Below you can find another chapter from the book Thank you, mum. I hope it touches your heart.
(For the Swedish version, scroll down and then select Next post.)
The shelves at your house were stuffed with books. I scoured them and found Your Erroneous Zones by Wayne D Dyer. I started skimming through it. You caught me and told me it was a strange book. The author suggested you should always forgive yourself. Even if you committed a horrible crime like killing a child. You thought the whole thing bizarre. No way could you do that!
I read the book. I can't recall how old I was, maybe fifteen, sixteen. I remember how it affected me. The book as well as your reaction affected me. Is it possible to forgive yourself? To live guilt-free?
You'd never done anything so awful as hurting or killing someone, Mum. You didn't even swat mosquitos. You merely shoved them to the side, or you simply watched them with fascination. Still, you were often filled with guilt. You felt as if you weren't enough. As if you weren't valuable, even though we're all valuable the minute we're born.
I took a leadership course when I was doing my master’s in engineering at Chalmers University. A criterion was a personal meeting with the headteacher, a psychologist. It felt strange to go there. Talk to a shrink, why should I? I thought Crocodile Dundee had a point when he asked why all Americans had a psychologist, "Don't you have mates?"
I also wondered what shrinks were good for if you had friends.
We got to choose a topic for our meeting. I chose to play it safe, picking something easy to bring up. Now, as an educated life coach, I know that's called a "safe problem." Problems, which we cling on to, to avoid deeper rooted issues. I asked him what to do about my perpetual perfectionism. I was never satisfied, always on to the next milestone, then the next. To my great surprise, I was asked to describe your reaction to when I did something you and Dad didn't approve of. It felt a little Freudian. What did it matter what you did or didn't do when I was a kid? I said something about Dad getting angry, whilst you, Mum, got more disappointed. Apparently, that explained it.
Through your disappointment, I felt blamed. I tried to get rid of that blame by always doing my best. I saw the pattern. One way for you to get exactly what you wanted, Mum, was to get upset. To get hurt. Nobody wanted you to be sad, we rushed and hassled to make sure you'd cheer up. We felt guilty and tried to get rid of the feeling.
No wonder you acted that way. Defense mechanisms we're taught as children often remain with us all the way through adulthood. Subconsciously. You never wanted us to feel guilty. You never wanted me to become overly ambitious. You had just been taught that if you were sad, you got comforted with understanding, repentance, and apologies. I noticed, to my great horror, how I was walking the same path.
If my husband (boyfriend at the time) said anything remotely offensive I got hurt, cold and distant. Until he finally apologized. An apology I would mercifully accept.
Thank you, shrink, for helping me break the merry-go-round, which would have otherwise kept spinning for generations. Thank you, Mum, for giving me a reason to understand this better.
Guilt and forgiveness run like a red thread through my novels. I know now, without a doubt, that guilt is never beneficial. Everything can be forgiven. It already is.
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This was a chapter from the book Thank you, mum. A book for those who miss someone.
If you would like to give the book to someone you think can be soothed by it, or to yourself, you can find it on Amazon on any of the links below, or you can search for it on your Amazon of choice.
Amazon in the Netherlands (if the price of the paperback is higher than about 17 euros, check out another market)