Parent Caregivers – 12 Step Program
Step 5: Admitting our Wrongs & Forgiving Ourselves
Today in the Parent Caregivers, 12 Step Program Step 5 is admitting our wrongs & forgiving ourselves.
In the first few steps, we discussed many things including: Power greater than ourselves, making a decision to turn our will and our lives over to that power., and Making a Moral Inventory of Ourselves. As we continue our Parent Caregivers series: 12 Step Program, we will talk about admitting our wrongs and forgiving ourselves.
The authors of the book suggests using a journal to write down your thoughts, feelings, and observations as you move through the steps. This is the fifth of twelve steps.
Giving Away the Pain
“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact name of our wrongs.”Tweet This!
Step 5 asks us to admit to God (or the higher being you believe in), to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. In our moral inventory we looked at our strengths and our weaknesses. Now we are moving along the path of honesty toward really allowing ourselves, maybe for the first time in a really long time, to look closely at how we are showing up in our own lives. Now the exciting things start to happen. We have been able to identify things that we struggle with, look at how we are currently responding to those difficulties, and we have considered how we respond to those challenges. You are doing great! This type of self-reflection takes courage!!!
In Step 4 we got to talk about some of the things we did well, our strengths. Sometimes this can invoke a little ego. We also looked at our weaknesses, something that might cause us to try to quickly blame others or find some way to keep from feeling the weakness or the shame. Yet, we are strong and powerful. We are caregivers and what we do every day takes courage. Getting from Step 4 to Step 5 will also take courage as we are asked to stay humble. This humility does have some benefits.
Benefits of Humility
It might not seem like there is a benefit to admitting our wrongs. Yet, it gives us a direct way to share our pain and accept responsibility for our actions. We may have tried to hide being angry, jealous, or embarrassed over things we have had to do as caregivers or parents. Wanting others to think we have it all under control, and not wanting others to know the truth. We want them to love us, but we really want them to love us in all that we are – warts and all. So how can they love us, support us, if we don’t let them know who we are? If we hide ourselves, if we hide our faults, they will only love the person that we are pretending to be. Can we even love ourselves if we have not faced our own demons? Our own truth?
The Fifth Step asks us to admit our shortcoming not one time – but three. If we share them again and again, we are able to come to accept them. They are no longer hidden in the closet or part of our shame. They are just who we are, part of our natural humanity. We can stop the energy drain required to justify what we think might be a shameful action. We can see, maybe for the first time, how we might be contributing to some of our own problems. Let’s take on that Fifth Step, shall we? Let’s stop living in the world of pretend and letting our problems get worse.
You might wonder what others are going to think. That is fair. What you end up finding out is that others are not repelled, but in fact they have a great deal of understanding and acceptance. Someone that loves you is more often willing to listen with great love and compassion. In all of this we also learn about forgiveness; both giving and receiving. You might find that forgiving yourself is even harder than forgiving others.
The authors suggests a lot of great exercises. We are asked to tell God, ourselves, and someone else our wrongs. Start by saying a prayer and telling God what you have done that you want forgiveness for. Continue to say this prayer each day until you feel in your heart that you have been heard. You don’t have to feel forgiven, just heard. Then, every morning look into the mirror after you brush your teeth and tell yourself, aloud, what you want to be forgiven for. Saying this out loud is important. Otherwise, you are just reciting the same thoughts without analyzing them. Really ask the person in the mirror to forgive you.
Lastly, prepare for what many is the hard part, asking others to forgive you. Make a list of people that you already trust that you want to forgive you or be part of your journey. These can include family, friends, or others you admire. If you are a prayerful person, ask God for guidance. If not, ask your Higher Power for guidance. Find three to four names that might be willing to give you an understanding ear and keep your confidence. Then, connect with them and just ask them to listen. These exercises might take some time. It will start out difficult, but finding the listening ear of a good friend and/or becoming your own friend will reap more rewards than you can ever imagine.
Admittedly, at first I didn’t think that I needed forgiveness. I was in denial that my daughter’s diagnosis affected me at all; I wanted the world to see a great Mom. Any dishonesty was not intentional, but just like many of you, I just didn’t deal with it at all. For example, I thought maybe if I had eaten a better diet or had taken better care of myself during my pregnancy she might not have had her diagnosis. I drank a diet Pepsi or two, yet I held onto the belief that somehow those few drinks gave my daughter an autism diagnosis. There were a million little things like these that I would push down and ignore, creating so much stress and shame. I was going to be a caregiver for my sweet daughter for her entire life, I couldn’t hold these things inside forever.
I started talking to another mother that also had a child on the spectrum. First of all, I was shocked that I wasn’t the only one that had these thoughts or feelings. Second of all, I was surprised at how quickly I tried to quiet her fears, when I allowed them free reign inside myself. There is no doubt this is a hard step and that it isn’t one that just starts and stops with reading a book or a blog. Yet, I have to say that it might have been the biggest contributor to my sanity.
Look at your inventory from the last blog post and see if you feel shame related to any of the listed weaknesses. Do you have any wrongs that you might need to unburden from that list? Try making a list of a few wrongs and address first God (or your Higher Power), then yourself, and then the person that you feel you wronged. Rinse and repeat until you have learned how to forgive yourself.
What do you think of this step?
What comes up for you here?
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Source: Loosely Adapted from “Self-Care for Caregivers: A Twelve Step Approach” by Pat Samples, Diane Larsen, Marvin Larsen
- 12 Step Program – Step 10
- 12 Step Program – Step 9
- 12 Step Program – Step 8
- 12 Step Program – Step 7
- 12 Step Program – Step 6
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