I recently saw the Classic movie again, "Forest Gump". I admit, I hadn't seen it since it came out in the theaters in 1994. Considering what I've been through and all the research and insights I've had on this difficult journey, I watched it from an entirely new perspective. There is so much truth to this film.
It seems everyone can relate to one of the characters, as it is a story of the human condition.
No one leaves this earth having escaped some kind of grief or trauma or accident or heartache. How is it that something will destroy one person and that same thing propel another to become a better and stronger person? What is the secret to having something destroy you versus having it empower you?
I've figured it out the hard way. Some have it easier than others and it is based on how they are raised. When it comes right down to it, it is a choice. I'm not saying that making the right choice is an easy journey. It is very difficult in certain circumstances. Let me explain from the movie's perspective.
Obviously, you are going to have to watch the movie in order to read further, so if you haven't done so, go watch it now and come back to this blog when you have.
There are only a few main characters in the film. Forest, his mom, Jenny, Lieutenant Dan, and his friend Bubba. As you watch the film, they all experience a number of tragedies in their life. Some they experience together. Some are destroyed or nearly destroyed by their traumas, but Forest isn't. Bubba and Jenny end up making some choices that end up killing them both in the end. Bubba suffers a relatively fast death compared to Jenny. Lieutenant Dan almost loses his way but in the end, he jumps on the Forest bandwagon and ends up surviving and thriving despite his injuries.
Forest, appears un-jaded, unscathed, authentic, happy, grateful and hopeful despite being bullied as a child, experiencing death and dying in war, and heartache of lost love. There's a key foundation that Forest had that the other characters didn't. That was his lifesaver. Unfortunately, many people go through life without this lifesaving foundation and that is what differentiates who ends up thriving no matter what the circumstance.
I believe I found the key to this and knowing what I learned the hard way, I think it can help you too, with whatever you are going through. Even though you might not have received this lifesaving foundation, no one is too old to adopt it as a new philosophy.
So, here it goes. Forest was an unusual child. If he grew up in Jenny's family, he probably and most likely wouldn't survive. Too many obstacles to overcome from the very beginning. However, Forest was born into privilege. Not privilege as most of us assume. Not wealth or education. His privilege was the key to happiness! His mom made sure of two main things. These are the same two main things that are the two main commandments in the Bible. Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. The key being, that in order to love our neighbor as ourself, we truly have to see and love ourselves as God sees and loves us. Anything less than that, and our love for others is flawed based on our false perspective of the love we have for ourself.
How do we achieve this? This is a really tough task because most of us walk around feeling shame and guilt about so much. We all walk around not feeling good enough. Granted, this task is so much easier if you have a mom like Forest had. She always told him from the very beginning how God loved him and how she loved him unconditionally. No matter what horrible thing happened in his life, nothing could take away the knowledge that he was loved dearly by God and his mother. That anchor went with him wherever he went to remind him who he was and how valuable and invaluable he was. To keep moving forward because to God and his mom, he was made in the image of God to make a difference.
Now, take Jenny. Poor Jenny. Molested and abused by her father. Made to feel like her only purpose in life was to be an object to use like trash. Conditioned from a very young age to believe she had no value except to be a receptacle of release for another disrespecting man like her dad. She had no idea how to handle the sweet love of Forest except to run away from it and feel like she didn't deserve to be treated so kindly by someone.
Forest's response to everyone's dysfunctional reaction was always kindness, love, understanding and concern. Every time Jenny would up and leave, he never got angry at her. He was sad but let her be her free self to figure out things on her own. Forest didn't sit there sleeping with prostitutes and drowning his sorrows in alcohol like Lieutenant Dan did. He just moved forward.
What made Forest just move forward while Jenny and Lieutenant Dan were stuck? I believe it is because he was taught the difference between right and wrong and actually lived out integrity. We all pretty much know what is right and wrong. Actually doing what is right is another thing altogether.
Here's the difference. Forest did what was right despite how he felt and the other's made decisions based on their feelings. Those feelings got them in trouble. Those feelings made them become addicted to drugs or alcohol or sex and made them break the law.
