Tuesday, 23 December 2008


This is a slim volume I bought a year or two ago, but only got down to reading today - as part of my ongoing "decluttering" quest. Now the book itself can move on (to Enfold's library, if you want to read it!) but I wanted to save some of my favourite lines here, for me to come back to.

Forgiveness is an issue often juggled with by survivors of any sort of childhood trauma - and by "the experts". There are many different perspectives on what it is, and how important it is. And of course, many different definitions of what it means to forgive. I do recommend this book for any survivor of anything. I like the way he explores the progressing of feelings in the healing process.

"Forgiveness is not amnesia. It is not a drug we take to forget the pain. Dismissing the past as over and done with - and therefore not relevant to life today - is not going to make the problem go away."

"Cliches and slogans are intended as easy-to-remember summations of knowledge and wisdom, but they can be misused. Unfortunately, they are sometimes used to silence people or to deny feelings."

"Many of us who who were raised in dysfunctional homes use unforgiveness and resentment as a means of keeping us away from our true feelings. .. Rage, fear, and anger lurk within an unforgiving heart. Who wants to look at that? Many of us have had so much pain in childhood that, as adults, we avoid pain at any cost."

"Anger, sarcasm, and wit make a potent combination .. Anger became the fuel that propelled me through difficult situations. Anger became the passion that let me know I was alive! I didn't HAVE anger. I WAS anger. Anger was my first name. And blame was my middle name. Then I realised that it was not getting angry but remaining angry that had become a problem for me. .. If someone hurt me, I would get angry instead of feeling the pain. It was difficult to let go of my attraction to blame and anger."

"I want to wear my anger like a suit of armour to spare me from the pain. But I can't. I never had a childhood. Now I am losing my anger about never having had a childhood. What I am left with is ... sadness. And facing sadness is not easy. All of my life I would rather have been dragged across a field of boulders by wild horses than to feel the immense sadness within me. Anger was so much easier to feel."

"I am now allowing myself to feel the feelings I have never felt before. I must listen to the child within me that was ignored. And if one of the feelings that comes to the surface is blame, then I want to feel all there is to feel about blame. Then perhaps I can feel the anger behind the blame. And then the pain behind the anger. And the sadness behind the pain. And the acceptance that is rumoured to lie behind the sadness. And the hope behind the acceptance. So that someday I may have a chance at leading a contented life."

"Ultimately, we have to forgive ourselves for being ourselves. Have you ever sat in your room, staring out through the window, feeling a little down, watching people walk by? Don't they look great? They are just chugging along, dressed so well, clean and fresh looking, on their way to their meaningful jobs, leading their meaningful lives. We imagine them with no holes in their socks, no blemishes under their make-up, no ghosts in their closets, no drunks in their families. We imagine them happy that it is Monday morning again, that now that they are well-rested from their weekends at the beach with their flawless lovers then can get back to being productive in their lucrative, high-visibility careers. And what about us? If we break a shoelace, we can trace it back to being from a dysfunctional family. If we do anything less than perfectly, we are flawed human beings, the objects of self-pity and scorn. If we make a simple mistake, it is a relapse."

"In order to forgive my parents, I must have already decided they are guilty of whatever I am about to forgive them for. That means I have placed myself in the position of knowing who is guilty and who is not. Then I decide who is to be punished or forgiven. I have adorned myself with a crown of resentments. I am the standard against which all goodness is measured. I am a self-appointed judge and executioner. I have relieved God of most of his duties."

For adult children from dysfunctional families
by Dwight Lee Wolter, 1989.

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