Stop injuring yourself in a misguided attempt to stand up for yourself. When you consistently get your own back, you don't go on the attack.
I love this, but I’d also love some practical advice on how we do this. How do we show up for ourselves when we are hurting and feel wronged? Since my last relationship ended I am so mad at the world and at him. I know I’m mad at myself too for accepting less than I deserved and not being able to find calm ways to set boundaries, but I do not know how to move forward. I am exhausted and stagnant, I feel shame because I want someone to come look after me until I feel less fragile but I don’t know how to move forward. I’m so stuck in the disappointment of my life and the loss of my dream( finally I met someone) that I can’t see any hope and that cripples me.
Thank you for writing about shame and forgiveness. Keep writing about it! Its not like I (and I expect others) can read one column and say "Of course!" and completely transform.
Long time reader first time commenter!!!
I’m working thru my first major breakup post fully embracing my queerness at age 37 and it’s excruciating. I feel too old to feel this helpless! I ended it but have felt painfully ambivalent about the separation. Is this hard because breakups or hard? Is it hard because this *isn’t right*? Did I mess it up? Did she mess it up? Was it simply an incompatible dynamic? Could I have tried harder? Could I have advocated for myself differently and then would she have been less triggered and then would we be in sunshine-and-rainbows land again? Is that even a real place? The mind loops are sooo seductive and wow so hard to escape.
Attempting to practice forgiveness, though, does feel like one of the most actual useful antidotes though - forgive myself, forgive her, forgive myself for not immediately being clear or okay about it. Forgiveness is so soft and so present and so worthwhile. Oof. Deep work, pals. Thank you Heather!! “I INTEND TO VIEW THIS AS A FERTILE TIME, FULL OF MAGIC, IN SPITE OF MY PAIN!!!”
Hiiiiiii toxic shame un-learner here. Like, it runs so deep. It’s in my DNA.
I am all about the repetition in your posts recently, especially because I can see and feel the peace and transformation of the beginnings of forgiveness in myself (I have an A+ therapist who is helping me with inner child work, parts work, sticking to somatic exercises like they’re PT, etc).
I guess along the same lines as others are asking, can you break down HOW you forgive yourself in these little bits throughout the day? Maybe explain like you’re explaining to your kid, or a grandma or something… Because I know for me, hearing “and now, forgive yourself” lands like… well I have no idea what it means really, lol. Like HOW??? What does that even mean?? (Also laughing at myself because this is such an anxious response/train of thought and sometimes we can’t explain or intellectualize things BUT if we can you’re the one who can do it ok love you bye)
I've been practicing forgiving myself throughout the day and it's been interesting what I've found. When I'm in shame, sometimes when I forgive myself or give myself compassion, I'm so desperate to feel okay that it can go too far in the other direction -- so I say, "yeah, your feelings ARE valid, everyone really DOES suck!!!" or "I forgive you for saying that weird thing, 'cause it actually wasn't weird at all, and you're perfect!!!!" This eagerness to absolve myself, I know, is the other side of the same shame coin, but it makes a part of me hesitant to forgive myself, fearing that I will only reinforce my worst behaviors and impulses.
So I've found that when I really forgive myself as I think Polly is describing, it's a kind of equanimity and almost detachment -- I guess like a parent -- just giving a feeling of relief and space, rather than justifying or fixing. My mind is so quick to then try and MAKE something of the peace I feel -- "Ok, great, now that you're all forgiven, let's work on changing that!!" And it actually takes a lot of strength and energy to hold onto that moment of presence & relief without having it go anywhere. It takes a lot of trust in myself and the universe that that feeling is worthwhile, even if my logical mind can't see how yet. I do understand how it's like an exercise, strengthening a muscle, because it somatically FEELS like I'm holding a plank or something when I try to sit in that space of open forgiveness. But, when I can, even for a moment, I've sometimes actually taken a big sigh of relief, and can feel my whole body relax.
Anyway, I don't really have a conclusion to this. I just wanted to share how this practice has been showing up for me; maybe others have had similar experiences (or totally different ones!!). I'm so thankful for this space to talk about all these subtle emotional experiences that are always on my mind!
Once I have an understanding of my want or need, I will sometimes ask the other person, "Would you like to hear about my feelings/wants/needs?" "Would you like to know how X came across to me?"
As mechanical as those sound, I don't know what else to do.
If I feel like my thoughts or feelings are not wanted (by the other person) and there is no obvious external signal or message from them that I should just SFTU, then I will ask if they want to hear me. I don't want to simply give in to the belief that my voice is not wanted. But I also don't want to drop my words on them either - because I really don't know if they want to hear me; so I ask.
But I do think that asking if they want to hear me is a new, weird way I am protecting myself and I don't know what to do.
Like all of you, I take incessant screenshots of Ask Polly posts. This was one for the ages. But I’m actually just making this comment to say that that “No, YOU’RE the wound!!” exchange on “Girls” was downright HILARIOUS. That show was so deeply good and of course we shit all over it at the time because people didn’t like the (female, privileged) creator-writer but rewatching it a decade later I bow down to how crisp and funny it was.
I probably need to read this again, later, and let it sink in, and maybe the unsettling argumentative feeling it gives me will go away. I'm a big HH fan and you're usually spot on, but there's something sticking in my craw with this post. Something about letting bad people, bad actors, off the hook for their bad acts. Because not every bad actor is a wounded person just trying to do their best and messing up. There are many people out there who do bad things, who use, manipulate and lie, and benefit from it, and feel no shame. And it seems counterproductive to tell them the answer is to tell their victims to just let it go. Yes, it is true that they may not be able to exact justice by lashing out, and maybe they need to accept that there won't be justice so they can move on. But that doesn't change the fact that something unjust happened, that wasn't necessarily the result of two people trying their best and failing. And maybe there needs to be some analysis of what the bad actor did wrong and why they fell for it, done through the lens of the other person being a bad actor. There are people out there who deserve condemnation. When we give them a pass, we are, maybe in a small way but still in a way, complicit in their future bad acts.
This is so fabulous. Last week I vowed to forgive myself every day, and did for several days, and then slowly, unconsciously returned to my mummy state. I will be rereading this every day and practicing until I internalize that I am a fairy. A million thanks.
You’re a fairy! I love your words, a balm to my soul innumerable times.