Forgiveness is a *choice* by Vibha Shetiya


VibahSomeone I dearly love recently lent me a very sensible piece of advice: “You should forgive.” I know he resorted to these words out of love because he didn’t like seeing me in pain, a sentiment for which I was and remain grateful. I also know he wasn’t judging me when he brought it up, nor was he pressuring me into doing something I wasn’t ready for.

I truly understand how forgiving someone who has deeply hurt you can set you on the path to freedom. In the sense that forgiveness can loosen the chains that bind you to the past, the anger, the deep sense of betrayal, helping you learn to live again; that forgiveness is not so much about the other person but about the self. I have watched shows in which victims of horrific crimes or their family members have chosen to forgive, not always out of a sense of human bonding towards the aggressor, but because they could not live with the debilitating anger and hatred festering inside, and so chose to forgive to set themselves free.

To be able to forgive for any reason is truly an amazing and selfless act, one that speaks volumes about the strength and character of an individual who has endured much pain on another’s account. Studies have also shown that the power of forgiveness can also lead to better physical health and overall well-being. I do not doubt nor dispute any of this. In this post, however, I would like to draw attention to the person who has endured much heartache and who holds the power to her own salvation – the victim – and how forgiveness may not necessarily be the answer, especially when one is not yet ready to go there, precisely because the abuser does not deserve your “generosity.” While my questions may be rhetorical, as always, I also seek answers.

I am not talking about social or political forgiveness as when a former colony demands forgiveness from its imperialist rulers; while that is a highly debated and sensitive topic in itself, it is a different situation, and warrants a different examination. Here I talk about inter-personal relationships, when the victim is often helpless because of the immense trust placed in a particular person who decides to abuse the relationship for his or her own sense of satisfaction or as a way of dealing with the world.

So I ask the question, what does one do when someone truly wants to hurt? When he or she gets joy and satisfaction out of seeing someone disturbed and follows it up only by declaring, “Now, I just said that because I care. Gosh, walking on egg-shells around you sure is stressful,” making you shrink and want to dig an even deeper hole to hide in because of the feeling that you are a failure? I understand people react to situations in different ways, and obviously – barring a few acts – everything is relative. But I’m talking about those times when people derive perverse pleasure knowing what they are saying or doing is inappropriate and harmful. Moreover, how does one manage with repeated offences especially when decades of deceit still have not managed to numb the pain? What do you do when you can’t avoid them, and when having to meet up with them only keeps you trapped in the cycle not only through stored memory, but fresh reprisals?

Yes, the easiest thing to do would be to steer clear of them, but – and this may be difficult to understand – coming from a culture such as mine, the lesser of the two heartaches just might be to endure the situation you so wish to avoid. My point is, while on the subject of forgiveness, it is even possible to forgive each and every time, over and over again, even though one is aware that the abuse may stem from a deep sense of dissatisfaction and hurt on the part of the tormenter itself? Would there even be any meaning left to the concept of forgiveness then?

What do you do when you get looked down upon for “holding on” to repeated jibes by someone sympathetic to the abuser? “After all, you did forgive this other person, didn’t you?” Your dynamic with “this other person” may be very different from the one in question, a person full of anger and insecurity, someone who uses other people as targets to balance out his or her own unhappiness. And besides, who is to decide whether someone should be forgiven or not, apart from the person who has endured and suffered?

And what do you do when they hurt the ones you love? Although the people they are hurting may be adults who can indeed take care of themselves, is it possible to completely ignore that? And, who am I to forgive on someone else’s behalf? Would that not amount to arrogance and highhandedness on my part?

Ultimately the question it all boils down to is – what if someone is not yet ready? Maybe they need more time, or maybe the people who have hurt them truly don’t deserve to be forgiven. But is it fair to turn the tables on the victim for not having a large enough heart to let go? Forgiveness is truly a choice, on the part of the person whose sorrow has turned into physical pain over the years. And yes, while it may ultimately end up being the smartest choice, is it right to let the victim feel guilty for not being ready to forgive that one person they trusted and thought of the world of? To let him or her feel like the monster because she is not yet ready to forgive the one who neglected to acknowledge that she too was a human being?

