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It's a given that carrying around pain and anger over something someone did to you only serves to harm yourself, right? So the best place to begin to heal from long held pain is to forgive the offender. Ideally, the offender will be penitent, but what if they never were, and never will be? How does one begin to forgive if the pain has been there for years (decades) and the offender has no idea how deep and destructive the hurt was (and has continued to be for a very long time)?  
 

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I don't see it this way. 

I think forgiveness is a side effect of working through the pain and anger, either with a trusted family member, friend or professional. 

It's not the goal for me, it just arrives once pain has been processed. 

(Sometimes. In some contexts. I've forgiven some people and not forgiven others. That's fine. Processing the pain lets you move on either way.)

 

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I was in this situation once. Someone offended one of my daughters. She was 5 I believe. Made her cry that night. We approached said offender and said offender didn’t think she did anything wrong. 

For me, I prayed for the ability to forgive said offender. Also, I just tried to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Because the offender doesn’t think he or she did wrong or realizes how offensive he or she was, it may be repeated. At least that is what I think will happen. 
 

It can depend on the situation I guess. But my daughter was young enough where I could always be with her whenever said offender was around. Can’t now because she is 11, and we have moved to another state, so we aren’t around said offender anymore. 

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I know for certain that the anger and hurt that I have carried for decades because of this person's actions is harming only me. This individual is probably blissfully unaware of the degree of devastation which their behavior caused. I can truly say that my entire life has been shaped by this one event, and as a result, I have no self worth. I feel that I am at a crossroads, and that I absolutely must let go of this hurt, and I know of no other way to do so other than forgiveness. 
 

ETA: Praying/meditating about it only seems to enhance the hurt, not diminish it. 

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Grammar
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I think the idea that I can forgive like God is impossible. What I can do is try to drop the idea that it should have been different. This is a process.  Because you can decide to do it, but you have to be aware of all the ways you were hurt and forgive each of them to be done. IME for deep hurts that takes years. 

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1 minute ago, I talk to the trees said:

This individual is probably blissfully unaware of the degree of devastation which their behavior caused.

Do you have a current relationship with this person? If you do, then it may need to be brought up. I forgave my dad (who was very violent when I was a child) at a time when I did not see him much. When we were able to be together again, I didn't need to bring it up. Later a professional working with him brought it up, saying how sorry he was. 

If the person expects a current relationship built on obliviousness and nonrepentance, that's much harder. Forgiveness does not mean no consequences.

And as far as the how, not to sound too mystical, but I basically just prayed and asked G*d to do it as I had no clue how.

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1 minute ago, I talk to the trees said:

 I know of no other way to do so other than forgiveness. 

You haven't tried that before?

The other perspectives people have given in this thread don't make sense? 

You have been taught that moving on has to look that one way?

Seriously, secondary wounding isn't worth it. Self abuse never heals trauma.

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I have heard it said that forgiveness is giving up your right to hurt them back.  It's not saying that it's ok, because it's not ok.  It doesn't mean to not draw boundaries. But give up retaliation, even in your heart. Give up dwelling on it and repeating over and over (to yourself or others) how wrong it was and/or how much they hurt you.  The goal is freedom for you, not an apology from them. 

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Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't forgive someone who is repeatedly hurtful and doesn't take responsibility for their actions.  The best I can do is distance myself from them as much as possible.  I don't wish them harm or anything bad, just don't want them to be a part of my life because they are toxic.  I try not to let old wounds affect me now - they still do and I let certain people get under my skin when I shouldn't, but I try really hard to move on and not let them ruin my precious time.  

Hope you can find some peace.  ❤️ 

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So, fwiw, because my dad was so unstable, when I was with him there was some trust to be earned, some experience that he was going to be safe and different. Forgiveness might get you in the door (like able to be in the room), but relationship is different. It's ok to say there were consequences, but it's important for you to be FREE. And that freedom could be a spiritual thing (forgiveness) or a physical thing (trauma memories) or some combination. 

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2 minutes ago, Rosie_0801 said:

You haven't tried that before?

