Or, Forgiveness: Epilogue
“So let me get this straight. You were kidnapped, imprisoned, then abused by your rescuer?” Maureen summarized.
I wanted to prove her wrong. I had to show her that it wasn’t quite like that. She mustn’t reduce my smart, worldly parents to such shocking terms. But as I searched unsuccessfully for proof to support my feelings, I had to accept that she was right. Being flown first class to the best schools in the world does not change these facts.
My mother left my dad just before my ninth birthday. She dropped me off with friends who were instructed not to let me go outside, then disappeared. After a week or two, I was taken to an uncle’s home where I was locked in a room. Suddenly and unexpectedly, my dad walked in. I was thrilled to return home with him! That is, until he moved his girlfriend in.
One weekend many years ago, I experienced a series of unusual coincidences that led to meeting a woman who told me that my mother (who was already dead) was present and wanted me to know that she was sorry for the way she had treated me. But that treatment had helped me become strong and independent. Apparently, I was never meant to stay within the family and community into which I had been born. My mother’s behavior had helped set me on my life’s path of going away.
Now as I work to heal from Chronic Fatigue, spiritually and physically, a wider picture is emerging. Many of my childhood experiences acted as triggers for severe Chronic Fatigue. Yet, I’ve come to believe that my healing experience is central to my life’s journey. I’m convinced that the bridge from damaged to whole is forgiveness. And I’m learning that wholeness is not perfection. My spiritual health lies in accepting my own imperfections.
In the past I was often turned off by the popular definition of forgiveness which I perceived as requiring one to act as though the offending event never happened. If you’re pretending it never happened then you don’t even get to learn from it which seems impractical, even harmful. Then I read A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and his words on forgiveness actually made sense to me:
At times you may have to take practical steps to protect yourself from deeply unconscious people. This you can do without making them into enemies. Your greatest protection, however, is being conscious. Somebody becomes an enemy if you personalize the unconsciousness that is the ego. Non-reaction is not weakness but strength. Another word for non-reaction is forgiveness. To forgive is to overlook, or rather to look through. You look through the ego to the sanity that is in every human being as his or her essence.
Tolle describes the ego as identification with physical, thought and emotional forms or structures, leading to a lack of awareness of one’s connectedness with the formless whole. He suggests watching the news on television or reading a history book to find out what we create when the delusion of separateness governs whatever we think, say or do.
What does all this mean on a practical, earthbound level?! For me, the first answer is always to breathe and take a moment. I also like what Oprah Winfrey says is her favorite definition of forgiveness, which is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different. She was talking about the sexual abuse of boys at the time and she went on to suggest that you start by speaking up so that the shame can begin to heal. You have to mourn, but don’t get stuck there. Here are more quotes from A New Earth that I have found practical:
There is only one perpetrator of evil on the planet: human unconsciousness. That realization is true forgiveness. With forgiveness, your victim identity dissolves, and your true power emerges – the power of Presence. Instead of blaming the darkness, you bring in the light.
… to refrain from complaining doesn’t necessarily mean putting up with bad quality or behavior. There is no ego in telling the waiter that your soup is cold and needs to be heated up – if you stick to the facts, which are always neutral. “How dare you serve me cold soup…” That’s complaining.
Don’t try to let go of the grievance. Trying to let go, to forgive, does not work. Forgiveness happens naturally when you see that it [the grievance] has no purpose other than to strengthen a false sense of self, to keep the ego in place. The seeing is freeing.
Recently I saw the split that had taken place inside me when I first encountered childhood events that did not fit my understanding of who I was. After that, it’s as if I kept the person I believed I was supposed to be alive, while I carried the traumatized version of myself around. That takes a lot of energy! I instantly realized that I needed to bring those two selves together by acknowledging my truth.
These ideas of integration, ego, forgiveness and my destiny being away from my birth community, were already swimming around in my head when I came across Colin Tipping. He began a psychiatry practice a long time ago where he happened to get a lot cancer patients. He ultimately concluded that “one of the causative characteristics of people with cancer is a marked inability to forgive” and came up with a system of Radical Forgiveness which he says bypasses the intellect and uses your spiritual intelligence. His steps are:
- Tell the story
- Feel the feelings
- Collapse the story
- Reframe the story
I plan to use his worksheet to see how much deeper I can go with forgiving and accepting my past. In the meantime, I am grateful for things that went right with my mother, father and stepmother. I am particularly grateful to my stepfather, whom my mother married three years before her death. He displayed curiosity about me and asked questions about my life. He wasn’t content to simply accept whatever he had been told by my mother and father. Whatever the sources of unhappiness in my parents’ hearts, I want to represent the light that’s also there. Maybe my true healing can heal them too.
Thank you for reading and witnessing my forgiveness gift to myself. Happy Birthday to me!