Healing Your Life
Below you will find the text for Step Six of the Healing Your Life Course. You will also find a link to the video of Paul Ferrini teaching this step. Please read through the text and then watch the corresponding video.. Then, when you are ready, answer the homework questions in the journal that follows. When you have finished, save your answers so that you can refer back to them in the future.
End the Cycle of Abuse
Goal: See and end the patterns of victimization.
Strategy: Forgive yourself and others.
Victims and Victimizers
As you look at the wounds you have given and received, it is important to understand the ways that you have
shown up as a victim or as a victimizer. Most of us show up at one time or another in both roles.
Moreover, victims tend to become victimizers. Those who were beaten or sexually abused as children often abuse their own children or the children of others. We do to others what has been done to us. There is no end to the chain of abuse as long as we keep it going. Our choice is always to stop it here and now.
How to End the Chain of Abuse
To end the chain of abuse we must forgive our abusers and ourselves and we must refuse to show up anymore as either a victim or a victimizer. That means learning to forgive our parents for trespassing against us and learning to forgive ourselves for not standing up to them or to anyone else who has victimized us. If we have become victimizers of others, we must understand how we were victims first and bring healing and compassion to our wounds. Then we must also seek the understanding and forgiveness of those we have hurt, whether they be parents, siblings, spouses or children.
Forgiveness is a process that happens in layers and often takes years. You cannot rush the process or force yourselfto forgive before you are ready. While forgiving others and forgiving ourselves are two sides of the same coin, the latter is often the more difficult aspect of the process.
Self-forgiveness is possible even if others do not forgive you. Even if others forgive you, you might not forgive yourself. As a general rule, your capacity to forgive others depends on your willingness to forgive yourself. It is also true that your capacity to forgive yourself depends to some extent on your willingness to forgive others.
Seven Steps in the Forgiveness Process
Here are seven steps that will help you to forgive yourself and others. They will help you to cover all the bases. But do be patient with the process. It does not happen over night. Often it takes years. Sometimes it even takes generations.
1. Accept What Happened
You can’t pretend that it didn’t happen. You can’t go back and undo it. You can’t fix it or change it. You just have to accept that it happened and it is therefore part of your life. Acceptance sometimes takes a while.
2. Feel Compassion for Yourself
If you have been victimized, you need to stop blaming yourself for what happened. You are not to blame. You are not
bad, unworthy or unlovable. You are not dirty, ugly, stained or damaged goods. Even if you are a victimizer, you were very likely a victim at some time in your life.
3. Forgive Yourself
Regardless of whether you are a victim or a victimizer, or both, this process of self-forgiveness may take a long time. It
may even take your whole life. But it is very important. You need to commit to this process if you really want to heal.
4. Feel Compassion for the Victimizer
Understand the pain of the person who wounded you and learn to feel compassion for that person. Most victimizers
were victims once, and they are doing to you what was done to them. But first you may have to get in touch with and
express your anger at this person. This too can take some time.
5. Forgive the Victimizer
Eventually you are going to have to forgive the other person. That does not mean that you condone his/her behavior. But you realize that the behavior was caused by his/her own pain/ abuse. You also realize that not forgiving this person means that you are holding onto your bitterness, and this prevents you from moving forward in your own life.
6. Detach and Let Go
After forgiving yourself and the other person, you can detach and let go of your identity as a victim. You stop speaking or acting in a way that seeks sympathy from others or reinforces your belief that you are wounded and cannot heal. You also stop condemning the abuser/victimizer and release the person emotionally.
7. You Heal Your Wound and Release the Past
After you detach, your wound begins to heal. A scab forms over the wound. You grow new skin. You do not deny what
happened, but there is no more charge on it for you. You do not condemn yourself or the other person. You learn whatever lesson you can learn from the experience and put it behind you.
Refuse to Show Up as Either a Victim or a Victimizer
As we have said before, forgiveness and correction go hand and hand. Ultimately there is no forgiveness without correction. You can’t shift a negative pattern in your life unless you are willing to do your part to change it.
Forgiving the victimizer is one part of the process of healing. The other part is your commitment to stand up and
say “No” to those who would abuse you. This is not about blaming you for what happened in the past. Absolutely not.
You could not stand up for yourself when you were three years old and were overpowered by an adult. But you can stand up for yourself now.
When people try to impose their will on you, you can refuse to cooperate. You can tell them that you don’t need
their advice or their interference in your life. You can tell them that you are committed to making your own decisions
now. If they don’t give you the space that you are asking for, you can ask them to leave or you can leave them. You don’t have to stay and take it anymore.
You heal your patterns of victimhood by taking charge of your life and setting strong, healthy boundaries with others. You forgive what happened in the past. But you resolve not to let it happen in the future. You need to work on both ends. Indeed, you cannot do one without doing the other.
If you are a victimizer, you must not only seek the forgiveness of others whom you have hurt. You must refuse to hurt anyone else. You must accept the limits that others try to set with you. You must stop trying to control them or interfere in their lives. You must learn to mind your own business and get in touch with your own pain. You became a victimizer for a reason . . . someone at some time in your life victimized you. You need to get in touch with the fear and shame around that and heal your wound so that you don’t go out and victimize someone else. You must end the cycle of violence where it starts, in your own heart and mind.