The other perspectives people have given in this thread don't make sense? 

You have been taught that moving on has to look that one way?

Seriously, secondary wounding isn't worth it. Self abuse never heals trauma.

No, honestly, I have laid the blame for the event at their feet for many years. Oh yes, the different perspectives make sense! But I have only recently realized the true extent of the harm they did, and honestly, I just want to walk away from it. I guess I think the only alternative to forgiveness is not forgiving and holding onto the pain for even longer, and I believe that if I do that, it will eventually kill me. 

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1 minute ago, I talk to the trees said:

No, honestly, I have laid the blame for the event at their feet for many years. Oh yes, the different perspectives make sense! But I have only recently realized the true extent of the harm they did, and honestly, I just want to walk away from it. I guess I think the only alternative to forgiveness is not forgiving and holding onto the pain for even longer, and I believe that if I do that, it will eventually kill me. 

What do you think forgiveness would look/feel like in your situation?

What do you think self worth (which, in my opinion, is the issue worth attention) would look/feel like?


Yeah, personal questions on a public message board. Where are my manners today?

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I don't think forgiveness is necessary for healing but it can aid in it.  But the person you forgive does not need to be made aware of the process in anyway because ultimately their opinion of the issue has nothing to do with how you process the hurt and forgive.  I would say the in a situation like you are describing, where the hurt had ripple effects that hurt you deeply,  forgiveness won't matter.  What you need is to focus on is healing yourself and your self worth.  That healing will help you to get to the point where you can forgive if you want or simply just let the hurt go.  

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4 minutes ago, I talk to the trees said:

No, honestly, I have laid the blame for the event at their feet for many years. 

I think blaming people for having done rotten things to us is an important step in the recovery process. 
If you've been doing that for years, you must have done a thorough job. No wonder you're ready to move on to the next step. 🙂

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3 minutes ago, I talk to the trees said:

No, honestly, I have laid the blame for the event at their feet for many years. Oh yes, the different perspectives make sense! But I have only recently realized the true extent of the harm they did, and honestly, I just want to walk away from it. I guess I think the only alternative to forgiveness is not forgiving and holding onto the pain for even longer, and I believe that if I do that, it will eventually kill me. 

No, that's not the only alternative. 

You can't forgive till you've processed, and it sounds like you haven't had the opportunity to process it. 

Forgiveness ( or other positive developments) can't be willed into being. 

Can I suggest therapy? 

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5 minutes ago, I talk to the trees said:

I guess I think the only alternative to forgiveness is not forgiving and holding onto the pain for even longer, and I believe that if I do that, it will eventually kill me. 

That is not the only alternative.  Letting go of the pain and not allowing the offender to have control over you because of your inability to forgive is an option.  It isn't easy but working on yourself and becoming stronger is an option.  As you do that you will hopefully see that you can forgive or that it is unnecessary because the event no longer has a hold on you the way it has for so many years.

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I would not say that it's a given that "carrying around pain and anger only hurts yourself", nor that the only way (or at least the best way) to rid yourself of pain and anger that burdens you is to forgive the person who harmed you. I wouldn't say any of that at all. Those are some widely held cultural assumptions, but that doesn't mean it's true.

But if these feelings are upsetting you, you should seek out a licensed therapist. NOT a "Christian therapist" - it's okay to have a shrink who is Christian, of course, but people who advertise themselves that way are typically untrained amateurs who put up a shingle to scam the faithful, and often do more harm than good.

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1 minute ago, Rosie_0801 said:

What do you think forgiveness would look/feel like in your situation?

What do you think self worth (which, in my opinion, is the issue worth attention) would look/feel like?


Yeah, personal questions on a public message board. Where are my manners today?

Yeah, but I did ask for opinions, and those are some really good questions. Makes me do a Poirot and use the little gray cells! 
 

Forgiveness for me would be able to look back on the event without bitterness, and without feeling that the old wound was new each time I think of it. Thinking of it less would be nice too, but right now, I am feeling the effects very acutely and it is difficult not to ruminate.