 

Vibha Shetiya was born in India and raised in Zambia before moving back to India as a teenager. She has been living in the US since 1999. Vibha moved to Albuquerque last year from Austin where she completed her dissertation on feminist versions of the “Ramayana,” an ancient Hindu epic. She teaches at the University of New Mexico.

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Categories: abuse, Abuse of Power, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General

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46 replies

  1. I have a family member who has a history of psychological abuse and has never admitted the wrongs or asked for forgiveness. I do not hate this person, I know he had his own issues, and I wish him well. However, I do not forgive him because he has never acknowledged what he did and does. In my book you are right not to do so either, until and unless your abuser admits the wrong. PS I too have been accused by others in the family of being overly sensitive and of causing the problems one way or another.

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    • Completely in agreement with you both. In dysfunctional families and groups, “forgiveness” is usually code for “shut up and act like the bad stuff never happened so the rest of us don’t need to feel uncomfortable about it.”

      I believe that true forgiveness comes spontaneously from the heart. That happens when it’s supposed to happen.

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      • You wrote: “In dysfunctional families and groups, “forgiveness” is usually code for “shut up and act like the bad stuff never happened so the rest of us don’t need to feel uncomfortable about it.”’

        YES.

        This is exactly why “forgive” is the one word/action that I loathe to hear, especially when lobbed at survivors of heinous human actions. Equally frustrating and rage-inducing to me is the idea that those of us who choose not to forgive as a way of choosing ourselves and putting our needs front and center are somehow pathetic little balls of rage and hurt.

        I’ll say it now, I have not forgiven any of the men who raped me, nor will I ever. Am I mired down in rage, chained to the past? Nope. Not at all. And yet I’m psychologically sound.

        Too often I think this kind of “forgiveness is for you, not the other person” rhetoric is a way to shame and silence victims for daring to be hurt, and to be angry or upset about having been hurt, when everyone around them just wants them to shut up so they can pretend the abuser is a good person and the world is a just, wonderful place.

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      • Yes, Mary, I too feel it will happen – if at all – if one is ready for it. But one can’t force it. And when forced, is it forgiveness?

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    • Hello Vibha.
      Ten years ago my partner & soulmate was murdered in a knife attack. Everything I lived for torn down in one senseless action but I chose to forgive his murderer.
      Meeting my partners killer, not only liberated my spirit but his too. I am a spiritual person who believes in the law of karma but I have met others who didn’t take the path of Forgiveness and have remained stuck. As you say-Forgiveness is a choice, so someone who chooses to remain a victim and stay in the position of anger has every right to do so. I think the bigger question is what does that person want from holding on to hate & anger? Well most people who’ve experienced murder would say they want their loved one back. In reality however, it’s sadly never going to happen and so they may need time to process this.
      I guess it’s the same with other situations where people hold on to anger, the situation that happened can’t ever be undone no matter how much we blame the other person so it’s about trying to find ways of moving forward.
      Going back to your question about what to do if a person doesn’t deserve to be forgiven – Personally I can’t think of any person or any given situation which does not deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness changes people’s lives often for the better so why would we choose not to forgive? It’s also important to recognise that in most cases when we hold onto anger and hate, the other person isn’t affected. So you see I think quite often our perception about whether or not someone deserves forgiveness, really comes down to the fact that we ourselves aren’t ready to move forward.

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      • Thank you for sharing your heartbreaking story, juliekelly. I do think it is indeed remarkable that you have been able to forgive. I want to go there. I really do. But like Mary, I feel it should come from the heart. Or do you feel, even if it doesn’t, it sets one on the path to freedom? That it sets a healing process in motion even though one may not altogether mean it?

