"Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other to die."
- Buddhist Saying -
Forgiveness – the by-product of taking space, bringing awareness and a realisation that blame results only in your suffering. What is the role of forgiveness in long term and childhood trauma. How does one forgive something they may not even fully cognate? And, most importantly, how does forgiveness in these spaces give rise to healing?
I want to start by saying I am not demanding you forgive anyone. I am also not dismissing the other of their own responsibility. People do horrible things to each other, some through a conscious melting pot of justification and some unconsciously through traumatic response or some blend of the two. Some people are also just awful, but not as many as we like to demonise. It is the nature of my work to empower you and invite you to be radically responsible and ultimately powerful in your life so that you can live a great and joyful life.
Forgiveness is only about the self. It has nothing to do with the other. In these moments the other is merely a reflection of something that has become obscene within us. This has perhaps been my hardest lesson, realising that the most damaging person in my life was not outside of me. It was not the other. You may at this point protest – perhaps I have never had a narcissist in my life? In a world like ours, this, is impossible. We have all met the narcissist, we have all had him or her imbedded at some point in our lives and indeed I have had moments of deep image related narcissism and like many I have even had the narcissist in my bed. To me this experience was one of the greatest in my life. Through the depths of CPTSD – complex post-traumatic stress disorder - to wishing it was all over because for the first time ever in my life the words – “I hate my life” fell from my lips in despair. I felt trapped, exhausted, and mentally and physically dis-eased for over a year. Triggered by anyone who crossed boundaries. Quick to kill anyone who patterned behaviour even remotely similar. I was irresponsible. It was all him, it was all the other.
But had I not been permissive, agreeable, and self-sacrificing in some vein attempt to have a person in lack fulfil my incompleteness then I would not have been open to the bargain that caused so much suffering in both of our lives. The behaviour of going outside of yourself to fill the gaping hole within yourself will ultimately leave you bereft and lacking even more. After all, the message you give to existence is exactly what it reflects to you.
If one can accept that such a venture is an incredibly destructive and selfish practice, one may have a chance to own all that they have created. Perhaps even forgive oneself for the ignorance. Had I not allowed this misbehaviour in my life as a bargain to be loved and feel supported, I would not have found myself in such an ill state. All whilst living in hope of my fairy tale coming to life and that the person, I had thought him to be, had hoped he would be, would appear. Had I not endlessly dismissed behaviours and indicators that revealed all was not quite settled within this human, perhaps I would not have spent years sick with agony. Had I also not ultimately dismissed this resounding reflection that the same was true of me - my enmeshment trauma outlaying the ultimate reflection of his narcissism each requiring a bargain from the other. One willing to give everything, the other demanding it all, for some glimpse of safety - a perfect and bottomless match until together they hit the bottom of that empty well in one bloody bath. To be all powerful in everything we create in our life we must also be wholly responsible for that which we attract. Unconsciously, we know. Unconsciously, we are fully aware that we have bargained to be part of the tribe and we have sacrificed a bit of freedom in the process, in that fear, in that lack of confidence.
Why? Why have we done this? This has been the ultimate bargain of our time. Belonging for safety. It was once necessary.
Enter organised religion.
The concept of “good” and “bad”. Let’s not forget the ultimate rewards and punishment of heaven and hell. How long will it take us to realise that it is irresponsibility that is hell. That the circling mind soufflé of blame is born from the inability to claim that which we have created. Blaming your partner, your colleagues, your socioeconomic position, your skin colour, your sex, your council, and society oh and of course your parents for your misery is the most disempowering act you can engage in. It is the crux of how this matrix keeps you within it. When you wake up to this you will have to forgive yourself for the unconscious co-creation of your own hell.
Of course, the fear of being labelled as a “bad” person creates a mental block whereby a person is often unable to take responsibility. Blame has become such an interesting function within existence. As if somehow, there is something outside of us. As if something can take on an attribute of “good” or “bad”. As if these dualities actually mean anything.
It is all just learning.
How can learning ever be bad?
