Thursday, May 21, 2009

FOG = Fear, Obligation and Guilt

The 12-Step Programs have a lot of great acronyms that help to keep us all sober and focused on recovery. Today I was grateful to read this one: "FOG stands for FEAR, OBLIGATION and GUILT. When we work on these three issues the FOG begins to clear."

These three emotions are exactly what I am feeling as I consider the fact that I'll be back in my home state where my stepfather lives during the Father's Day weekend. I just told my therapist yesterday that my FOO (family of origin) has a real committment to obligation. With the obligation comes guilt.

The truth for me today is that no one can MAKE me feel any emotions I don't choose to feel. However, I can make a decision to turn my sense of fear, obligation and guilt over to my Higher Power and ask for guidance in my thoughts and actions. I can ask for healing and acceptance in my heart and in the heart of my abusive stepfather who I truly want to forgive, not for him, but for me. I have realized I cannot give away forgiveness. It is a gift I give myself. But I cannot do it alone. I need others to help me learn to love myself enough to let go absolutely.

People have told me for years ... "You don't owe him anything." I KNOW I don't, but knowledge carried in the head, doesn't always make it to the wounded spirit that still wishes for those beautiful father/daughter relationships you read about on Hallmark cards. There's still that feeling of being unsettled, knowing that my stepfather could die at any time, and I might feel as if I never took the chance to release my pain face to face. I chose to stop talking with him about three years ago, because I was tired of "putting on a happy face" and pretending that I was not hurting, but unwilling to scream and rage at him either. At times my silence has been punishment, and at times it has been necessity. But because of it, I've been able to heal without continuing to live the lie.

I'm grateful today to be able to speak these truths, to have this wisdom and to desire healing that will come in God's time, not in mine. I'm grateful for the willingness to pray for God's guidance and to be quiet and listen for it. My therapist and a recovery friend have both recommended writing a letter to my stepfather (not necessarily to be mailed) which outlines what happened, what the results were and what I am doing about it. Both have said that unless I can own my own power, that going to see my stepfather during this trip was not a healthy move, but one based in classic codependence. Just for today, I can accept their guidance as gifts from my Higher Power.


Bernadine said...

I love this post! I'm so glad I found your blog. You seem to have a lot of recovery.
Also, as a girl from the midwest I can totally relate to your guilt feelings. I've got a lot of the same with that with my Dad... things I'm no where near dealing with. He gives me the "you should call more often (blame = all my fault) every time I finally do call. I haven't cut him off totally, but it's somewhat there. I have cut off my very hurtful parents-in-law. I agree with you-- it allows us to get on with our own healing without having them there to drag us down. That's the bravest step of all, no matter what anyone else may think.
I'll be sure to stop in and check on your recovery, if only for the inspiration.
Thank you!

Eli said...

Sounds like you're processing this stuff in a positive way. You said it well though, that what your head knows doesn't always make it to your heart. I hope your trip goes (went?) well.

My wife finds it easier to pretend like nothing is wrong when we see her abuser at family events. It makes me angry and I want to handle it differently, but it's not my decision to make.

Enigma said...

My FOO is also big on obligation and guilt trips.  I stopped talking to my biological father for over 2 years now, and because of this decision, my paternal family has withdrawn us (me and my sisters).  Though we did not suffer from any physical abuse at the hands of my father, the emotional abuse was just as painful and has left deep imprints in our hearts and minds. And though it’s become very lonely without my family or the illusion of a “hallmark card” dad I wanted desperately,  I decided that it was more damaging for me to have a relationship with an abusive person (regardless of his parental status), than to have no father at all.  And so it has been – my father has not been present for graduations, weddings, medical emergencies, nothing at all.  I can’t guarantee that I won’t regret my decision someday, but all I know, is that I am doing what is best for me today – at this moment. That’s all any one of us can do.  If you decide to go on this trip, I wish you much serenity and strength.  Thank you for sharing :)

Willow said...


See if writing a letter works for you. It can be very liberating and freeing - sent or unsent.

I had a one time sexual abuse incident when I was 9 yrs. old. I had already done healing work over it but it resurfaced when my own daughter at 3yrs. old started to be invited to play at the home of friends without my presence. I became totally freaked over it, thus it brought me around to dealing with it again. I read Laura Davis' book, The Courage to Heal, which was excellent. She suggests letters confronting the abuser. I did it not knowing if I would send it or not. Starting from that place allowed me to write it with only myself in my mind, not the other person. It turned out to be very freeing and I did send it to the man in the end. In my case, I did not identify myself as I had grown to discover that I was one of many that he had done this to. I felt that by doing it this way he would think of ALL the children not just me. He worked for the school and had access to children.

I started my letter with, "I am one of the many faces of the children you sexually abused. You have probably minimized to yourself the harm you may have caused me or other children. I want you to know how you affected me and even the life of my own child....."

It was not a letter of malice or hate but one of needing to let him know the truth of his actions and how they shifted the life of a child in an instant. Not only this child as a teen, a young woman, a mother but that his actions caused an unhealthy effect even in the life of her child. A child he would never know, never even see. I did not want him to pretend, rationalize or minimize what he had done to me and others.

I felt very empowered by it because I was able to speak as a woman. As a woman, I spoke not only for the child I had been but for the child I was raising. It changed how I was able to teach her to keep herself safe and it helped me to be able to see clearly and listen to my gut to protect her because I no longer came from a place of fear.

Angela said...


This is a great post! I'm sorry I haven't been here in awhile; I've obviously been missing out!


thailandchani said...

There's a lot of wisdom in all you have to say here. Other people only have the power we choose to give them.