It can be very difficult to forgive abuse. Typically in abusive situations, both persons are identified with their bodies. One person does something to the other person's body, which is taken very personally and hurtfully.
It seems that one person has power to affect the other, to do something to them against their will. And the whole scenario seems to paint a very closed picture of unfair treatment, unwilling participation, obvious fault on the part of the abuser, and total helplessness on the part of the victim.
If you look solely at what is happening at the physical level, and if this is believed to be reality, then all of this makes sense. The abuser physically does do something. The victim physically or emotionally or mentally does seem to receive the fallout of the abuse. The separation between the bodies and wills seems to portray the victim as "not wanting it" etc. At a purely surface-appearance level, this is all very real and threatening and traumatic. As if the is the whole story.
But viewing the situation purely in terms of surface appearance, is actually an unforgiving perception. It means the form of what happened was blinding. It means you were identified with your body, such that anything happening from the outside in seemed to affect your actual self. There is no recognition that "its just a dream." And there certainly doesn't appear to be any hope of escape from the hellish nightmare.
The difficult part comes when you start to explore how to heal this, forgive it, undo the consequences, or to become free from the aftereffects, some of which can be debilitating and even life threatening. But at some point, there has to be a willingness to entertain the possibility that there was "more happening" than met the eye, and that there might be a different way of looking at it. It is this unwillingness to remain in pain, that inspires the beginning of opening up to spirit.
"The misuse of will engenders a situation which, in the extreme, becomes altogether intolerable. Pain thresholds can be high, but they are not limitless. Eventually, everybody begins to recognize, however dimly, that there MUST be a better way. As this recognition is more firmly established, it becomes a perceptual turning-point. This ultimately reawakens the spiritual eye, simultaneously weakening the investment in physical sight."
Even if you are left with pain and scars, emotional hurt, physical damage, psychological wounds or forms of insanity, carrying this baggage around forever becomes intolerable. Pain is not pleasant. Constant fear is a nightmare. The sheer weight of suffering can potentially inspire a person to try to find a way out of hell, unless they become so distraught that it leads to suicide.
For those who do find at least "a little willingness", there becomes a glimmer of openness to at least the possibility that, just maybe, there is some way to heal and be free of this. That maybe if you look at it from a different vantage point you might find out some hidden facts, previously unrecognized influences, or even some ways that you might have caused it. Of course, for abused people, leaping to "I did this to myself" is a pretty huge leap, when everything the physical reports testifies to "they did everything to me and I did nothing."
It can even seem horrendously offensive to a person who is very heavily believing in "what appeared to happen" as the only reality. When pain backs it up, when suffering seemed to come from it, and when the person didn't seem to want any of it, there is tremendous resistance to healing and forgiveness. It is in fact, part of the pyschological blindness that placed their mind in an unforgiving experience to begin with, and this denial may even have been increased through the abusive experiences.
This is why it can take time, a lot of willingness and gradual transformation, to work through the ins-and-outs of everything that happened, all the pain it entailed, to be able to purge and purify the suffering, to even get to a point where you might be open to another way of looking at it. But if there is to be another way of looking at it, it can't be at the physical level. It can't be just another attempt to frame the situation in terms of "it was real, but the person had their reasons."
True forgiveness has to entail moving away from the sheer physcality of the abusive situation, away from appearances and forms, and away from the illusion of causality. It has to rise above the "he did this to me" and the "she did that to me". And it has to go into the "Maybe I had something to do with this." Given how intense and horrifying abuse can be, and the seeming unhealable wounds it leaves behind, even being open to that suggestion can be a seemingly insurmountable stretch.
The key factor which lifts a person out of perception of abuse, is becoming identified with spirit instead of the body. And that all by itself is a journey. And it also requires that you recognize that you can be free from suffering, even if people seem to be vicious and hurtful. As the Course says:
"The secret of salvation is but this: That YOU are doing this UNTO YOURSELF. No matter what the form of the attack, this STILL is true.
Whoever takes the role of enemy and of attacker, STILL is this the truth. Whatever seems to be the cause of any pain and suffering you feel, this is STILL true. For you would not react at all to figures in a dream you knew that YOU were dreaming. Let them be as hateful and as vicious as they may, they COULD have no effect on you, unless you failed to recognize it is YOUR dream. This single lesson learned will set you free from suffering, WHATEVER form it takes."
To allow there to be a maximum amount of viciousness and attack by others, yet to be in such a state of mind in which this has NO effect on you, seems like a very tall order. But it is not impossible. It entails the recognition that this world is a dream, and not a reality. Yes it will seem like the abuse was VERY real, with disturbing memories and wounds to show for it, but in the really big picture it nevertheless was still part of a dream.
