On the surface, the idea of forgiveness for your mother or father may seem strange, but the act of forgiving is potentially one of the best things we can do in our lives. Low-level childhood blame and resentment can perpetuate a cycle of emotional pain and suffering that can negatively affect adult relationships, outlook, and overall wellbeing, ultimately becoming a barrier to the love, abundance and happiness that we all deserve.
You might not notice the amount of energy it takes to hold onto an emotional wound or even a small grudge. Holding onto anger, resentment or any form of hostility requires a tremendous amount of life force energy. Decades of anger and resentment can cut years off your life, and you wouldn’t even know it. Think of it like throwing hundred dollar bills into the toilet each day, except life force energy is infinitely more valuable than all the money in the world.
Without healing our childhood wounds and subsequently forgiving our parents, we can stay emotionally stuck at the age of our earliest wounds, repeating a cycle of suffering as we keep experiencing an adult version of our childhood wounds.
For instance, let’s say you haven’t forgiven your mom for missing your tenth birthday or healed the resulting feelings of abandonment; whenever this issue is triggered by a current-day experience (someone forgets to call you), the original emotional wound is activated and you drop into an unconscious reaction. For all intents and purposes, you become your wounded ten-year-old self, and because you feel the same pain you felt then, you react by lashing out or shutting down.
Because a programmed emotional reaction is an automatic response to an unhealed wound, there is often little or no self-awareness of how this impacts our emotions and behaviour. This dynamic can play out within our present life and manifest through relationship issues. Year after year, the cumulative effect of these emotional reactions has the potential to erode the quality of our most important relationships.
Law of Attraction
According to the Law of Attraction, we unconsciously attract people who trigger our emotional wounds, and this is why a person with abandonment issues attracts potential partners who have commitment fears; not as punishment or karma but rather because our higher selves want us to heal and will use every opportunity to bring our wounds to the forefront. Unfortunately, this means that unhealed emotional wounds can prevent you from meeting your ideal partner, and even if you do find each other, the turbulent nature of emotional wounds is known to sabotage even the most ideal partnership.
Blame perpetuates Pain
Blaming your parents not only keeps the wound alive, it also tells your subconscious mind that your parents currently have power over you or your life, and, therefore, blame programs you for disempowerment. Like a virus, this dynamic can spread to every facet of your life. Whenever we blame another, we become entangled with their energy and stay entangled until we let go, and, consequently, we cannot grow beyond the parent we blame.
Of course, it’s no big surprise that forgiveness is the key to emotional freedom, but, in most cases, forgiveness is easier said than done. But why?
The Challenge of Forgiveness
Blame, anger, and various related emotions are defensive guards that protect you from future harm. True forgiveness requires releasing this defence and therefore the very act of forgiveness creates emotional risk. To forgive others, you must trust they won’t hurt you again, but, the hard truth is, you can never be certain – there is no way to predict another person’s behaviour, and sometimes loving people can unintentionally do hurtful things.
If you are still vulnerable to being hurt, and not ready to move on, your protective ego will not allow you to forgive. So before you can forgive, you need to release the blame and take full responsibility for every emotion you experience, but there is no point in assuming responsibility if you don’t also uncover the dynamics behind your underlying childhood issues. Therefore, start by pinpointing the hidden cause(s) of your childhood wounds, and once you do, you can start on the path to healing.
Understanding Emotional Wounds
Emotional wounds can often be confused with the event or experience that caused the wound, but the actual wound is not the situation or circumstance. An emotional wound is a disempowering belief we adopted in response to the experience. Without needing to analyze the details, the core emotional wound is virtually always unworthiness, and, in fact, unworthiness (or conditional worthiness) is the core wound of every other emotional wound.
All children have emotional needs that must be met to feel worthy of love and life; these needs include approval, acceptance, appreciation, understanding, validation, respect, and so on. Although children require all emotional needs to be fulfilled, one emotional need almost always stands out from the rest, and because this is usually the need least met, it is the emotional need most associated with worth, and, as a result, it becomes the child’s Primary Emotional Need (PEN).
Children naturally adopt beliefs that explain why one or both parents fail to provide this emotional need, so when a child doesn’t receive approval, for example, the child naturally believes she is unworthy of approval, or more likely, she believes she must meet certain conditions to prove she is worthy. Hypersensitive to this need being met, she automatically interprets approval as proof of worthiness and judgment as proof of unworthiness, and this is why judgment can cause intense emotional pain even in adulthood.
Here’s the thing: every human being is born unconditionally worthy! There is absolutely nothing you can do to prove, improve, or disprove this inherent worth. The emotional pain associated with believing you are unworthy is due to the fact it is completely untrue! Emotional pain is a warning system that alerts you to false beliefs.
Identifying False Beliefs
All disempowering beliefs, such as unworthiness, powerlessness, and victimhood, put us into survival mode, and over time can cause chronic and acute issues with serious repercussions, and, therefore, we need a warning system that alerts us to debilitating beliefs. This warning system is emotion, and, in fact, the purpose of emotional pain is to alert you to the fact you believe a falsehood. Just like physical pain alerts you the second you prick your finger with a knife, so you won’t cut your whole finger off, emotional pain alerts you to harmful beliefs so you can release them.