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    • Thank you, Carol, for your reassurance. I have often felt like I am the bad one for “not being able to let go.” And yes, I am the nemesis of the family – always trying to make trouble.

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  2. Hi Vibha
    I once heard it said that if you get into a box with rattlesnakes you expect to get bitten. What I mean by this is the people who have hurt you may never change their behaviours. The pain they caused may never be acknowledged. Unfortunately it’s very unlikely that anything we do will change that behaviour however, the way we react to that behaviour is purely our responsability in relation to moving on with our lives.
    One of those ways is to forgive. I don’t know if you believe in the law of karma but if you do then you’ll understand those who hurt you were born into such a horrible life. They have no way out of this turmoil of abusive behaviour so this really warrants compassion and not anger.

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  3. I do not equate moving on with forgiveness. Especially if you are going to see the person again, forgiving sets you up not to expect them to do it again.

    Second, though abusers usually have been abused, this does not mean they have no responsibility for the choices they make.

    Lots of things collude to allow abusers to continue to abuse. One of these when the abuser is a man is patriarchy which allows men to dominate without being challenged. In addition, there are usually a lot of women around who excuse his behavior and fail to protect the abused.

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    • That is exactly my point, Carol. How does one forgive when hurting is a habit with the other person?

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      • I can’t tell you how many times I forgave understanding that he must have been harmed somewhere in his past and then was surprised to find it all happening again, because in forgiving, I expected the pattern to go away. Need I say that I also tried not to repeat the behavior that incited the abuse, but no matter how many eggs I walked on there was always a little crack in one of them.

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    • Completely in agreement with both of you, Vibha and Carol. Forgiveness, in the kind of situations Carol described, becomes a form of enabling that allows the abuse to continue. And as another poster pointed out, it’s always women and girls who are told to forgive.

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  4. H’mm. This is a subject that always interests me. I’ve read statements in a book and a magazine that impressed me greatly. In the book, it was “Forgiveness, like love, is not entirely a matter of volition.” The article in the magazine asserted that “forgiveness” is a giant con that men have perpetrated on women to get themselves off the hook for their actions. And it’s a one-way street. When do you ever hear of men forgiving women? Quite rarely, right?

    Someone wronged me more than half a century ago and I have neither forgiven nor forgotten. I don’t walk around bowed down by a wave of hatred, unable to take pleasure in life. I’ve had a career, great family, pleasant avocation, and so on. But it’s a different life from what I would have had if this person had not wronged me. I’ve also taken care to live 1,500 miles away from where it happened. To me, “forgiveness” is the same as saying, “Gee, honey, what you did wasn’t so bad. It was no big deal. It all happened a long time ago.”

    Wrong. It was a VERY big deal, and it doesn’t matter how long ago it happened. He’s never been punished. He’s led a wonderful life. I really regret that and wish he had suffered as I did.

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    • Well said. You phrased my feelings on the con that is forgiveness so well.

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      • Rebekah, you are such a remarkable person to have bravely dealt with all the abuse you have endured! And no, you needn’t forgive them if you are not ready, nor ever will be.

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    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts, D. Read. And for acknowledging that while you have lead a good life, you could have done without going through what you did. Mostly, for being honest that you regret your perpetrator has led a wonderful life. I myself wonder about all the unfairness that exists in the world. And although I come from a Hindu background, the notion of karma – that tells me I am suffering because of actions committed in a previous life – holds very little water.

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  5. I think forgiveness is a very complex process. As a feminist, I also view the idealization of forgiveness as something that has been used by the Church and Patriarchy to further victimize women, making them feel guilty for their pain, trivializing their anger, and enabling abusers, individually and collectively, to continue to abuse without taking any responsibility for their perpetual behavior. Anger is a very source of energy, and if many social reformers weren’t angry, and stayed angry, we would be a world without justice and equity.