Jesus suggests that if we can approach the awareness and recognition that this IS a dream world, and not a reality, we will become more identified as spirit, or as the dreamer of the dream. We are the mind/soul that is beyond the dream which houses it within ourselves.
With willingness, it's going to become apparent that the events in dreams are something WE are contributing to. This produces a profound shift in how we look at what the other person "did to us", because now we're starting to question not only whether it really happened in reality at all, but also who was really causing what.
It can seem to be a bitter pill to swallow, that we would be hurtful to ourselves, that we ourselves might've agreed to or arranged or produced suffering, that in effect we wanted to be abused for some other purpose of scapegoating. It's especially heinous to many people to suggest that someone in a victim role is not entirely faultless, that they in fact are using the opportunity to position themselves as victim in order to be ABLE to find the abuser guilty. And as the course says, this has a tremendous payoff in allowing us to position ourselves as innocent, as a way to asuage our OWN guilt for our own sense of sin.
Could it be then, quite a shocking but deep truth, that we may well not only consent to abuse but even encourage it and bring it upon ourselves, because of the benefit to us psychologically - that we can convince ourselves that if the other person is especially evil, it portrays us as especially good. And given that we are loaded with uhealed guilt over the separation from God, it provides a wonderful opportunity to exonerate ourselves by finding someone else to be especially sinful. We may in fact be using the abuser as a fall-guy for our own sin.
This then completely turns the tables on the situation, and is the secret hidden truth that the abusive situation seems to reject. While the situation said, "they did this to me, I did nothing", in truth the fact is "I did this to me and used them to make myself look better." That is not something that is easy to admit to, but it has to be admitted to if you want freedom.
Here is Jesus saying that we are even willing to BE KILLED, if it means the payoff that we can find someone ELSE to be the sinner and to exonerate ourselves. And that we may even welcome being highly severly abused, attacked, afflicted, murdered and destroyed, as a tremendously opportunistic bargain, if it means we can be found guiltless. Even that what WE get out of it is even MORE than they get out of it - a great deal!
"Death seems an easy price, if they can say, "Behold me, brother, at your hand I die." For sickness is the witness to his guilt, and death would prove his errors MUST be sins."
This isn't simply a teaching about sickness and how we use the body to try to show proof that our brother caused us to be sick, so that we'll be exonerated of sin. It's a general teaching that in many ways, abuse included, we try to position ourselves as victims in order to get a great payoff. That we're even willing to enter into highly abusive, detrimental, suffering situations, with terrible power loss and mistreatment, if it means that secretly this causes the OTHER person to seem like the sinner. What did abuse turn you into, if not someone justified in anger and blame?
Jesus doesn't hold back, in that he is even saying that we are WILLING TO DIE, if it will provide us with an opportunity to point a finger at the CAUSE of death, other than ourselves, and say "look there, that's where the sin is". And thus to say, "Look at me, I didn't do anything at all." We even lay down in death in a kind of passive way, totally hands-off, making ourselves appear to be COMPLETELY at the effect of something outside our control, so that it paints a very vivid picture of unfair destruction, un-asked for killing, and unwanted torment. In which we appear innocent.
The driving force behind all of this is the guilt that WE feel in OUR mind, over a situation which doesn't even have anything to do with these abusers. It's the fact that we are bringing some very heavy shit, TO the situation, from our past. And we're causing and involving ourselves in relationships and situations which afford us opportunities to PROJECT, dissociate from, and disown this hidden secret suffering, in order to try to deal with it.
What could be so big and deep and hidden and painful that we would want to go so far as to ALLOW ourselves to seem to be destroyed by another, if it would mean escaping it? What possible severity of sin could we have possibly either committed tor accused ourselves of, that we would ENCOURAGE sickness in an attempt to be seen with pity and favor? What kind of hideous act did we commit which could possibly require death as the only "solution", in which by accusing anyone OTHER than ourselves of TERRIBLE mistreatment, we can try to make a dent in it and be seen as the innocent one?
Don't doubt for a second that the ego's entire drive is to use denial to its full extent. It denies who you are, it denies God through sin, it denies sin through guilt, it denies guilt through the face of innocence, and it denies the face of innocence by destroying the body through "a will of punishment not my own." Denial upon denial upon denial are used to gradually remove you from existence and to disown everything. Even in abuse we are disowning the way in which we are abusing ourselves.
