Tagged: “Anger”

Can a person get rid of anger permanently simply by letting it out or is forgiveness necessary to be rid of anger?

The answer depends on the level of injustice and the depth of the anger.  If the other was insensitive without being cruel, then your expressing an appropriate, measured level of anger may take care of the issue.  On the other hand, if you have been treated very unfairly and your anger is deep, then catharsis (letting out the anger) may not be effective.  Forgiveness then may be required to rid yourself of the anger.  Please keep in mind that catharsis by itself, when the problem is serious and the anger is deep, actually can increase the anger and lead to a pattern of being angry and expressing it.  Catharsis then needs forgiveness to deal in a healthy way with the anger.

Learn more at How to Forgive.

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My Journey to Forgiveness

I never expected that one day I would be asked to give talks about forgiveness.  Forgiveness was the farthest thing from my mind. How could I ever forgive someone who hurt me so much, someone who was supposed to love and adore me? After all, I was her child.  By the time I was twelve, I made a pack with myself that I would never let anyone hurt me the way she did.  I lived a life protecting my heart, keeping connections at a distance and sabotaging intimate relationships if they got too close.  And where did I end up?  Middle aged and single.

On the outside, I looked good.  Had a successful career in a glamorous field and was acknowledged with prestigious awards along the way.  My face, my projects, my stories were featured on the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post and others.   As I aged, I managed to keep my weight down, my figure looking not too far from college days and my face less wrinkled than many of my contemporaries.

I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “Why are you not married?” or said “The man that gets you is a lucky person.”

A young Gayle and her mother Mildred.

Underneath this glossy package, I was seething with anger towards my mother.  My accomplishments didn’t matter.  From head to toe there wasn’t anything right about me. My hair was too frizzy, my butt too fat and my nose too big.

Growing up and well into adulthood in my mother’s eyes, I just couldn’t do anything right. And my brothers couldn’t do anything wrong.

Little did I know, the obstacles I faced in my childhood would end up being the biggest opportunity of my life.  By facing those challenges, I figured out the secret to finding forgiveness and the power and freedom that gives you.

Growing up in my house was like growing up in enemy territory and you’re the only one who was captured.   From the moment I was born, mom took ownership.   She was at the helm controlling how I looked, spoke and behaved.  Not always successfully as she wrote in a letter to me in college, “You are my product and you are destroying it.”

When my nose started growing so did her relentless campaign to get me to have a nose job.  No, I never had a nose job.

My brothers were mom’s bouncers. The one closest to my age did not want me around as you can imagine he had been the youngest. And he let me know it on a regular basis – destroying my dolls and then trying to do the same with me. And my eldest brother did as he was told.

When mom wanted me out of her way, she had my brothers put me on top of the refrigerator where I could not get down.

There is one evening mom refers to today proudly as the night she pulled a Mommie Dearest on me. Remember the movie about how Joan Crawford was so abusive to her daughter Christina?

I was a teenager and out with my friends.  I came home a bit later than she expected. When we pulled up to my house, my mother was standing on the street with a glass of water in one hand and the dog’s leash in the other hand.  With my friends  watching from the car and the head lights shining on us my mother threw the water in my face, and told me to walk the dog, she didn’t care if I got raped if I wasn’t already. That was just the beginning.

Never knowing what I would do that would trigger her rage on me, I lived in fear of my mother, in fear of her punishments, often humiliation.

The fear led me to being sick and I had headaches and dizzy spells. As soon I left home I never had headaches again.

Gayle, shown above — and, yes, she’s Jewish, so the “nose” problem (mom wants her to have it “fixed”) crops up early on and never goes away.

When I hit middle age, I finally gave in to mom and agreed to visit plastic surgeons for consultations about my nose as long as I could have a camera crew with me.  What resulted was a funny short film about mom’s relentless campaign to get me to have a nose job.

After the Q&A, people stood on line to compliment my nose, and then tell me their story. It wasn’t always about their nose. It was about criticisms they endured from their mother.

I saw how many people were hurting and knew I was not alone.

It didn’t matter if I was attaining success in my career, traveling the world, making friends internationally – underneath it all I was fuming and holding onto victimhood.

I had given my power away.   I was still reacting to mom’s insults and criticism.  And often would give it right back to her, having learned how to have a sharp tongue and knowing how to leave a lasting scar.  I was not proud of my behavior and it was not making me happy.

I was emotionally and mentally trapped hanging onto the anger.

I knew I would have to change how I thought about my mother in order to heal myself.

I knew if I was going to find peace and happiness I would have to forgive her. I just didn’t know how.

Mom was now well into her 80s. I asked her if she would be willing to go on a journey with me to resolve our relationship in front of the cameras and she agreed. I knew I had a golden opportunity. In her mature years without the responsibility of taking care of children, my mom’s humor came out and she was not only willing but also happy to show herself to the world.

The result was my award winning feature documentary LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER!  It’s been released widely. Unforeseen, this deeply personal film has been transforming lives all over.  Due to the humbling response, I have launched workshops and talks teaching forgiveness called NO MORE DRAMA WITH MAMA.

