The Choices of Emotional Survival
Is it possible to hold ourselves accountable for our actions and forgive ourselves simultaneously? When every human is confronted with emotional pain, they endure it. Sometimes we enduring pain and grow from it, sometimes we do not. The way any individual manages the inherent pain of human existence can not be held against them. Drugs, food, alcohol, work, sex, exercise, we all have different ways of dealing with the challenges that life presents us. I spent years ruthlessly judging myself for my survival techniques, and it brought me nothing but additional pain.
My dad was slowly dying of brain cancer, and I was escaping through drugs and alcohol. I couldn’t be present, it was too painful. Even if I could be momentarily present, I would retreat immediately into an escape of some kind. I judged myself for this behavior. I was high when I came home to find that my dad could not speak anymore, and the pain of that choice was almost unbearable. I was cursing myself without valuing the experience as an opportunity to learn. I could not change the ways that I chose to survive emotionally, it was instinctual. I can only learn from my experiences and recognize that I want to act differently in the future.
I became aware of the potential to learn from my experience when I began to forgive myself for the choices I had made. I gained perspective, and was able to view my actions with an objective clarity when I stopped lambasting myself. Forgiveness did not exclude accountability, rather, it was an essential component that supported accountability. Relentlessly judging myself for my choices during my encounters with emotional pain prevented me from truly holding myself accountable and learning from my mistakes. When I exercised compassion towards myself, I could see my choices as an effort to survive emotionally, and practice techniques that would allow me to act differently in the future.