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Tina B Tessina

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Hello, and welcome to the "Happiness Tips" newsletter. In addition to a helpful tip for increasing your happiness, you can find out where I'll be signing books, and how to contact me, along with "Happiness Tips from Tina" in every month's newsletter. Please remember to add tina.tinatessina.com to your "acceptable" list, especially if you're on AOL.
Newsletter Dated: 3/3/2007 12:59:33 PM

Subject: Happiness Tips from Tina: Learning Forgiveness

Dear Friends:

Welcome to our new subscribers, I love hearing from all of you, and I've printed your e-mail responses at the bottom of this newsletter. I welcome all suggestions for topics. To make sure your spam system doesn’t reject this newsletter, please add tinatessina@Compuserve.com to your list of acceptable e-mail. To unsubscribe, see below.
Happiness Tip: Learning Forgiveness

Learning to forgive those who hurt us is an essential life skill, because it helps develop inner maturity, frees us from emotional bondage to the other person, and helps us develop the power to move on.

Forgiveness begins with learning to forgive yourself for any damage you may have done to yourself and others with destructive habits and for allowing others (beginning with your family, and including later adult relationships) to be unkind or abusive to you or take advantage of or disrespect you.

My definition of forgiveness is a bit different than you may have been taught. The dictionary defines to forgive as "to give up resentment of", which I have found is nearly impossible if you’ve been really hurt – often there are too many real injuries to forgive. It can also be unwise, because resentment is like a reminder to yourself to "watch out -- this hurt me before". Ignoring the past and forgiving others who may still be abusing you now ("He didn't mean to beat me up, he was just drunk" ) gets you hurt or mistreated over and over again. Dependency is often perpetuated by being “nice,” forgiving and forgetting that someone has hurt you, and not confronting the person or ending the relationship.

Forgiving yourself for past destructive behavior, if not based on a real, inner change of attitudes ("it wasn't my fault, I had a rough childhood."; "I can't help it, my anger just takes over.") becomes dysfunctional permissiveness and self pity. Forgiving yourself without learning from your destructive behavior, and without determining how to change, is aptly termed denial by recovery programs. If you don't recognize the consequences of your destructive behavior, and accept responsibility for it, you have no incentive to change.

However, simply hanging on to resentment will not really protect you, or allow you to let go of the past and move on in your life. As long as you hold onto the resentment, you will feel like a helpless, hopeless, dependent victim of your past history. You do need to learn to forgive, but just giving up resentment is not sufficient. You need a new model of what forgiveness is.

The need to forgive may include several things:
*You may need to forgive yourself for doing emotional, mental or physical damage to others.
*You may need to forgive yourself for doing emotional, mental or physical damage to yourself.
*You may need to forgive yourself for letting others damage you in those ways.
*You may need to forgive others (parents, children, spouses, friends) for hurting themselves in all the above ways.
*You may need to forgive others for doing emotional, mental or physical damage to you.

Safely and honestly forgiving all these past hurts is not accomplished by simply giving up resentment. First you must find a way to be safe from future damage and abuse. Once you have learned how to create safety you can rely on, and you know you have the ability to protect yourself from damage, and to prevent yourself from causing damage, forgiving past destructive behavior, (your own and others') becomes easy, because you are no longer threatened. When you have real reasons for resentment, both against others and against yourself; the assurance that you can take care of yourself so that you won't be hurt again is the only thing that makes true forgiveness possible.

Recognizing the consequences of your own destructive behavior and taking responsibility for it does not mean punishing yourself; it means becoming aware of the ideas and feelings that are behind your behavior, and learning how to change them. It is possible to love and approve of yourself now and still be aware that you have allowed yourself to be damaged by yourself and others, and that those experiences have been painful and destructive. If you've caused yourself pain in the past by being involved with abusive people, you can learn to understand your inner reasons for feeling dependent on such abusive people. By using your inner awareness and the following exercise, you can change the patterns that keep you helpless in such relationships.

If your own behavior has been damaging to yourself or others, you don't have to continually blame and punish yourself in order to remember the consequences of destructive behavior. Instead, you can use your inner awareness to find the deep inner feelings and beliefs underlying your behavior and make the necessary changes.

Although it is often not possible to prevent others from hurting themselves or attempting to hurt you, you can take steps to see that their rage and destructive behavior does not threaten or damage you. Remembering who hurt you is not the same as condemning them. You can be wary of their out-of-control or problematic behavior, and recognize that they are fallible human beings, too, and often more damaged by childhood experience than you were, and that until they repair their own damage, as you are repairing yours, you must keep a safe distance. In fact, the possibility that someone might lose you, or that you will keep a safe distance because of his or her destructive behavior, is often the only type of confrontation that will cause him or her to accept responsibility for bad behavior.