Give up Shame and Blame
It is always tempting to blame our parents, spouses and others for the wounds we have suffered. We make it their fault. We cast them out of our hearts. We feel entitled to our hurt. Indeed, we hold onto it. In some cases, our wound becomes a badge of honor that we wear proudly. It helps us to get sympathy from others. It gives us the attention we are not sure that we would otherwise have.
I call this “making our identity in the wound.” It is a form of attachment to the victim role that prevents us from healing. Our fear is that when we stop playing the role of the victim, others will no longer pay attention to us.
Letting go of an old identity is not easy. It is impossible as long as there is a payoff for keeping it. We are not usually
willing to stop our identification until there is more pain than pay-off in it. Moreover, we are so used to playing this role, we are not sure that we have the ability or the power to stop it.
Indeed, saying “No” to others who want to take care of us and making our own choices can be terrifying to us. It is easier to keep the status quo. Then we won’t have to move out of our comfort zone and risk failure and humiliation.
There are two dysfunctional extremes when it comes to theprocess of healing the wounded child. One is that we deny our wound or we anesthetize the pain around it. In this case, we don’t feel the pain and we can’t heal it. The other extreme is that we become attached to our wound and make our identity in it. In that case, we become a professional victim who thrives on telling old war stories and reliving the trauma of the past.
Neither of these extremes is helpful. We don’t want to deny the wound or become attached to it. We want to see it,
feel it, and heal it. Blaming our parents keeps us locked in victimhood. It may be something that happens in the early stages of our healing journey when we first begin to feel the pain of our wound. We may experience anger — even rage — that we did not know that we had. But that is Phase One of this work. We don’t move into Phase Two until we stop blaming others and begin to take responsibility for our own healing.
Taking Responsibility for Your Own Healing
If we want to heal our core wound, we can’t engage in blame or become permanent victims. We have to take responsibility for our wound. It belongs to us, at least for now. And we are the only ones who can heal it.
This means that we must engage in a process of forgiving ourselves and others that will take years. We must not be put off by that. Just because the journey is a long one does not mean that we cannot reach our goal. However, we will not reach our goal if we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the size of the task.
We begin our thousand-mile journey by taking the first step. We learn to be gentle with ourselves and with others. We put one foot in front of the other. We take it one day at a time. Gradually, we see that we have made progress. When we look back, we can barely see the place where we started.
Now we are in the middle of the desert. Going back is not possible. Now we know we have made the commitment to heal, no matter how long it takes.
Bringing Love to the Child Within
Most of us don’t realize that there is a scared little kid inside who is running our lives. We don’t realize it, that is, until that kid goes on the warpath. Then, we and everyone else in our lives can’t help but notice.
If we want to heal our wound, we are going to have to stop abandoning the shadow aspect of ourselves. We are going to have to pick up that rejected little kid and learn to love him or her. We all need to go through a healing process in which we learn to love that scared little kid inside and reclaim our innocence.
Mommy or Daddy may have abandoned us and helped to set all this up. But, in the end, we are the ones who abandon ourselves. We have to stop doing that. We have to start showing up for the child within. We have to become the Mommy or Daddy that s/he never had. In the process, we go from being the one who is wounded
to the one who brings acceptance and love.
The wounded child within does not know how to bring love. For years, we were so freaked out by him or her that we did not know how to bring love either. So the cries of the wounded child were ignored. We heard the wailing in the darkness, but we could not respond to it. We heard the call for love, but we could not answer it.
Guess what? Now we hear that call and we know that we are the only ones who can respond to it. We know that we are the bringers of love to our own experience. We feel compassion for the suffering of the little child within. We feel her pain, her anger, her grief. We are no longer put off by her screams or her tears. We reach down and wrap her in our arms. “I am here,” we tell her. “I am with you now and I will not leave you. I will not abandon you anymore.”
The spiritual adult and the wounded child come face to face and join together in the spirit of acceptance and love.
The child begins to feel safe, to heal and spread her wings. The spiritual adult sets boundaries with others and keeps
the space safe so that the little kid can gain confidence and strength.
The child is gradually re-parented and grows up feeling worthy of love. The Christ child and the wounded child
become one in the manger of our hearts. As the child heals, the shadow is integrated and the light behind the shadow
shines through. The True Self is born.
From the ashes of the fire of destruction, the phoenix arises and spreads its wings. Resurrection is at hand. That which has died has been reborn. If you listen, you can hear the angels dancing in heaven.
Step Six Teaching Video
Homework for Step Six
Important Questions to Ask Yourself
- Have you forgiven your mother and father? Have they forgiven you?
- Have you forgiven your siblings? Have they forgiven you?
- Have you forgiven your spouse? Has s/he forgiven you?
- Have you forgiven your children? Have they forgiven you?
- Are you withholding forgiveness from anyone?
- Who is the person you have hurt the most?
- Have you asked for forgiveness and made amends with this person?
- What is the biggest thing you have forgiven another person for?\
- What is the biggest thing you have forgiven yourself for?
- In what ways have you shown up as a victim?
- In what ways have you shown up as a victimizer?
- If you are a victim, have you taken your power back and set healthy limits with others?
- Are you attached to being a victim? What is the payoff?
- If you are a victimizer, have you stopped crossing the boundaries of others and begun to investigate your own pain?
- Have you shopped blaming others and started to take responsibility for your own healing?