Oh, geez! Ideally, I would believe that I am a good human being at heart, worthy of love and respect. After some reflection, I realize that I genuinely do not believe this after years of the ripple effects of this event. (Yeah, could I be any more vague?) 

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1 minute ago, hjffkj said:

That is not the only alternative.  Letting go of the pain and not allowing the offender to have control over you because of your inability to forgive is an option.  It isn't easy but working on yourself and becoming stronger is an option.  As you do that you will hopefully see that you can forgive or that it is unnecessary because the event no longer has a hold on you the way it has for so many years.

Ja, because messed up stuff is as much part of the Human Experience as the good stuff. 
 

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You might also seek out a support group of people who have survived the same type of harm you have. Whatever it is, it's not shameful and you are definitely not alone. There are other people who have been in the same place, gone through the same thing, and can help you find your own way to heal.

Those two suggestions are not mutually exclusive. You really should do both those things.

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Look, the other thing about forgiveness is that it really works best when the other person is repentant, and isn't gaslighting you about what they did. (The whole 'who, me?' schtick). 

You can move on from situations where the person is absent, oblivious or unrepentant, but it doesn't need to involve trying to forgive them. 

It isn't your lack of forgiveness that's harming you - it's the original untreated wound. 

It honestly is possible, with help, to find a paradigm that isn't 'I must forgive or I will continue to suffer'.

I don't forgive my ex for anything! But I'm also not suffering (much) from either the original pain or the lack of forgiveness. 

Otoh, I forgive my parent. That came right at the end of a two year process of actually looking at the relationship and working through the major trauma of it. 

It's more complicated than 'I am suffering and therefore I must forgive', and in fact, that type of thinking can be very unhealthy. 

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1 minute ago, I talk to the trees said:

Had a great therapist. She went out of network, dagnabbit, and it takes so long to find someone you click with and to give them all the information they need to help you, that I haven’t tried to find someone new. 

I get it, I do, but... this is clearly causing ongoing pain if you can't stop thinking of this harm, you've only recently begun realizing you're not at fault, and it's made you deeply question your self-worth.

I think you need to bite the bullet and find somebody new, or prepare to pay out of pocket for the old one. She may be willing to see you on a sliding scale if funds really are an issue.

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1 minute ago, I talk to the trees said:

Yeah, but I did ask for opinions, and those are some really good questions. Makes me do a Poirot and use the little gray cells! 
 

Forgiveness for me would be able to look back on the event without bitterness, and without feeling that the old wound was new each time I think of it. Thinking of it less would be nice too, but right now, I am feeling the effects very acutely and it is difficult not to ruminate.

Oh, geez! Ideally, I would believe that I am a good human being at heart, worthy of love and respect. After some reflection, I realize that I genuinely do not believe this after years of the ripple effects of this event. (Yeah, could I be any more vague?) 

IMOandE, forgiveness is not a requirement for healing and moving on.  
It also isn’t a magic wand that will erase the negative feelings of an experience when thinking about it.

If you aren’t finding that thing you consider to be forgiveness, despite searching hard for it, maybe it isn’t the right tool for you. Maybe the firm placing of the blame and the reclaiming of your value is what you do need. (And I mean reclaiming it to yourself. Your value never actually declines because of someone else’s actions.)

 

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2 minutes ago, Melissa Louise said:

Look, the other thing about forgiveness is that it really works best when the other person is repentant, and isn't gaslighting you about what they did. (The whole 'who, me?' schtick). 

You can move on from situations where the person is absent, oblivious or unrepentant, but it doesn't need to involve trying to forgive them. 

 

Yes. I can make a conscious decision (after a LOT of processing) to let go of my anger at someone without forgiving them. I actually see letting go of my anger and forgiveness as two totally separate things that don't necessarily have anything to do with the other.

Hugs.

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1 minute ago, I talk to the trees said:

Had a great therapist. She went out of network, dagnabbit, and it takes so long to find someone you click with and to give them all the information they need to help you, that I haven’t tried to find someone new. 

Do you have a good friend or trusted family member you could talk to? 