So how did I do it? How did I forgive my mother?   There are three main steps.

The first step is to UNDERSTAND.

I knew I had to first understand my mother and to do so I would have to dig into her past. With cameras rolling, I started my investigation and learned about her pain, her father’s suicide attempts, the untimely death of her baby sister, and the financial hardships.  And the childhood she never really had.

A big light bulb moment came when I played a psychological board game. I threw the dice and it landed. The facilitator asked to me to imagine my mother as a little girl. At that point, I knew about her childhood and saw a wounded little girl. Then she said imagine yourself as a little girl.  I knew my pain and that I was a wounded little girl. Then she said now you both come together.  Wow! She was no longer my mother. We were both wounded little girls.

The second step is REFRAME.

By learning about my mother’s pain, I was able to understand her and instead of seeing her as an abusive mother, I now reframed how I looked at her and saw her as a wounded child.  And by doing that I changed my expectations of her.

The third step is FORGIVE.

When she said something critical, it bounced off of me, as I knew she was a little girl in pain herself.  By reframing how I looked at my mother, I was able to actually feel compassion for her and forgive her.  I rendered her abuse powerless over me. And as a result her insults were less often until they faded away. Why?  Because they had no effect on me. I laughed them off or ignored them and at times gave her love in return.

What makes us so upset is when we have unfulfilled expectations.   When your three year-old daughter looks up at you and says, Mommy or Daddy, I don’t love you anymore. What do you do?  You bend down and pick her up and give her love because you know that is really what she is asking for.  So when you mother tells you that you are fat, you will amount to nothing, imagine she is a child crying for love and respond accordingly.

I forgave my mother. I didn’t say I forgot. You never forget.


“If you don’t forgive and you hang on to the anger and resentment, it hurts you and affects all aspects of your life – your relationships and health.”
– Gayle Kirschenbaum


While I was making LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER! I reread my childhood diaries and relived the trauma. I ended up getting an autoimmune disease. It came out through my skin, and I developed a bad case of psoriasis on my hands that they were bleeding and I needed to wear vinyl gloves it was so painful. After trying various medical treatments and not getting lasting results I turned inside and realized I got myself sick due to the emotional stress and I will heal myself.  I did so by changing my thoughts and getting rid of the anger and forgiving my mother and feeling love.

The biggest gift you can give yourself is the ability to forgive.

Forgiveness is emotional freedom. It unleashes the perpetrator from holding the noose around our neck, which we have allowed.

Once I learned the secret to forgiveness I was able to apply these steps to other people and used this method to also forgive my brothers.  I know now when I am faced with a difficult person and situation how I can turn it around.

As I look at others who are acting unkindly, I reflect on myself and know when I am unkind to others, it is coming from fear, insecurity and anger.  When we are feeling loved we are not reacting nasty to others.

With that said, by showing kindness, compassion and love to someone you can actually transform them.

Our BRAIN is the most powerful organ in our body. It is our thoughts that control our  emotions and actions.

By changing my thoughts I was able to reframe how I saw my mother and forgive her.

Mom has become my closet friend.  Today she is in her 90s. We have been traveling the world together for the last 10 years.  We speak to each other daily by choice because we love to share and communicate.

To recap the three simple steps:
1. UNDERSTAND
2. REFRAME
3. FORGIVE

Think about your own life.  Who hurt you so badly that you have not been able to forgive them?   Remember you have the power to make the choice whether to forgive or not.  We all have a story.  Be the hero of your story not the victim. 


To learn more about LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER!  and watch it,  visit: https://www.lookatusnowmother.com/   It is also on Netflix, Amazon and several other venues.

To learn more about Gayle Kirschenbaum’s work or to book her for her talks, screenings  and workshops, visit:  https://www.gaylekirschenbaum.com/

To watch Gayle’s TED Talk, visit: No More Drama With Mama

Email: Gayle@gaylekirschenbaum.com

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Is Forgiveness Transcending the Past…..or Is It More than That?

Recently, I have been hearing people say that forgiveness is transcendence.  By this they seem to mean that as people forgive, then the past injustices do not affect them any more.  They have risenabove the pain, the anguish, the sadness, and the anger.  They have moved on.

If this is all that forgiveness is, then forgiveness is not a moral virtue.  A moral virtue, such as justice or patience, is for people.  It reaches out to people.  It aids and supports people by putting the particular virtue into action and that action points toward people. When I exercise justice, for example, I honor the agreement that is part of a contract into which we both have entered.  I am patient by restraining from harsh words when in a long line or when those who are my teammates at work are slowing things down.

Moral virtues are concerned with goodness expressed toward other people.

If forgiveness is part of love—a moral virtue—then it cannot be only about transcending the past because one can transcend that past by being neutral toward those who have been unfair, who were responsible for the hurt.  The forgiver need not enter into a direct relationship with the injuring person if he or she continues to cause harm.

