Forgiveness – A Crucial Component of Step 9 in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.Forgiveness is a process and a choice.  It is the opportunity to untie the bindings of your pain from the past.   As part of the course of action, forgiveness involves confronting your fears and compassion to allow yourself time to physically and emotionally heal.  Exposing yourself to persons, surroundings, or objects that you fear offers the opening to have a corrective experience.  You are able to reorganize your memories and repair those recollections.

For example, as a child you may have experienced being attacked by a Rottweiler.  You were not physically hurt but the immediate threat startled you.  As a result you froze.  This is a natural fear response.   The terror was never discussed by your family or friends.  Thus the thoughts and emotions were not processed and disorganized memories formed.  Avoiding the discussion of the incident caused your fears to worsen.  Unprocessed feelings transform to generalized fears and all or nothing thinking.  Consequently you became fearful of all dogs and avoidant of the neighborhood where the attack occurred.

By exposing yourself to another Rottweiler that doesn’t attack gives the opportunity for a remedial and healing experience.  Difficult memories are allowed to surface.  The thoughts and emotions that were once suppressed can now be processed.   Processing gives way to reorganizing your memories.  You learn that not all Rottweilers show aggression.  You broaden your capacity for more knowledge and understanding.  All Rottweilers don’t attack.  There are some aggressive dogs and others that are very loving.  Black and white thinking transforms to accepting that Rottweillers and all animals have trustworthy and safe parts and some that are not.  For example, a cat that was once abused as a kitten associates touch as a threat.  Thus when you pet him, he bites.  As long as you don’t pet the cat, he is kind and playful.  Animals and experiences are complex and make up many parts not just good or bad.

The same is true for people.  Most parents, loved ones, and friends do not intentionally try to hurt you.  The hurtful behavior that was endeared was taught and passed down from their parents.  As a child, you have no choice but to tolerate the emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.  You are completely dependent upon your caretakers for safety and protection in whatever capacity they can.  Thus you learn to protect yourself, suppress your emotions, and tolerate abuse.  The abuse continues until you learn that as an adult you have a choice on what to tolerate.  You can now tune into your emotions and express them in a healthy manner.  As an adult you can courageously choose and confront those in your cycle of abuse.  You can choose to forgive.

The persons on your list from Step four are participants of the cycle of abuse.   By respectfully approaching those on your list, you may be able to have an open discussion, grasp a better understanding from their perspective, explain yours, and possibly heal old wounds.  All participants must be willing to have an open mind and to listen and speak compassionately from the heart.  It is possible to heal hurt with positive, respectful dialogue.  As you both come to a new understanding, unresolved emotions are replaced with restored, transformative memories to a place of forgiveness and healing.

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