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    • Thanks for this thoughtful response, Lauren.You clarified this complex process for me with your words: “the idealization of forgiveness.” I also agree that anger can often be a source toward action for justice. The recent movie “Spotlight” certainly shows the passion of anger working for justice, but also, (justly & correctly!) it does not ever portray anyone requesting the abused and their families to simply “forgive.” T

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    • I really like how you point to the “obvious,” lauren – that anger is a very powerful source of energy, and that without it, we would be in a world without justice. A friend of mine once said she preferred being angry to being depressed because that motivated her to do something about the situation.

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    • Beautiful observations of the *power* in anger, Lauren!

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  6. Is forgiveness the only option? What about understanding and detachment?
    Although you do not live in a culture which condones alcohol or drug use, sounds to me like you have an anger addict on your hands.

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  7. I agree with every comment on this thread. The only thing most of us have been taught about forgiveness is “forgive and forget.” This sets us up to be victimized over and over again. Perhaps it’s time to devise a feminist model of forgiveness, one that promotes holistic healing and empowerment. In my own case, it meant not letting the abuse destroy the rest of my life – and taking charge of my life by any means necessary. The other key element was recognizing that forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. Anything else is not forgiveness – it is merely adherence to gender role tyranny.

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  8. Thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking words. “Forgiveness” is up for me now, too. I’ve just started reading The Book of Forgiving by Mpho Tutu and her father Desmond Tutu and the book seems promising, with useful practices and helpful insights.

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    • Thank you for suggesting the book, Lisa. I think it might help me too.

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      • The discussion you’ve initiated is so helpful and so provocative.

        I’m thinking that the word “forgiveness” is so loaded that it might be limited in its usefulness. The word I need might be something like “how-we-stop-abusing-ourselves-and-each-other.” Or “how-we-move-beyond-abuse-into-[fill in your own desire here].”

        I think another word that needs a place in this conversation is “bullying.” It’s one thing to forgive a person’s hurtful behavior; it’s another thing to neutralize or avoid exposure to someone’s consistently bullying behavior.

        The man who was my father, bless his heart, was severely abused when he was a boy. As a child myself, I experienced his behavior as physically and emotionally abusive. Still, I’m sure he was much kinder to me than his parents were to him.

        As an adult, I eventually plucked up my courage and took the initiative to teach him that I needed to be treated with respect. I presented a pretty detailed tutorial — after all, given his own experience, how was he to know?

        I remember one particular instance when he went into tyrant mode. I interrupted the pattern immediately, firmly but not harshly. It was amazing: before my eyes, this fearsome man of many years and great accomplishments collapsed physically and emotionally into the posture of a badly beaten six year-old boy.

        I’ve heard it said that bullies are actually begging for someone to stop them. They likely don’t know how to stop themselves.

        I wish you all the best, and all the time you need, on your journey.

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      • Thank you again, Lisa, for sharing your story, and your warm thoughts. I agree that “forgiveness” is perhaps a neat little word that does not capture all the layers within a larger often heartbreaking story. Your suggestion on alternatives like “how-we-stop-abusing-ourselves-and-each-other.” or “how-we-move-beyond-abuse” is a wonderful start to acknowledging the intricacy and plethora of emotions involved in the process of forgiveness.

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  9. I would like to thank each and every person who participated in this discussion. It has helped me look at the subject of “forgiveness” from so many angles. I cannot say for sure what path I will be taking in the near future, but it has definitely helped me realize that forgiveness is a complex process and that I cannot and should not feel guilty for not “being able to let go” just yet (or ever, even). Regardless of the outcome, it has certainly set some inner process into motion – for the better. So once again, my deep gratitude to you all.

