his wife does?
So, I have settled this worry in my mind. I will continue to be real in my journaling. I may sometime in the future let my loved ones know that when I die, they may or may not want to read what I’ve written. But, if they DO read my journals, they will see that their mom was a real, and not a plastic person.
And as I am writing in my journals, I will also be honest with myself about my own character traits. Yes, I always want to be right and do the right things. Yes, I have high standards for myself and others. Yes, I can be impatient. I am not a plastic person. I am real. And I believe, like Benner, that when I accept these traits, I can begin to think about how I can change them. I won’t live in denial.
In John 8:32, Jesus says, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Question: Are there things about you that you need to examine? How would accepting the way you truly are help to free you?
May God bless you all today.