It’s that time of year that we celebrate freedom and liberation. I’d be anti-American if I say I didn’t support this, but for Native people it is a further example of the treachery we endured in the formation of this country. I’d like to take a different view on this and challenge ourselves to free ourselves and liberate ourselves.
As with most of my columns, I take a perspective of growth, development, and evolution, particularly mine. I don’t ever ask anyone to ever agree with me wholeheartedly, but take what I write as a different viewpoint of the world. Take what you need and leave the rest. That’s what good writing does. It inspires you.
Ok, freedom from the past. In my many years of work in social services, I’ve witnessed many people struggle with a difficult past. They are coming to terms with hurt they experienced. They are trying to understand why something happened in their life. They are realizing a new way of being in the world.
It’s been an extreme privilege and honor to work in the helping profession. I enjoy it. I learn from the many people that I’ve sat with over the years.
What have I learned and come to understand? We hold onto to pain for too long. Sometimes we have to let something go. We cannot go back in time and have a different childhood experience, or force someone to treat us differently, or make someone love us.
I know for myself, I’ve held onto pain and hurt from my life. I sat with it while it festered. I allowed it to change me. Until one day, my therapist said to me, ‘Why are you doing this to yourself Nick? All you are doing is wallowing in self-pity and feeling bad because your family didn’t live up to your expectations. They are your expectations, not theirs.” Wham!
In order for me to move on with my life, I needed to let go of how I believed it should’ve gone, or what I expected from people. Duh! Yeah right. I spent many hours feeling bad while the people I felt slighted me were laughing, loving, and living their life. They had no knowledge of how their behavior impacted me. I was the one who was torturing myself. I was stopping myself from living a full life. I had a chance to laugh, love, and experience joy, too.
Don’t get me wrong, people who have harmed you should be held accountable. If you have a legal action, then take it. If you have the type of relationship where you can talk with someone about they treated you, then do it.
I do have to share, I’ve been pretty lucky that my family has been helpful in my healing. Throughout my therapy, my parents remained available to me. They sat through some pretty hard stuff. They listened to my hurt and pain. They acknowledged and owned what they needed to. They understood for my wellbeing that I needed to reconcile somethings with them. I’m ever so grateful for that opportunity. Before my parent’s died, we got a chance to grow together.
Ok, ok, ok, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that this process is some pretty hard work. If you truly want to feel freedom from your past then you’ll have to put in the time and look some ugly truths in the face. You will have to decide what you can tackle on your own, and what you may need a therapist for.
Finding a therapist isn’t only calling the clinic up and making an appointment. You have to meet with the therapist a few times before you decide if you want to work with them. Ask them lots of questions. Ask them questions about their professional experiences. Ask them if they are capable of helping you heal. If you feel comfortable with them, then stay. If not, then move along and find someone else. Remember, this is all about your own healing. Someone needs to earn the right to hear your story.
Liberation from past hurts is incredible. I don’t harbor any ill will toward people. Of course, there are people in my life who I’ll never reconcile some hurt with. I decide who is in my life, or not. I am not required to have someone in my life who is harmful to me physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
At the end of the day, this is my life. This is my liberation. This is my opportunity to live my life to the fullest. I don’t intend to look back on my life with lots of regrets, I want to look back with incredible moments and profound memories. I want to say, I did my best and I lived. Yes, I lived to my fullest potential. Now join me…