Yet, the forgiver wishes the other well, as Lewis Smedes in his 1984 book, Forgive and Forget has said.  The forgiver is willing to do good toward the other, if the other changes abusive behavior.  Being neutral might be part of the pathway toward forgiving, but it is not its end point.


 The end point of forgiving is to express love, as best one can, toward those who have not loved the forgiver.  Even if a person cannot develop that love for whatever reason, loving the other nonetheless is the endpoint of true forgiveness.
                                                                                                        – Robert Enright


Transcending the past might be a consequence of forgiving, but it is not forgiving itself…..if forgiveness is a moral virtue.

Robert


Learn more about the definition of forgiveness at Forgiveness Defined  then read Dr. Enright’s best-selling book Forgiveness is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope. This self-help book is for people who have been deeply hurt by another and who are caught in a vortex of anger, depression, and resentment. It walks readers through the forgiveness process Dr. Enright developed to reduce anxiety and depression while increasing self-esteem and hopefulness.

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What are some of the most common triggers that you see after a person forgives?  What I mean is this: What do you see as common among people that re-engages their anger after forgiving?

The two most common triggers are seeing the person again if they are not in an ongoing relationship and dreams about the event and the person.  These two commonly reignite anger.  Another, if you are in a relationship with the person, is when the person reproduces the kinds of behavior that were hurtful in the first place.  For example, suppose Person A calls you a disrespectful name.  If Person A uses it again, it can trigger new anger in need of forgiving again.

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After Nine Agonizing Months of Captivity, Elizabeth Smart is Freed, Forgives Her Kidnappers

The Arizona Republic, azcentral.com – You’ve probably read or heard the story, but it’s worth repeating with a final twist.

In the early morning hours of June 5, 2002 — the day after she received awards for excellence in physical fitness and academics at Bryant Middle School in Salt Lake City, Utah — 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her home at knifepoint.  The next day, the FBI told her parents, “If she’s not home in the first 48 hours, she’s probably not coming home.”

Smart did not return home quickly despite a massive regional search effort involving up to 2,000 volunteers each day, as well as dogs and planes. The search continued for weeks.

Her abductors, homeless street preacher Brian David Mitchell and his wife Wanda Barzee, held her at encampments in the woods 18 miles from her home and in San Diego County, CA.  They kept her shackled to a tree with a metal cable to keep her from escaping.

Nine agonizing months of captivity

Mitchell repeatedly raped Smart during her captivity, sometimes multiple times daily, told her she would never see her family again if she tried to escape, and regularly threatened to kill her. He often forced her to drink alcohol and take drugs to lower her resistance, and he both starved her and fed her garbage. 

Elizabeth Smart (left) and her captors.

Smart endured the unimaginable for nine agonizing months before she was spotted with Mitchell and Barzee in Sandy, Utah, on March 12, 2003 by a couple who had seen Mitchell’s photos on the news. Smart – disguised in a gray wig, sunglasses, and veil – was recognized by officers during questioning, and Mitchell and Barzee were arrested.

After years of delays and mental evaluations, Mitchell was found guilty of kidnapping and transporting a minor across state lines with intent to engage in sexual activity. On December 11, 2010, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. For her role, Barzee eventually was sentenced to concurrent terms of fifteen years in state and federal prison.

Forgiveness is not acceptance

For Smart, the ordeal carried a heavy price tag but she says she has long since forgiven her captors and has not allowed it to define her life. During a recent presentation at Indiana University Kokomo, she explained it this way:

“When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a victim anymore. I see an activist, I see a wife, I see a mother, I see a friend, I see someone I’m proud to be. 

It’s not what happens to us, it’s what we decide to do next, how we move forward, how we pursue our lives.

It’s not the acceptance of the action done against you. I don’t think forgiveness is saying, ‘It’s OK that you raped me.’ It’s not saying, ‘We’re going to be friends now.’

I will never be OK with the act of rape. There is no circumstance on earth in which I will say rape is OK.

It is not that you accepted the evil that was done to you. It is an acknowledgment that it has happened, and that you have dealt with your anger, your grief, and your pain, and you are able to then move on.

It’s loving yourself enough to let go of your pain and move forward.

If I get to the end of my life, if I die, and I find out religion is one big lie, I still won’t regret it because it’s helped me to live a better life, to be a better person, to care about people, to believe in forgiveness, to believe in hope.”

Since her abduction, Smart has gone on to become an advocate for missing persons and victims of sexual assault. With encouragement from her family, Smart has stepped into the public eye, writing two best-selling books, and lobbying with her father for laws to protect children including the Protect Act of 2003.

Smart also founded the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, to raise awareness of predatory child crimes. She is now married to Matthew Gilmour; the couple has two young children.


Read more:

Kidnapped at 14, held captive and raped, Elizabeth Smart says now: I was lucky – The Arizona Republic, azcentral.com

Elizabeth Smart shares story of hope, triumph, forgiveness – Indiana University Kokomo 

Elizabeth Smart Biography – BIOGRAPHY.COM


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