The following exercise will help you to learn new ways to cope with situations where you were hurt by others. Through visualization, you can learn to protect yourself from others by rehearsing and changing old painful scenes as many times as you need to make sure you know how to take care of yourself.

It is not easy to be sure an old behavior problem (your own or someone else's) is gone forever. Even when you or the other person has done inner work to correct the problem, in a situation of enough stress it may still return. This exercise will help you learn how to take care of yourself in difficult and painful situations, and give you a chance to practice various solutions and responses until you find the ones that work, without risking any real- life consequences. This is learning to care for yourself in very realistic terms, and it begins with healing old, painful scenes.

This exercise will help you to take control of events in your past and replace them with new, more effective behavior. I believe “Time Travel” is the single most powerful exercise you can do to clear out old traumas and build autonomous skills, including the ones that keep you safe from emotional, mental, or physical harm. It will help you develop the self-protection needed to achieve forgiveness and let go of damaging behavior, situations and people.

Through consistent use and practice of this exercise, you will no longer need resentment to protect you, because you have learned how to ensure your safety. You will be able to release and forgive old hurts, recognizing that the people who caused them (yourself included) didn't know any better ways of behaving at the time. As you learn how to protect and care for yourself, you will also learn how to recognize when others are uncaring, and what to do about it.

You can use this exercise to heal various hurts. For example, if you're having a recurring dream that troubles you, you can use this exercise to replay the dream, and it won't bother you any more. By using scenes from your present or future (a quarrel with your current mate, or an encounter that you're afraid will happen with someone who's angry at you) you can use “Time Travel” to practice risk taking (rehearse in advance social events where you'll meet new people, or talk to someone you've been shy around).

To allow yourself the full impact of the exercise, without interruption, read the following steps into a tape recorder and play them back.
EXERCISE
TIME TRAVEL

1. Visualize the source of anger or pain: To begin, sit quietly by yourself, and close your eyes. Visualize yourself in a painful scene from the past. You will learn how to correct the scene, take care of yourself, forgive whoever created the problem, and forgive yourself for your own participation. Allow the troubling scene from your memory to appear around yourself. You may get a mental picture, or if not, just imagine the scene as you remember it. Remember to use your senses, to establish your scene clearly. If your scene is very painful, or frightening, view the scene as objectively as you can, as though it is a story about someone else.
2. Enter the scene as a hero. Like a time traveler from the future, visualize yourself in the scene as the person you are today. There will be two of you present, your self who had the original experience, plus the you from today, who will fix things.
3. Take charge of the scene. Now it's time to take over the story and protect yourself. Do whatever is needed to stop whoever is upsetting, hurting or neglecting you. If the other person is too badly behaved, you can make them leave-- you have total power here, in your imagination. Use that power to protect yourself. It often helps to surround yourself with loving people, or to call in the police if the scene is violent.
4. Take care of yourself. The early version of you may be frightened, angry, confused, feeling helpless, or overwhelmed with grief -- the "heroic you" can be rational, effective, competent and reassuring. You may encounter some resistance to doing this, in the form of feeling incapable of taking care of yourself. You can do this over and over in your mind until you get it right. You can try to fix the situation in several different ways, before you decide which is best. Remove yourself from danger; comfort and reassure; correct any lies you were told by telling the (positive) truth and establish a friendship with yourself. If your former self needs some information or help, provide it. Promise that you will never be left at the mercy of ignorant, malicious, incompetent, or uncomprehending people again.
5. When you feel safe, consider forgiveness. When you have corrected the scene enough that you are out of danger and feeling safe, think about what happened. Analyze what went wrong and who made mistakes, and decide how to avoid being the victim of those same mistakes again. Once you know you will not be hurt again (because you'll do what it takes to protect yourself,) you'll find that you are ready to forgive whomever hurt you, and will understand that they just don't know how to behave.
6. Go to a safe place. Close the scene by visualizing yourself in a safe, secure place, completely out of danger. Promise yourself that you'll be there when you're needed, and you’ll be careful, strong and self-protective. This means that you will not leave yourself alone, dependent, or at the mercy of people who are hurtful, and you will not be “nice” and allow someone to hurt you. Do not leave the scene until you feel calm and secure.
6. Repeat regularly. After you have done “Time Travel” the first time, you can keep your promise to keep yourself safe (and build self-trust) by checking in with yourself as often as needed, until it becomes an unconscious habit. Doing this exercise repeatedly, whenever old, painful memories arise, will eventually clear out traumas and correct the damage done while helping you practice the autonomous skills needed to take care of yourself. You'll find that you instinctively know when someone or something is hurtful to you, and when you're being hurtful to others. You'll also know what to do to correct the situation, (don't be alone with violent or emotionally hurtful people, don't allow yourself to be in tempting or dangerous situations, and so on) and you'll feel safe enough to forgive those who are confused and behave in hurtful ways, because their behavior will no longer be dangerous to you.