Idk about you, but I really needed a trusted person to tell the full story to, for the first time. And someone who didn't minimize what happened. And who showed me ways to not minimize it myself, which I had done for many years. 

The first time I saw my therapist flinch when I told her something that happened was the moment I could see through someone else's eyes that what happened was BAD. You need that kind of recognition way before you can get to forgiveness. 

It doesn't need to be a therapist - I understand not wanting to try again when you've lost that trusted connection. 

I recognize the ripple effect thing, and the life long effects on self esteem.

I do believe you can heal from that - though we all have our scars - but that focusing too hard on forgiveness is a way to short circuit that process. 

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Just now, Pawz4me said:

Yes. I can make a conscious decision (after a LOT of processing) to let go of my anger at someone without forgiving them. I actually see letting go of my anger and forgiveness as two totally separate things that don't necessarily have anything to do with the other.

Hugs.

I think letting go of anger is just what happens after you've had a chance to feel and express your anger, and have your anger heard and respected. 

It's kinda a side effect. A nice side effect. 

I guess I've just never found that top down, willing myself to stop feeling whatever, to work. God knows, I gave it a thirty year shot 🤣

 

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I've been there and had someone tell me that Sometimes forgiveness is something you so for yourself.  Its a choice you make to forgive that person and move on and you never have to say it directly to them.  I think there is a book called The Art of forgiving or the Art of forgiveness.  

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16 minutes ago, I talk to the trees said:

Forgiveness for me would be able to look back on the event without bitterness, and without feeling that the old wound was new each time I think of it. Thinking of it less would be nice too, but right now, I am feeling the effects very acutely and it is difficult not to ruminate.

I think you might be holding yourself to too high a standard here. Some things deserve bitterness. Some things will reopen old wounds every time because the bad thing was that bad. 
Thinking of it less is achievable. It may eventually resolve. It may not. Probably the amount of triggers will reduce, or the time between triggers will reduce. Plot out what these triggers are. It might be something active like another person using the same words or the same tone, or it might be something passive, like doing a certain chore sort of blanks your brain and leaves room for intrusive thoughts. Once you've plotted out those things, you can work with them to some degree. Introduce some kind of life hack. For example, highway driving opens my brain up to intrusive thoughts. I don't have anything strongly positive to block them with, at the moment. On Fridays, I can manage it by listening to one of Amanda Palmer's cds in the car. On Sundays, I have to catch the train because my body will try and throw up for the whole trip, and that's really not safe driving.

 

[quote]Oh, geez! Ideally, I would believe that I am a good human being at heart, worthy of love and respect. After some reflection, I realize that I genuinely do not believe this after years of the ripple effects of this event. (Yeah, could I be any more vague?) [/quote]

No, that's not vague. That is a very, very common problem out there in the world and while very tricky, it can be cured if one does the work.

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For me, forgiveness is more about how I treat the other person and nothing to do with myself.  When I forgive someone it means that I will not hold what they did to me against them anymore, to the extent that it doesn't continue to harm me or my family.  So, I can forgive someone while deciding that for my safety or whatever they will never be in my life again. 

The hurt they have caused doesn't go away because I forgave them though.  The forgiveness allows me to not have my thoughts filled with them in relation to the issue and instead I can focus on healing myself in terms of the issue.  

So, maybe working on seeing forgiveness differently might help you start down a path of healing for yourself.

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5 minutes ago, Rosie_0801 said:

I think you might be holding yourself to too high a standard here. Some things deserve bitterness. Some things will reopen old wounds every time because the bad thing was that bad. 
Thinking of it less is achievable. It may eventually resolve. It may not. Probably the amount of triggers will reduce, or the time between triggers will reduce.

No, that's not vague. That is a very, very common problem out there in the world and while very tricky, it can be cured if one does the work.

All of this. 

And massive hugs to OP and anyone else trying to work through life-impacting pain. 

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1 hour ago, I talk to the trees said:

I know for certain that the anger and hurt that I have carried for decades because of this person's actions is harming only me. This individual is probably blissfully unaware of the degree of devastation which their behavior caused. I can truly say that my entire life has been shaped by this one event, and as a result, I have no self worth. I feel that I am at a crossroads, and that I absolutely must let go of this hurt, and I know of no other way to do so other than forgiveness. 
 

