Dr. E, as his patients called him, had an usually challenging time keeping focused on what his client was saying. After practicing 27 years, he knew how to concentrate; but not five mintues earlier, he’d had the kind of awakening himself, which he’d seen countless times before with his own clients.
“I’ve finally gotten to experience what I’ve seen numerous times in my clients,” he kept repeating in his head. “But I gotta focus. Mark is about to have a breakthrough himself.”
“Excuse me, Mark,” Dr. E interrupted. “What was the first thing you told me this session” he inquired?
“I’m a horrible son,” Mark responded.
“Precisely,” Dr. E confirmed. “And I want you to be completely honest with me, Mark. If you were to call your mother on the phone right this moment, do you think she would agree with you”?
“No” Mark said with great hesitation.
“So why then are you a horrible son,” Dr. E demanded.
“I told you once, Doc. Please don’t make me say it again,” Mark pleaded.
“Okay,” Dr. E agreed, “But if all the reasons you gave me aren’t enough to convince your mother, then why doesn’t she think you’re a horrible son too”?
This question puzzled Mark. He hadn’t thought about it that way before. After a brief pause, he came up with the best answer he knew, “I really don’t know, Doc.”
“Fair enough” Dr. E concluded. “So could you go up to your mother and give her the same reasons you gave me why you’re a horrible son and convince her you really are that bad?
“No I couldn’t” Mark mumbled after bowing his head.
“Is it fair to say that even if you did go up to her and give her those reasons, she would, in some ways, forgive you for those mistakes”?
Mark hesitated again, “Yes” he finally muttered.
“Then why is it okay for her to forgive you but it’s not okay for you to forgive yourself”?
Mark raised his head with a puzzled look in his eyes. “What do you mean, Doc? Forgive myself”, he asked? “Why would I do that” he smirked?
“Why would you not,” Dr. E demanded. “Why shouldn’t you,” he said even louder. “No one, not me, not your mother, thinks you’re a horrible son. Your wife doesn’t think so and your kids don’t think you’re a horrible father so who’s the only one that thinks you’re a horrible son”?
“Me, I guess,” Mark said softly.
“That’s right” Doc quickly replied. “And basically, it’s not true, is it?” Dr. E demanded.
Mark sat in silence but shook his head in agreement.
“And since it’s not true, it’s basically a lie,” Dr. E continued. “You’ve told yourself over and over again until you’ve finally believed this lie, right”?
There was a long pause, “Don’t shake your head,” Dr. E ordered. “I want to hear you this time”!
“Yes sir,” Mark reluctantly said with his head bowed, trying to hide the sniveling.
Dr. E’s voice immediately softened and continued in a calm and convincing manner, “This is precisely what you forgive yourself for, Mark. Forgive yourself for believing the lie you repeated to yourself so many times.”
Mark’s head slowly raised. At first there was a look of bewilderment in his eyes but it was soon replaced by a slow-swelling tear. He began to rock back and forth in his chair and the very same angst he showed at the beginning of the session ironically signified a feeling – an awareness – which he’d previously never experienced.
“I get it Doc,” Mark uttered through the sniffing and quick, short breaths. “Wow” he shouted, “I see what you mean Doc,” he continued. “It feels amazing. It’s incredible”.
Mark’s body nearly trembled and he stopped caring about trying to hide his tears. “When I forgave myself, it was like someone took a rock off my chest,” and he burst into uncontrollable tears.
As hard as he tried, Dr. E couldn’t hold his tears back either. Mark told him he needed a hug and Dr. E quickly obliged.
After a few minutes, Mark composed himself and the first thing he said was, “You know, Doc, moments after I forgave myself, I asked myself ‘why did I continue to think I was a horrible son’ and the answer came to me. It was so much easier to excuse myself for making those mistakes. I could just keep telling myself I was a horrible son so then the mistakes were easier to live with. At least I thought it was easier”.
“But now I realize,” Mark continued, “That it really wasn’t easier, it was just an excuse. All that talk about shame finally hit home. I finally got it, Doc. It’s all starting to make sense,” Mark concluded leaving a big smile on his face.
“Now I don’t have any excuses do I Doc”? Mark emphatically stated.
“What do you mean,” Dr. E asked?
“I know now what emotional healing feels like and now it’s time for me to grow as a human being. I don’t have any more excuses to be the same ol’ Mark. I can’t be the same person stuck with the same problems. I have no other choice but to become a better version of myself,” Mark concluded.
“Precisely,” Doc agreed. But give yourself a little time to savor and celebrate this day. So many people go through life without having this realization but you did it, my friend. You did it,” Doc exclaimed.
“Take this moment and honor it as a significant step – a breakthrough if you will – and give yourself some credit. There will be some challenges ahead that will possibly make you question your progress so always remember this moment and hold on to its meaning.”
On the drive home, Mark could not wipe the smile from his face nor the joy he felt. At one point, he had to put on his sunglasses to hide the tears from anyone looking into his car. He knew this would be a session he would never forget.
Read about the first part of Mark’s session by clicking here. Self-forgiveness is often the first step in emotional healing; however, it’s important to understand exactly why and for what we are forgiving ourselves. If you or someone you know are unclear about this process, I am available to help.