Without knowing that emotional pain is a sign of a false belief, most of us wrongly interpret this pain; so whenever we feel the emotional pain associated with unworthiness, the pain makes us believe the belief is true, thereby strengthening the belief and deepening the wound, and this perpetuates a cycle of emotional pain.
Furthermore, this internal warning system will stop at nothing to make you aware of a false belief, and, in fact, with increasing amplification, you will attract continuous opportunities that trigger emotional pain until you finally pay attention and release the false belief that is responsible for the pain. All emotional healing is releasing disempowering beliefs.
Entangled in the conscious or unconscious belief that worth depends on getting our parents to meet our emotional needs, we grow into adults, still expecting one or both parents to give us what we need to feel worthy. But, this just sets us up for more pain because it never works.
Understanding Our Emotional Needs
Even the most well-intentioned parents unwittingly fail to meet their children’s emotional needs. Oftentimes, childhood emotional wounds are by-products of parenting style or a parent’s own unhealed wounds or family issues. Although parental judgment, criticism, and comparison to siblings or other children are the most common causes of the worthiness wound, almost any dynamic can set the stage, for instance, when a parent is over-protective or over-controlling, a child may feel disrespected and develop the belief he is unworthy of respect. When a child is told to be seen but not heard, she may develop the belief she is not worthy to speak, or she may believe she is not important.
Unaddressed emotional wounds can often deepen over time, and as children mature into adulthood, these wound matures accordingly; manifesting as problematic relationships, financial concerns, career challenges, and health issues, while also making it difficult to pursue one’s dreams and desires.
Many adult children protect themselves from parental judgment and manipulation by closing their hearts and putting up energetic barriers, but despite the defensive quality of anger and blame, it doesn’t protect us from emotional pain because the shield actually keeps the pain inside while it also prevents healing. Regardless of age, every time your parents fail to meet your Primary Emotional Need, feelings of disappointment feed unworthiness and often lead to powerlessness.
Do you still need parental approval, acceptance, validation or permission to feel worthy? If so, do you conceal behaviours that don’t meet your parent’s expectations? This dynamic is quite common in most adults, but there is a huge cost involved because whenever you suppress authentic expression in exchange for approval or acceptance, you inadvertently give away your power.
Consequently, the relationship is based on dysfunctional dynamics where you remain a powerless child who is vulnerable to being hurt. Not only does this make you susceptible to further parental judgment and criticism, but it also makes you vulnerable to manipulation through guilt and obligation. You won’t be able to heal your emotional wounds or forgive your parents as long as you blame them for making you feel powerless and unworthy. This is why self-responsibility is the cure, and, in fact, self-responsibility is the only thing that can solve your issues. Self-responsibility means that you must own your unconditional worth and you must take back your power by releasing the expectation that your parents meet any of your emotional needs.
Let Go of Expectations
As you take responsibility for your life and your choices, you must stop seeking parental permission and emotional support, and, in fact, you don’t even need your parents to believe in you or your dreams. The same reasons your parents didn’t meet your needs in childhood are the same reasons they still don’t. So you can let them off the hook and release all expectations! When you know your unconditional worth, and you own your intrinsic power, your parents can’t hurt you emotionally, and, consequently, forgiveness becomes possible.
As dysfunctional dynamics dissolve, it gives way to a new paradigm of relationship based on unconditional worth and self-empowerment. The foundation of this deeper connection is clear boundaries, and, in fact, boundaries can take you from a powerless child to an empowered adult in a heartbeat. Indeed, your personal power is only as strong as your boundaries.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
As an adult-child, it is up to you to set healthy boundaries with your parents. Initially, it might feel uncomfortable, but, over time, strong boundaries will strengthen the relationship and allow for a deeper connection.
Effective boundaries require integrity, and this means that you must back up every boundary with proper and consistent attention. Don’t expect your parents to automatically know when they are encroaching on a boundary. When people are used to behaving in habitual ways, it takes time to recognize new boundaries and reorganize new behaviour accordingly. It’s your responsibility to manage your boundaries, and, therefore, confidently give clear feedback when they are crossing (or about to cross) a boundary.
If your boundaries are not being respected, don’t be afraid to limit interactions accordingly, but let them know why, so they have the necessary information to change their behaviour. Believe it or not, most people will eventually learn to respect boundaries, but only if you are consistent in your communication.
Reaping the Rewards
No matter how it seems, childhood wounds always present hidden gifts, such as independence, wisdom, or compassion, and without emotional challenges, our best attributes might never be revealed. If you haven’t yet recognized the positive qualities that sprung from your childhood wounds, now could be a wonderful time to do so because the recognition itself can be extremely healing. Indeed, the point is to heal the wounds but keep the benefits!
Finally, always remember that forgiveness is never for the person being forgiven. Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself.