During and after narcissistic abuse, it's quite common to do things that violate our own values. This often leads to shame and distrust in the self. From here, the default reaction is to judge & blame the self, and to judge & blame the abuser. This rigid solution offers some amount of control, and helps us feel separate from the "bad self" who violated our values.
With the shame safely locked away behind some logic of "I did X because of Y", we can can become the "good self" and ensure we never do those things again. Everything slowly becomes controlled, familiar, and protected. The problem with living like this is that there's zero room for error or vulnerability.
Self-forgiveness is a powerful, calming energy force that can melt these old walls and bring us back to wholeness. This is not a one-time "breakthrough", but instead a practice that we repeat over and over again until it's felt in the heart.
A lot of people think "This just seems like an easy way to let myself off the hook" or "If I don't accept the blame, I'm not learning any lessons". That's not what self-forgiveness is about at all. Your lessons, wisdom, and knowledge aren't going anywhere. It's not like you're printing a get-out-of-jail-free card to go behave badly and say "Doesn't matter, I'm forgiven!". It's simply about contacting the softness in our hearts, so that we can love freely again.
It may feel awkward and hollow at first, because it's just your mind playing ping pong with yourself. Like, "I forgive myself... Okay great. Now what?" This is totally normal for an abuse survivor. We become so accustomed to living in the analytical fight / flight brain, that the soft feelings aren't there yet. Don't worry, they're still there, and self-forgiveness is the key to unlocking them.
Practice this whenever it feels right. Don't try to force yourself into anything. Just approach it with the gentle care you might offer to a child. For a long time, your analytical brain will be in charge of the show, trying to make connections and problem solve. Seeking breakthroughs and "ah-hah" moments. That's completely fine. The more the mind focuses on self-forgiveness, the more the body will start to catch up (slowly).
As the body catches up (may take many months of practice), waves of raw emotion and feeling will start to come up. Tremendous amounts of guilt, inadequacy, jealousy, and shame. The old analytical mind will snatch back control, because it is terrified of these feelings, of vulnerability. As you watch your mind try to take back control, your feelings will only grow stronger. You will see a self, clinging to the story, desperately trying to defend its existence and maintain control from the bad thing ever happening again.
The more we watch this self, the more natural self-forgiveness becomes. We see how much we are suffering with these walls, and we start to sense there is something so much better on the other side. When we experience this old shame in our hearts, we can approach it much differently this time.
Instead of a story, a reason, or an answer, we're letting it all go. We are forgiving the "bad self" - the feeling self - so it can be embraced fully, instead of locked away. We stop holding ourselves hostage and stop living a life of pain avoidance. We are accepting the truth that we are human. If we could have done better at the time, we would have. No one willingly seeks unhappiness.
If you need a place to start, I highly recommend checking out Tara Brach's free podcasts on self forgiveness.
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