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  10. Thanks Vibha for your thought provoking blog and to the others repliers. Great responses -new ways to view and thoughts on forgiveness. For me forgiveness is with the Self. I found it was not possible ( or necessary) to genuinely forgive others who had abused me, as a child and then as a adult … What I did find, that forgiving myself was the one thing that set me free – relaxed me and softened me – made me like myself again and even love myself … and then I LET GO of the “other ” person or persons…. stopped worrying, thinking and putting my energy into or about them ( a complete waste of my time, energy and resources). The religious belief: eg R Catholic believe there is 4 steps to forgiving another – I was told I “should” forgive immediately – go from A to Z straight away (bullying and abusive and trying to shame me). And as Lauren said the” idealization of forgiveness” is completely false for me. Thank’s to my authentic self I stood my ground and said NO and at that time said ” I have forgiven myself for my inability to forgive you!” the pressure to forgive by our society is horrendous- one needs to know its OK not to forgive others. I don’t feel ashamed or guilty for not forgiving others. I held true to my body wisdom and emotions and this lead to my own healing path to Self love via self forgiveness… . Clarissa Pinkola Estes book Women Who Run With The Wolves, Chapter 12 may be of interest too … Go well.. ..

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    • This is such a beautiful little piece, Tess. You have added yet another angle to the whole idea of forgiveness – forgiving oneself. That really struck a chord, because I often find myself feeling bad or guilty for not being able to forgive my abuser. That has also been a real dilemma – am I just as bad for not being able to forgive? But then your idea that yes, it is good to forgive – the SELF – was very helpful and liberating. Thank you so much! A friend recently lent me the Pinkola Estes book, and I hadn’t had time to look at it. I will today.

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  11. Everyone has written wonderful thought-provoking posts. Vibha, your abuser reminds me of my father, and he is a sociopath. He gets his kicks out of playing mind games and hurting others emotionally. Now that I know what he is I have been able to detach from him. I live 3,000 miles from him, and that has helped. A book that I found really helpful was “The Sociopath Next Door,” by Martha Stout, a psychologist and professor at Harvard Medical School. She recommends that we suspend our need to be polite when dealing with sociopaths and says “don’t try to redeem the unredeemable.” Good luck dealing with relatives who expect you to just forgive. I’m lucky that my mother, who divorced my father, understands and agrees with me about him, so I don’t feel alone.

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    • Thank you for suggesting the book, Linda. And for sharing your story – I personally find it more difficult to deal with people who are master manipulators, people who play mind games. Emotional abuse is just as bad as physical, and sometimes even more difficult to detect. Thank you for reassuring me that it’s just not okay to hurt someone in this way. I look forward to reading the book!

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  12. Thanks so much Vibha and to all the persons who commented and your responses back to them. I’m also of the view that forgiving can be too easy and let many off the hook.

    Many months ago, a person in a 5 women group that I was in (including myself) said some unbelievable and hateful words to me. Another agreed with her. The two others were shocked. I left the meeting and for many months sat in the awful mud of it all … the first person said via email that she didn’t say what she said although it was heard by all of us. She asked my forgiveness if she hurt me. I said I would if she forgave herself. She insisted she didn’t say those hateful words. So, she’s never acknowledged it – and the 2nd dodged and ducked the issue (I haven’t been in the group since that incident). But, what gave me cause for pause was: what was it in me that was the hook for this person’s awfulness? And it hadn’t been the first time over the years …

    I’ve got over it and seldom think of her; but I’m more aware now of the hook – within myself – that I somehow presented to her to ‘enable’ her to be so hateful to me. Yes, there was her projection onto me … but what was the hook in me that used me for her projection?

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    • Thank YOU, Susan for sharing your thoughts. I think it is interesting that you raise the question of how perhaps there was something in you that caused this person to be so hateful. I am a little unclear, however, as to what exactly you might be suggesting – that we need to ask ourselves how and why we landed in a particular situation or that we need to take responsibility for our own actions? Perhaps both or neither? But I am definitely interested in hearing more! ps. I enjoyed going through your blog. As someone raised in southern Africa, I hold that part of the world very close to my heart. Thank you.

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      • Vibha thank you for your response. I am mad at myself – I’d typed up a long reply to you but I pressed another button on computer to check something out and found I’d LOST my reply to you which was almost complete!

        Let me just mention this in this meantime and a little later when there is time I will respond more fully …

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      • This is my response I thought I’d lost :

        Thank you Vibha! Am I saying that what was/is in me caused that other person to be so hateful? Well, it’s a big question that attempting to answer it could be a paper in itself! (This already is a long answer to your questions).

        Anything that is unconscious will be projected – it is the natural order of things. But when there is a projection, there has to be a hook to catch it i.e. a hook to receive it. One meets with them, one does not make them. It’s found in the therapeutic relationship, in all relationships really, collectively also .. it can be a cause of animosity or a source of vitality (Jung)

        Obviously, I had to ask myself the question, why what how is it that she has been nasty to me a few times over the years and to a mutual friend in times gone by. I don’t know if she’s done nasty to others .. we don’t have mutual friends apart from that one just mentioned. The nasty that she did to this mutual friend who told me about it some years back was actually quite horrific and unbelievably called for. Yet, she was sometimes very nice to me. Over the years and on entirely different issues, she had also shown her claws or her fangs or whatever you want to call it, to me … so, whenever in her space, I would be on alert in some way. Not necessarily waiting for something to happen but just on alert. (I was in a group of 5 women she was in for about 2 years – we met once monthly. The meetings were always valuable).

        This last experience was in early July last year. It was awful. I can assuredly say that she was projecting onto me big time, her own stuff, whatever that may me. She’d done it before. This time it was disgusting and unforgivable. I believe it was an unconscious projection which by definition it usually is. War is an example on a collective level.

        So, to try to answer your question/s: I think it’s important to say straight off – one does not have to accept the projection put on one’s self by the subject. One can say no, I will not be the carrier of that person’s projection. That’s their stuff not mine .. Collectively, we can say that e.g. we will shed the patriarchal projection that sees things how they wish ..

        But somehow, my presence in her space sometimes activated something in her – somehow some complex of some kind or another was stimulated in her by my presence. It is not for me to speak on her behalf to say what that complex/es is/was. I can only hazard a guess and think that it comes from a place of deep woundedness – or something..

        It took me several months of working through extreme anger and wondering the why’s the what’s the wherefore’s. I do not know what complex I activated in her …but why I asked myself, have I been the target on a few occasions. So the question becomes what on earth can I make of this .. is there a lesson somehow that I can glean from this … why does her woundedness get projected onto me? Does she perceive my woundedness and attempt unconsciously to destroy even further? (I’m saying this from the premise that we all carry some wounded-ness).

        I know I wrote in my first response to you that I am more aware of the hook in myself that enabled her to project her stuff onto me but I still don’t have a clear answer to that. All I know is that projection happens; very often the very thing one is e.g. accusing another of, is the very thing that is denied in themselves.

        Several emails went back and forth – yes she asked my forgiveness to which I responded I would definitely forgive her if we both knew what was being forgiven – i.e. her hateful words. The last one from her was so appalling to which I didn’t respond. That was it. Denial was the name of the game.

        Some months later as I was recalling this incident apropos of nothing really, I experienced a short sharp surprising pain in my stomach near my ribs. This I took after thinking/feeling about it, to be a physical expression of betrayal and grief. That was my healing … for which I was grateful.

        All projections do not have to be ‘bad’. I can project onto eg Mother Mary, Mother Earth, Eve, Lilith, The Black Madonna, The Buddha, Christ, God, MLK, etc. Projection is necessary in our everyday lives in one or other way and can lead to psychological growth and be beneficial bridges when harmful ones are withdrawn. I may project onto Hillary Clinton or Mother Teresa eg but there may come a time when I can withdraw or dissolve my projections and illusion of her yet maybe have learned something about myself along the way –

        So, ‘forgiveness’ Vibha … I can say as I’m writing to you that I have no bad feelings towards her, I wish her well indeed. I do sort of forgive her, because I don’t want to have her darkness overshadowing me. She was a valuable member of the group while I was there and is a valuable member of society.

