Archives for 2012


Steps to Forgiveness

 He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.  ~George Herbert


Forgiveness is setting a prisoner free. The miracle is, once you have forgiven, you discover that the real prisoner who has been freed is yourself, not the person who has hurt you.

It helps if you can identify the part/parts of you that continue to carry the wound. Is it the child part of you that holds on tight to the wounds that you never deserved or an adult part that feels betrayed? Think of all the faces you wear. Here are some examples of what I mean by the faces we wear (or parts) taken from my book Ragdoll Redeemed.


Gratitude for a Forgiving Heart (part 2)

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.
– Carl Jung

Having swallowed enough pills to kill a horse and inhaling gas fumes for an hour, my suicide should have worked.  I had been using and abusing alcohol, believing it to be my only comforter and my only defense against the ghost and monsters of my “sins” and my unworthiness. Driven by those self-demeaning and self-destructive beliefs, my liquid comforter deceived me, causing me to lose my hopes and dreams much the way drugs and alcohol would someday play a major role in the death of Marilyn. Like her, I was profoundly depressed and I ran directly into the arms of alcohol, a most seductive lover. Under its influence I could forget that I was not supposed to want too much out of life or expect too little. In the clutches of the insanity it caused, I wanted everything and nothing all at once. I had married Bill and brought my nineteen-year-old self—an empty satchel stuffed with pain—to my second marriage.  (From Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe)


Gratitude for a Forgiving Heart (part 1)

What happens to a man is less significant than what happens within him.
 – Louis L. Mann

Perhaps it’s because I was writing a blog series on forgiveness that I suddenly thought of my ex-husband Bill that Sunday morning while visiting Saint Theresa Catholic church in Maui.

As I sat watching three young girls perform the prayer of Our Father through their traditional Hawaiian dance, I was overcome with a sense of gratitude for the soft feelings in my heart toward my children’s father. In that moment of grace, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that if he could say he was sorry for the physical and mental abuse he inflicted on me and our children he would do so. He would do so because, like the thief on the cross next to Jesus, he knew not what he had done in his attempts to control his family in the only way he knew how, at that time.


Forgiveness: The Right to Protest (part 2)

July 3, 1945, curled tightly within the embryonic sac as if trying to protect myself even before I am born, my mother’s bitterness passed through the placenta to me. Her caustic drip of vengeful thoughts toward the man who knocked her up and then abandoned her for another, etched their way into the texture of my being. With an inexplicable knowing, I absorbed the angst she felt around her unwed status. It would be years before I would understand the reason for her uncontrolled, soul-searing sarcasm toward me and my birth. Unfortunately, reasons—even understandable ones—can never erase the scars such hatred leaves. The defacement is indelible; the deformity remains. “Shameful, embarrassing, defective,” became the standard by which everyone, myself included, measured me. After all didn’t the Bible say, “The bastard shall not enter the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation” (Deuteronomy 23:2)   Dawn Novotny, Ragdoll Redeemed


Forgiveness: The Right to Protest (part 1)

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”     ―     Harvey Fierstein

In my last blog I talked about exploring a more holistic understanding of forgiveness for the sake of our mental, physical and spiritual healing. Forgiveness and grievances are aspects of all significant relationships. I want to cast a wide net while exploring forgiveness because it is a complex issue involving many aspects, including healthy protest.

There are many ways that we can offer a healthy protest to an injury– refusing a hug by a spouse who is in the dog house, withholding the bedtime story ritual to a disobedient child, waiting a few days to return a friends demanding phone message, or withdrawing from an unhealthy relationship. There are varying degrees of protestation that we can consider, and the ability to protest is important for our mental health. It’s important to be mindful of the age appropriateness of an expression of protest as well as the time frame in which it might occur. Protest looks different when we are thirty than when we are three. The act of protest and/or the process of forgiveness will be different depending on the nature of the relationship, and will differ depending on whether the injuries are past, present, or ongoing.


Forgiveness: Ointment for a Lacerated Soul

“Forgiveness is capable of producing some of the most profound transformations you could ever hope for or imagine in your life and the lives of others.” Neale Donald Walsch

In last week’s blog I talked about the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. This week I begin the journey of focusing on healing a wound that holds your heart tethered to pain.


Forgiveness Versus Reconciliation

“The first pressure of sorrow crushes out from our hearts the best wine; afterwards the constant weight of it brings forth bitterness, the taste and stain from the lees of the vat.”      Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

While vacationing in Hawaii with my friend Jeanette in May of this year, we spoke often about the process of forgiveness. A Professor of Theology and Religious Studies and a feminist liberation theologian, her focus is on worldwide peace and justice. I especially appreciated these discussions because of her work with indigenous peoples in various countries who have suffered unimaginable assaults. We pondered the whys and how’s of forgiveness. The following series of articles stems from these discussions. To begin, I asked Jeanette to help me discern the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.


Gratitude Revealed in a bar of Dove Soap

“When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.”  -Elie Wiesel


November is often referred to as gratitude month, probably due to the celebration of Thanksgiving. The origin of the day can be traced to the Americas. The earlier celebrations have been attributed to Canada to give thanks for; surviving the long sailing journey from England through the exposures to storms and massive icebergs, bountiful  harvests and the arrival of more settlers. In the United States, the holiday is mostly traced to the 1621 celebration in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in appreciation of the fall harvest. Regardless of its origins, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and a precious reminder of the principal of giving thanks regardless of ones religious or non-religious beliefs.


The Uncanny Power of Beliefs

“Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.” (Anthony Robbins)

For several years I had envisioned a detailed picture hanging on my bedroom wall. I imagined red flowers, old buildings and the sea beckoning in the background. The image was so real that you would have thought I had actually seen the exact scene somewhere in my travels. As we were remodeling our bedroom, we began a search for something close to the image I held in my mind’s eye, combing through hundreds of on-line – works of art. Then last week, my husband and I walked into Ross’s and viola, there was the precise picture, framed and all. We stood speechless, alternately staring – at the picture and each other.


Self-Leadership in a Polarized World

 “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” Friedrich Nietzsche

I recently attended the 2012 Internal Family Systems Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. What a beautiful state framed against the budding colors of fall. I loved being there.

The conference was entitled, Self-Leadership in a Polarized World.  Dr. Richard Schwartz, founder of the Internal Family System model, while making introductions, stated “…one goal of the conference is to generate more Self energy that can be brought to bear on the polarization within us, our clients, and our county.”