Sunday, May 14, 2017

Curmudgeon #2: Forgiveness*


I practically get hives when clients tell me they “forgive” their parents or others who were mentally, physically, sexually abusive to them. I know I’m looking at someone who has not only exited the world to a place of dissociation, but someone who has landed on a fantasy planet and is riding the imaginary rides. And not only that: someone who has bought an empty idea she did not create or critique but learned at mother’s knee.

This is a place where people believe in magic, actual magic. What do they think happens when they say “forgive”? Do they grow a warm, gracious, benevolent feeling from nothing? What feeling do they imagine they experience? Or do they convince themselves that such a gift (to self or other) can exist solely as a thought or a decision, a “commitment” without emotional value? Uncanny to me is that people act for all the world as though the word is the deed: Just say it and it manifests. “My adoptive father forced sex from when I was twelve to fourteen, and my mother actually believed his lie that it was an ‘affair.’ They have never apologized to this day. But I forgive them.” That is the most stupefying feature. Is there any other incantation in modern history that somehow creates the reality it invokes? Does someone despise a person then say “I love you” and it is so? Does someone state “I am cleansed of disease” and it is believed? “I forgive” is unique, I think, because it is the great placebo of healing whenever therapy is not done. These – forgiveness and therapy – are the two continents in the world of the hurting, with forgiveness by far the preferred home. It is a way to imagine we have moved on when the body remains troubled by its poison.

Forgive me, but forgiveness is simply the repression of true feeling, with various thoughts mixed in the anesthesia, and a determination to feel a noble or healthy or moral sense. Some individuals will enrich the thoughts with biblical citations or New Age wisdom or scientific evidence. There will be Cirque du Soleil-level gyrations of delusion and argument that swoop in at light speed, because forgiveness must happen: It is the dream rock that an adult house is built on. But it is a belief in magic and a denial of human pain and injury. Magical deniers have a very sticky time in a therapy that deals with the truth.

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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.