        But, I would still cross the road or leave the room if I saw her …

        Perhaps it becomes a question of forgiving the sinner, not the deed …

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  13. I’ll try to be more concise in this response to you Vibha and it is different to the original one I lost. (But I’m really disappointed in myself for losing my comment!).

    I have a history of this person and her projections onto me – over the years we’ve had our misunderstandings and tussles in different circumstances. So, I’ve HAD to ask myself what is my role in all of this? Am I supposed to learn something from all of this? This last one in July in our ‘spiritual group’ of last year was beyond awful. I’d been in for two years. I had to keep on asking myself what is my role in all of this, how come this keeps on happening with this particular person – not all the time over the years, but there have been times when she was just plain nasty, different circumstances to last July. A mutual friend also came under attack from her a few years ago in a totally different circumstance. This time round, July last year, was beyond the pale.

    In subsequent emails, she asked my forgiveness if she hurt me; to which I said I would as long as we knew what was being forgiven i.e. her hateful words which she denies … in the face of denial this becomes a different issue altogether – perhaps it becomes a question of forgiving the sinner, not the sin … I don’t know. Her last email to me was so awful that I did not respond. This made me think even more about my role in all of this … yes, she is a gemini as I am … yes, I have no doubt she is wounded as we all way in some way or the other .. but evidently there were times that just my presence (even over emails) evoked something in her, some complex; who knows what was activated in her, by me. I have no answer to that question … I’ve hazarded a guess or two – maybe she perceived my wounded-ness and wanted to destroy me rather than herself. We all have a destructive element within – collectively too. But now I just don’t want to know any longer. Yes, I had the problem of my anger to her … this took a long while to work through. Yes, I considered it a betrayal and felt the grief of that, but now I have let it go.

    Not all projections are harmful – it’s a natural occurrence in e.g. ordinary everyday relationships, or in the therapeutic relationship.They’re invariably unconscious and they need a hook to receive them. Yes, I was the hook – then it was my task to accept the hook – or not. But still, to keep on wondering what the lesson – if there was one – I was to learn. I had an experience some months down the line when I was considering all of this, of a short sharp pain in my stomach near my ribs. This I realised was the feeling of grief over this betrayal. I was glad to have that experience and then was able to let it go.

    I do not know why my presence or my being evoked a complex in her – she has called me all sorts of names in the past – I can’t speak for her. She was a valuable member of our group and most times was ‘nice’ to me … I guess because of our past history over the years prior to being in this group, that I was a little more on high alert, not necessarily for something to happen, but just being aware – perhaps she picked up on that and knew that I did not fully trust her. Does that mean that there is inherently something distrustful in myself? Maybe –

    Projections – those doing the projecting and those being projected upon – can be a useful tool for individual psychological growth and development. We can learn inter alia when to withdraw or dissolve our projections when we identify them; especially when they are not based on reality …

    ‘Projection’ is a vast topic and I am sure I have not answered your questions satisfactorily, but thank you for your interest Vibha .. you may have noted my more recent blog post on blind spots and racism in which I write about how we all project what we won’t own in ourselves.

    How lovely that you lived in southern Africa! Yes, once it’s in your heart and soul, it stays there …

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    • Thank you for your detailed reply, Susan. Yes, “forgiveness” or the action that can lead to it is indeed a complicated process, and as some readers have pointed out, there are many layers to it. It is not just a question of one fine day saying, OK I forgive you, and it’s over. You have added yet another dimension to it – that of projection which I think is very important, and something to be conscious of. All these comments, including yours, have made me realize that it the business of forgiveness is indeed a complex process. Thank you once again!

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