When it comes to moving on and letting go of an abusive past, it is not uncommon to hear that one needs to forgive. The act of forgiveness is highly regarded by many people and in numerous schools of thought. Religion has also espoused this outlook from the very beginning.
So is it really a case of simply forgiving ones parents for what happened or is there more to it? And if one doesn’t forgive them is the other option to simply carry these destructive memories around?
So let’s take a look at what the word forgiveness actually means. On the dictionary.com website it is described as - 1. To grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve. 2. To give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation, etc.). 3. To grant pardon to (a person). 4. To cease to feel resentment against: to forgive one's enemies. 5. To cancel an indebtedness or liability of: to forgive the interest owed on a loan.
At an intellectual level, forgiveness sounds like a good idea and as something that is morally right. Here one can come to the conclusion that, to do anything other than to forgive would be to create further problems and yet more stress.
And based on the recommendations of others and on how one perceives the past, one may want to forgive and move on. And perhaps for some people this process does work.
This leaves one with two options; either one can go the intellectual route and forgive ones caregivers. Or one can avoid all talk of forgiveness and remain immersed in the feelings, sensation and thoughts that are a product of theirchildhood.
At this point the first option sounds better doesn’t it? Who would want to constantly be in their past, if they could just forgive their caregivers and move on. It sounds like the logical option and to be the one of reason. And why would one want to be constantly trapped in their past experience.
I think a good way to describe this scenario is that of house that has been destroyed. There is debris everywhere and no matter where the owner looks there is work to be done. This can lead the owner to either ignore the problem or it can make him want to try and rebuild the house from the ruins.
To the owner there is no other option; all he sees are these two options. If the owner were to avoid the problem it would be similar to intellectualising and to try to rebuild it from the ruins, would be analogous to being trapped by the past. He hasn’t thought about removing the debris and starting again.
Two Sides Of The Same Coin
On the surface forgiveness sounds like a terrific idea, as opposed to being constantly affected by the past and living a life that is like a walking nightmare and hell on earth.
If we look at this from a deeper level, we can see that these are actually two sides of the same coin. What happened all those years ago had consequences and these consequences produced internal debris - like in the metaphor above. The debris has to be dealt with before anything else can be done.
what this produced all those years ago will not simply disappear as a result of some logical or moral conclusion. And neither will constantly being overwhelmed by what happened.
Facing The Truth
What needs to occur is the expression of what happened all those years ago. But this is not the same as being overwhelmed by what happened, as one would be in their day to day life or their earlier experiences.
This involves being with an individual who is aware enough to allow one to express and feel all that they were not allowed to feel as a child. And this has to be done without the judgement of what is right and wrong and what should be felt and what shouldn’t. Everything that one feels is fine and has to be completely and wholly expressed.
Whether this is an individual with all types of qualifications or one with very few is irrelevant, what matters is how honest this person is with themselves. And if they can hold the space to allow the whole truth of one’s past to be revealed. If they haven’t faced their own truth, they are likely to sabotage another from finding theirs.
How Is This Different?
The reason this is different to the other two options, is because in both of those options one is identifying with their past. This means that one is holding onto the past. And out of this attachment to the past one is either running away from it; via intellectualising what happened and forgiving; Or they are being constantly exposed to what happened by regressing to the past
Through the assistance and support of another conscious individual, one can begin to feel what happened as well as observe the whole process. The ego mind will hold onto the past because it is familiar and therefore safe. So by this process, one will begin to be able to realise they are the observer of their mind and of their experiences. And this will allow one to let go of the past.
And like a seed that will grow into a big oak tree; one can gradually begin to build up their own ability to observe, through the other persons validation and acknowledgement.
The Forgiveness Trap
One of the reasons forgiveness appears to be such an attractive option is because of the stability this gives the ego mind. Due to the original abuse that took place one is inevitably going to carry fears of their caregivers. And these fears will have been repressed and pushed out of conscious awareness.
This means that whenever one goes to express these original feelings, these fears will appear. And unless one has developed the ability to observe these fears, one will be controlled by them even as an adult. Here one will regress to the hopeless and dependent child that they once were.
Ruled By The Past
And then one will want to avoid those feelings, so that one doesn’t have to relive those original feelings. The intellectual standpoint of forgiveness can allow one to avoid feeling the original wrath of the parents.
When one regresses to the wounded inner child, one will embody the Childs needs once more. This child needs to be approved and accepted to survive and forgiveness allows this to happen.
Is Forgiveness Important?
I believe that it is not about forgiving or not forgiving ones caregivers. What is important is to honest with oneself and to allow these original feelings, thoughts and sensations to be expressed in a conscious manner.
Because to simple forgive is to regress to the child one once was and this doesn’t lead to awareness or of actually letting go off the past. It only leads to the denial of what happened and to the continuation of repression.
The baggage of the past cannot be dealt with by thinking about it or as labelling it as right or wrong. These memories have become frozen and trapped in the body and avoidance is what is keeping them there. Through the process of awareness the weight of the past will begin to diminish.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.