ETA: Praying/meditating about it only seems to enhance the hurt, not diminish it. 

You feel like you have no self worth?  Do you like where you are now?  Sometimes thinking of the positive(s) outcome can be helpful. 

I was a bit bitter with my parents once for years because they wouldn't let me choose what profession I wanted to do.  I had to be a pharmacist.  That was it.  That or hit the streets.  But now, I look back and I am happy with the way my life has turned out.  (Even though I didn't do anything with my biology.)  I wouldn't be here if they hadn't insisted I become a pharmacist. 

I don't believe forgiveness happens overnight.  It'll take time and healing.  Perhaps a support group? 

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55 minutes ago, Rosie_0801 said:

I think you might be holding yourself to too high a standard here. Some things deserve bitterness. Some things will reopen old wounds every time because the bad thing was that bad. 
Thinking of it less is achievable. It may eventually resolve. It may not. Probably the amount of triggers will reduce, or the time between triggers will reduce. Plot out what these triggers are. It might be something active like another person using the same words or the same tone, or it might be something passive, like doing a certain chore sort of blanks your brain and leaves room for intrusive thoughts. Once you've plotted out those things, you can work with them to some degree. Introduce some kind of life hack. For example, highway driving opens my brain up to intrusive thoughts. I don't have anything strongly positive to block them with, at the moment. On Fridays, I can manage it by listening to one of Amanda Palmer's cds in the car. On Sundays, I have to catch the train because my body will try and throw up for the whole trip, and that's really not safe driving.

 

[quote]Oh, geez! Ideally, I would believe that I am a good human being at heart, worthy of love and respect. After some reflection, I realize that I genuinely do not believe this after years of the ripple effects of this event. (Yeah, could I be any more vague?) [/quote]

No, that's not vague. That is a very, very common problem out there in the world and while very tricky, it can be cured if one does the work.

This is so true Rosie.  I'm sorry for your hurt.  You are a good human and worthy of love and respect! 

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1 hour ago, I talk to the trees said:

Forgiveness for me would be able to look back on the event without bitterness, and without feeling that the old wound was new each time I think of it. Thinking of it less would be nice too, but right now, I am feeling the effects very acutely and it is difficult not to ruminate.

Oh, geez! Ideally, I would believe that I am a good human being at heart, worthy of love and respect. After some reflection, I realize that I genuinely do not believe this after years of the ripple effects of this event. (Yeah, could I be any more vague?) 

Sometimes when issues are complicated it helps to talk to someone trained to deal with them. You could be having a hard time because there are complicating factors. For instance (and I'm not meaning to be personal), but ruminating can also happen when you have untreated anxiety. So your own issues could make it harder to get to the place of peace you want. And when you talk about feeling that old wound, there could be trauma memory stored. 

Not everything is simple and sometimes we need to ask for help, not on a board but irl with someone qualified/trained to help. 

https://www.focusonthefamily.com/get-help/counseling-services-and-referrals/  Here's a place to look for help. Not the only place, but a place. They have quite a few filters, so you're able to find someone with your mix of experience needs.

 

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1 minute ago, desertflower said:

You feel like you have no self worth?  Do you like where you are now?  Sometimes thinking of the positive(s) outcome can be helpful. 

I was a bit bitter with my parents once for years because they wouldn't let me choose what profession I wanted to do.  I had to be a pharmacist.  That was it.  That or hit the streets.  But now, I look back and I am happy with the way my life has turned out.  (Even though I didn't do anything with my biology.)  I wouldn't be here if they hadn't insisted I become a pharmacist. 

I don't believe forgiveness happens overnight.  It'll take time and healing.  Perhaps a support group? 