So, this is what I have discovered. Those in trauma, and the mentally ill, and the addicted, are making choices based on their feelings not on what is right. They are focused on what happened to them in the past and the pain of what someone did to them. They can't let go of it. This is what destroys them.
Forest did what he said. He kept his promises. He chose a good purpose to focus on. And when he needed to get through deep grief, he just kept running towards the goal. He made a promise to Bubba to open up the Bubba Gump Fish Company and he honored his word as himself. He couldn't let his friend down by breaking a promise. He didn't focus on himself and his happiness. He focused on what was right. Keeping his word and doing it for other people despite the obstacles.
Lieutenant Dan got caught up in his own problems for awhile and even became bitter and resentful of Forest for his success, but eventually, allowed Forest to let him help him to succeed and move forward as well. We must have a higher purpose besides our own. We must forgive and rewrite our story.
I experienced trauma and abuse because I projected my integrity onto those who weren't capable of having the same. I keep my word and I expected those I trusted to keep their word as well. Despite the evidence, I held onto the empty words. I was hopeful and unjaded like Forest year in and year out. I was in denial. One thing Forest didn't do that I kept doing was expecting the person with a reputation of having no integrity, to suddenly learn it. I thought that it was my job to teach them. That if I just showed someone over and over and over again what a person of integrity does, that they would learn to be the same. What I ended up learning is that repeated betrayal can end up destroying you. Forest just moved forward. He focused on doing the right thing and trusting God to provide. He was blessed with money and wealth and prestige but he never made them his gods or idols like so many of us do.
Sometimes seeking another's approval is a big idol as well. Forest really didn't care what other people thought of him. If they didn't like him, that was their problem, not his. He was going to love people despite of themselves but they didn't have to love him back.
How do we even begin to do this? It's a choice. It is NOT EASY in the beginning. Especially when we are in trauma, we want so badly to make decisions on our feelings and our fears. We have been programmed by our abusers to expect the worse because they are constantly causing crises all around us. They do this in a calculated way. By the time you escape the relationship, you are in terror. Every decision you make is based on fear. The more decisions you make based in fear, the more terrible things happen.
So, how did I do it? By the time I escaped, my ex had tried to kill me in at least 7 different ways that I know of. I was all emotion, shock and fear. I got to a point during a PTSD episode where I truly felt evil was taking over my mind. I cried out to God to take my mind back! From that day forward, I CHOSE to do things based on FAITH and not FEAR, based on HOPE and not DESPAIR. IT WAS SCARY. I felt the fear and did the right thing anyway.
Instead of negative curses always coming out of my mouth about my life and the future, I started saying positive things out loud to myself. Instead of saying I was a failure and repeating all the curses that were told to me by my abusive father and my abusive ex-husband, I started saying blessings over myself. "God is changing me for the better everyday", "I'm smart, I'm healthy, I'm lovable, I'm capable, I will make it". Believe it or not, this works. There is scientific evidence that this heals the brain. This along with FORGIVENESS. Yes, you must forgive your abuser. We will explore that in another blog post, but focus on the future and not the past. Focus on a purpose outside of yourself and when you are feeling extremely down and depressed, focus on God, pray aloud to God and read the Bible. It doesn't have to be formal. It's better if it's not. Talk to him like you are talking to a concerned friend. Have a conversation and ask for him to give you strength. Believe it or not, this truly healed me. Focus on keeping your word, restoring your life, restoring your health, restoring your faith and restoring your friendships. One-day-at-a-time and one-step-at-a-time. Go slow. Give yourself grace. Don't stress out. Eat healthy, drink plenty of water, start walking outside, take a bath, get plenty of sleep but not too much. Make yourself a schedule and stick with it.
Start with just one or two positive steps a day. Remember, only focus on the day you have not tomorrow and not yesterday. Baby steps. Don't get caught up in guilt and shame for not being where you want to be rather than where you are. Start truly believing that God's timing is perfect in everything. That every single moment is a moment of learning and opportunity. That there is no reason to rush or get anxious or upset. Slow and steady will win the race and you will be able to look back in a year and see how far you have come one day at a time. I believe in you and so does God!!