Overcoming your resistance to facing yourself and becoming aware of your inner feelings and beliefs, and learning how to care for yourself effectively, and to release the hold the past has on you, helps you develop emotional autonomy. The more adept you become at self-awareness, learning and forgiveness, the more autonomous you can be. The hurts of the past can be healed, and you can feel capable of taking care of yourself. When you feel stronger than those who attempt to hurt you, forgiveness comes naturally. (From The Real 13th Step) © 2004 Tina B. Tessina

© Tina B.Tessina, 2007
If you want more, here are some related articles you can download from my website at http://tinatessina.com/monthly_column.html

Anticipating Change
Attitude: From Negative to Gratitude
Coping with Critics
Emotions as Weather
Family Violence Q&A
Friends in Need: Interventions for Domestic Violence
Getting Along With Each Other
Getting Out of Your Way
Handling The Green-Eyed Monster
How to Keep Yourself Out of a Violent Relationship
How to Write a Love Letter
Letting Go Takes Love
Mirrors and Teachers
Patterns of Change
Resolving Inner Anarchy
Winning The War Within
You Be The Judge

Appearances Calendar
Please check out and post on my “Dr. Romance” blog: http://drromance.typepad.com/dr_romance_blog/

Upcoming radio shows, TV, and lectures are all posted on my website at www.tinatessina.com

Online
You can find me on the Internet, as the "Dating Doctor" on www.couplescompany.com, "Dr. Romance" on Yahoo!Personals at http://personals.yahoo.com/us/static/content_date (Look for my predictions for romance for 2006!), a designated Expert for Redbook Love Network and I'll also answer your questions at http://www.tinatessina.com.

I welcome your feedback and support, please contact me at tina@tinatessina.com.
Wishing you joy,
Tina B. Tessina, PhD
www.tinatessina.com

MAILBOX
Re: Weaving the Web
Thanks for being a valuable web to all of us! Ramona
And thank you, Ramona, for caring.

Dear Tina, I love the "pay forward" idea. Great concept. Thanks so much for sending it to me.
Again, thanks for the great newsletter. Tom
Thanks, Tom.

Tina, I completely agree with your thoughts. Thanks, Julie Bathke
You’re welcome, Julie – I guess great minds think alike :-)

Tina, it's great to get your newsletter. I don't know why anyone would criticize Oprah, except conservatives who may argue that her school doesn't help enough people but really are just feeling guilty because they're not putting their own excess money to good use. This happens so much these days with grouchy conservatives. I listen to Rush and Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly
just to listen open-mouthed in amazement at the b*sh*t that they try to pass off as the truth. I've heard them call generous celebrities "limousine liberals." Hey, anyone who has enough money to own a limousine has an OBLIGATION to be a liberal!
David
Well, David, it’s clear you’re not a conservative. Thanks for your comments.

Dear Tina:Thank you so much for your newsletter. For some reason, it never occured to me that my 37 years of private practice as a psychoanalyst would bear fruit far beyond the people I helped to heal. Warm regards, Alma Http://alma_bond.tripod.com
Absolutely, Alma: everything you give just keeps moving out, like ripples on a stream

Hello Dr. Tina, This is the first time responding to one of your emails "Weaving the Web", left me with a sense of completion or "full circle". I am an electrical contractor and continuing three generations of the trade. I have felt extremely frustrated with the caliber of work ethic, or the lack there of, found in much of construction today. I am teaching my helpers, and I can see in them the hard work and care that I put into them. I am very proud that I had a part in giving back all of the care and pride that I have for my craft. You have highlighted that what we contribute to one person is very important, and all of the people that they touch and make a difference for is gratifying on a level I will never completely understand. Thank you again for words of wisdom and compassion,
Danny
Thanks, Danny. You have indeed made a difference.

Hi Tina,
In response to this from your newsletter: "Each person we teach, encourage, or help to heal is then empowered to carry that teaching, encouragement and healing on to others." I can only say "Amen! Spot ON. I can only pray that I'll be able to pay half as much of the blessing forward that has been bestowed upon me."
Tami
You’re welcome, Tami, and keep on trying.

NOTE TO MY READERS:
The newest spam scam is to use someone's web address to send out spam. So, if you get unsolicited e-mail from anyone other than me @tinatessina.com, I hope you'll understand I didn't send it, and I can't do anything to stop it. Please don't let it stop you from enjoying this newsletter.

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