This is an inclusive existence. Your senses and education may tell you that what you see is outside of you but in fact this is illusory. Your experience both reflects you and is you.
Buddhism and quantum physics – along with a few other traditions centred in a practice around meditation – observe that we are not as individual as we would like to believe. We are, in fact, fragments of “source” playing out different ideas, experimenting in 3D form. Within the spiritual interpretation it is understood that this existence we share is essentially a school for souls. An opportunity to upgrade collective vibration through the practice of individual enlightenment. If we play with these ideas, we will see that they have merit. Sit in meditation long enough and maybe the truth of this will also be revealed to you. If this is true, then blaming the outer world for the suffering of the inner world is essentially blaming the inner world… Oh… That might be a problem.
So now we come to the crux of it. Struggling to forgive? I have many times. Not because I didn’t want too. I very much did. I have for some time been aware that the swirling thoughts of anger and bitterness and of course self-blame have never served me. They were an agonizing blade twisting in my solar plexus and brutalising my thoughts every time. Through meditation I have a developed an impartial observer that watches this process enabling me to tap my own shoulder: “you realise what you are doing don’t you? You are being irresponsible? You are blaming!” I have knowingly drunk my own poison many times. Recently I found myself bitter towards my mother for who she was and wasn’t for me. Even I am laughing at that sentence. My mother is a good woman who should be and is very much for herself. She has fought her way through many elements of life for our family. Often not getting it “right” but so triumphant in our survival and so courageous in the face of obstacles. In my need to reach out to someone and my realisation of the feeling I could not reach out to her, I was angry. In my perception, her need to be useful would be greater than my need to truly have space held for me and it would energetically be more exhausting than keeping my issue to myself. In essence she, hadn’t done anything. I just felt she could not do as I needed. Perhaps also I had felt this as a child. I used to say dad was for hugs and mum was for food. Possibly a reality more common in this world than we think. A woman often stressing for the health of the home more than any other family member. In that stress, that fight or flight response, she moves into survival. Unable to give, while her system protects itself. While emotional availability significantly downgrades.
With my understanding that my mother could not be held to account, what was I to do with this swirling bitterness?
It is one thing to observe one’s self-created hell, it is another thing to get out of it. How is this done? First observations may trigger your mind to try and solve the problem. The first thought – I must stop thinking this way. Good luck with that. The adage is indeed true: What you resist persists, louder usually until the volume is all consuming. I will remind you of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and his preoccupation that resulted in the extinction of the entire cast.
The trick is to observe and only observe. This is more of a skill that it sounds. This is why we practice meditation, and this is why active meditations have become very useful for the modern mind. We are in fact so busy in our minds the easiest way to create space when swirling in thoughts is to replace them with chanting. Internally in your head or out loud for a few minutes a day. This active form of meditation helps to create space so that your observer can just observe without the noise to which the emotions are attached to and amplified by. You might think this sounds like ignoring the problem. Yet how can you ignore something you have observed and acknowledged? You cannot and you have not. This process of poisoning myself was over very quickly when I shifted to an internal chant. The mind no longer noisy with bitterness I was able to enjoy my mother’s company and observe the emotions as they moved through my body understanding exactly why they were there.
When I have felt my mother could not be who I needed when I needed it, I have felt this process reveal some childhood story that has become a trauma in my pain body. This invitation to observe and become familiar with, was a healing in my life. It could easily not have been. I could have stayed in some form of blame. Hating on her for this perceived failure or continuing to resist the thoughts and swirling into the madness of my own bitterness. The funny thing is through this process there became no need for forgiveness. Everything dissolved. At best perhaps my humility could lead me to ask her for forgiveness.
There are many people caught up in this idea of healing. But healing happens if you get out of the way! Meditation helps you to get out of the way and chanting or prayer is one of the simplest ways to start. the work of forgiveness
Gifted to me many years ago:
"Oh great spirits please help me and all beings to be happy, may all beings please forgive me for any harm I have done to them.”
Erin Zen Warrior x