Kristen Johnston was recently on my favorite podcast (you guessed it, What’s the Tee?) and she mentioned an article by Nancy Colier. In this article, titled “Letting Go of Toxic People: When Staying in it is Not More Spiritual,” she details the immense pressure we put on ourselves to be open and forgiving to those that have wronged us, for fear that we have not achieved a heightened sense of spirituality.
When it comes to certain trauma, like abuse, we are taught that forgiveness will set us free. And when we still have emotional responses to triggers or actually seeing our abuser, it’s possible to feel that we actually haven’t forgiven at all.
However, these emotional responses are a product of our reptilian brain, the oldest and most basic part of our brain that is only focused on survival. While you can decide on forgiveness in your prefrontal cortex, your reptilian brain may not follow suit. And that is ok. In fact, the forgiveness we practice should be turned towards ourselves. Rather than pushing the limits of our instinct to be “higher” and more “elevated,” we should accept ourselves for what just is.
If you have experienced this kind of immeasurable betrayal, as pictured in the Ten of Swords, forgiveness is not something that just happens because you decide so. There is a natural ebb and flow to healing, and while self exploration will help move things along faster, you cannot cut corners on healing from trauma. This is because new questions arise every day, concerning what you did to deserve this kind of treatment. And the answer is nothing. The answer is forgiving yourself for every feeling and honoring your emotions. THAT is where the spirituality lies.
As the Five of Cups suggests, it is time to move on and forgive. But the only person you owe that to is yourself. And in time, once you’ve accepted your space and have healed properly, you may forgive your abuser. But, as the article above stresses, you don’t need to push yourself in that direction. Your fight/ flight/ flee responses will always try to protect you, and they don’t need to be shamed. Suffering through these responses by being around your abuser, just to prove you’ve forgiven them, is not helping anyone.
So, forgive from afar. Protect yourself and honor yourself first. You don’t owe anyone contact if it doesn’t serve you. Remember that, and stay witchy ( *)