Oh, golly no, I really, really don't like where I am right now, especially the feelings that I'm just not worthy of  respect or love, that that simply isn’t something I can expect or even hope for. There are things to be thankful for, of course. I have a lovely daughter, and more than adequate food, clothing, and shelter. I am certainly in no position to complain about those things, when so many lack the basic necessities of life! But my life would have been so very, very different if this hadn’t happened, and right now I am looking back on 20-odd years that I can never get back or change. And that means my life now and going forward is going to be difficult. 

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1 minute ago, Rosie_0801 said:

@I talk to the trees
What do you think self worth is made of?

Another excellent question. I think it’s comprised of the beliefs you have about yourself. So, I believe I was a good parent for homeschooling my daughter because that’s what was best for her, for example. I think a lot of it comes from “shoulds” like you should be compassionate and you shouldn’t treat others poorly. When you live up to those “shoulds” (internally and externally imposed), your self worth increases. Likewise, when you don't achieve those shoulds or shouldn’ts, it decreases. 
 

Rosie, you totally need to be a therapist. You are asking really good questions today! 

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1 hour ago, Melissa Louise said:

No, that's not the only alternative. 

You can't forgive till you've processed, and it sounds like you haven't had the opportunity to process it. 

Forgiveness ( or other positive developments) can't be willed into being. 

Can I suggest therapy? 

It took therapy for me...and EMDR. Took awhile, but now that I'm on the other side (mostly) I really guard who is in my life and how. It's quite liberating. I'm praying for you. 

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Oh. My. Gosh. Y'all aren’t going to believe this! Ok, so I completely agree with the PPs who have said that I need to be seeing a therapist. You are so right. So I logged onto my online visit app, figuring I would throw the dice and try someone new.  One copay. What could it hurt, right? And I discovered that my old therapist is Back In Network! Hallelujah! I took the first appointment she had. I am actually looking forward to it, which is something I couldn’t say before! 

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25 minutes ago, I talk to the trees said:

Oh, golly no, I really, really don't like where I am right now, especially the feelings that I'm just not worthy of  respect or love, that that simply isn’t something I can expect or even hope for. There are things to be thankful for, of course. I have a lovely daughter, and more than adequate food, clothing, and shelter. I am certainly in no position to complain about those things, when so many lack the basic necessities of life! But my life would have been so very, very different if this hadn’t happened, and right now I am looking back on 20-odd years that I can never get back or change. And that means my life now and going forward is going to be difficult. 

You know, you're allowed to be angry about that. 

Good, clean anger. Not 'I'm angry but I shouldn't be' or 'I'm angry but I should feel grateful.'

This person harmed you. They changed your life trajectory. They took away your self belief. 

Maybe try feeling entitled to some justified outrage on your own behalf here.

Anger helps you understand you deserved better, and continue to deserve better. 

There are helpful ways to feel and acknowledge anger, that don't harm others. 

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Can you objectively think about it in the terms of someone did some things TO you? That person made that choice. That person could have done the same to a different person had you not been available. That person did bad things and made you feel bad, but you are NOT bad. The behavior of that person was bad. Not YOU. Your self worth should not be defined by that. Please don’t let them have that power. Ruminate on that over and over until you believe it, because it’s true.

You don’t have to forgive. Just let go. Really let go. It takes time, but really begin to believe there is absolutely no reason for you to let someone else make you feel this way. Anyone. These things were done to you, but you don’t have to believe this is what your self worth is made of. You have a right to change your thinking, and let yourself believe in you. 

You know I can relate, and I’m on your side. We all are. We can help remind you if needed. 

You don’t necessarily have to forgive, but you can let go….and you don’t have to believe bad things about yourself just because someone else wants/wanted you to.

Edit: Forgot to give you your heart ❤️ 

Edited by Indigo Blue
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3 minutes ago, I talk to the trees said:

Oh. My. Gosh. Y'all aren’t going to believe this! Ok, so I completely agree with the PPs who have said that I need to be seeing a therapist. You are so right. So I logged onto my online visit app, figuring I would throw the dice and try someone new.  One copay. What could it hurt, right? And I discovered that my old therapist is Back In Network! Hallelujah! I took the first appointment she had. I am actually looking forward to it, which is something I couldn’t say before! 

Fantastic!

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