All of this is really based on our secret sins and hidden hates, the self accusation, the condenation upon yourself BY yourself, the belief in the reality of sin, the authority problem and desire to overthrow God, and indeed the belief that you HAVE attacked God against His will. It is really the original sin, the belief that you opposed the entire Kingdom of God through evil, that you are running and hiding from. And it is the unforgiven guilt for that perceived sin that you try to push onto others when you form abusive relationships.
Those who feel particularly guilty are apt to not only cause physical sickness, they are also apt to be vicious and very accusatory. They project heavily because trying to dissociate that unconscious guilt from their minds seems like the only way to hide from it. By putting it onto someone else and framing them as an abuser or attacker, it SEEMS to make it look like they are more evil than you, thus you are partly exonerated for your belief in sin against God. And those who are especially OPEN to being a victim, unfairly treated, abused, in fact are the most deceptive and blameful. He who has "been destroyed against his will" has gotten away with the crime of the century.
So now as the tables turn, we find out that a person who on the surface seemed to be the innocent party in the abuse, who was purely victimized, who asked for nothing and who made no contribution to it at all, actually turns out to be the ONLY one who was really doing anything at all, who did it all to themselves, and EVEN went so far as to USE the "abuser" for their own aims. What more benefit could a guilty person find than to position themselves as helplesly suffering, if it would create the illusion that SOMEONE ELSE is guilty? And how sick is it that we would actively WANT to do this, even if it meant we had to suffer to pull it off?
You can see why the truth of these situations is so hard to accept. It litearlly suggests that "the abused" are abusers, that victims are in fact victimizers, that those who are afraid are vicious, and that this is all a secret plot to GAIN from suffering. Even that we would happily die if it meant someone else would pay for what we've done to God.
"We said before that those who are afraid are apt to be vicious. " On the surface, the world being so back to front, it always seems at first glance that those who are suffering are NOT the ones doing the attacking. And that those who are seeming to be the cause of the suffering, are NOT the victims. But this is literally what Jesus is telling us. And it is this complete "180" that our minds have to go through in order to heal this psychological conditioning. And that's not easy.
If I was abused, even if the abuse and the emotional pain tells me that it happened, it was unfair, I did not ask for it, the abusers were evil monsters, and they ought to receive a death sentence, my act to MAINTAIN this position is in fact driven by a motive of wanting to keep BENEFITING from it. And that is not an easy thing to admit to. Yet alone to look at the fact that I was the one doing the abuse to myself and to the abusers. That I was USING them as a scapegoat, and WANTED to be abused in order to get away with FRAMING THEM for my own murder.
It's even harder to admit to any of this if the victim is a helpless innocent young child who appears, at the face of it, to be utterly devoid of sin and guilt, and who has no power or ability to stop anything happening. This all sets up the perfect scenario for the ego to manipulate the situation and USE it to its advantage. Not o much to cause the child to suffer cruelly, but to cause the child to WANT to suffer in order to develop a wonderful collection of scapegoats. Of course, saying something like this is NOT going to be popular with most of society.
Admitting to all this is, nevertheless, the eventual place our mind has to get to if we truly want to be free from pain and suffering. We have to approach the secret of salvation. We have to be willing to admit to what we are doing and the part we play. And we certainly have to completely let the abusers off the hook, otherwise we cannot experience psycholgoical repair. So long as we are looking to project and get rid of our own inner guilt onto these people, we keep ourselves in a prison of denial and suffering. And we can't feel happy while we're AVOIDING the original guilt that we were using the abuser to try to get rid of.
It begs the question, far more importantly, not "why did they do that to me"... but "why did I do this to me?". That's the really deeper issue. Why did you accuse yourself of sin FIRST, before you arranged for someone to sin against you? Why did you believe in sin, at all, before inviting others to seem to sin against you? Why did you fall into the authority problem, prior to ever needing an external authority to pretend to have power over you? Why did you attack yourself first? Why were you overtly vicious against yourself and God, before portraying yourself as a helpless victim? That's the bigger deal to heal.
"I but accuse my brother of my own sins."
"It can be but myself I crucify."
"I can be attacked by nothing but my thoughts."
"You are doing this to yourself."
"There is no sin."
Self destruction and self attack and self victimization and self punishment, are far more the problem and death-inducing than the two-times removed scapegoats that we find externally. The abuser isn't even the beginning of the process, they're a device that we use later down the line to try to deal with what we've done to oursevles. And the ultimate freedom can only come when you find YOURSELF to be innocent, having never sinned in reality, forming the basis for the total lack of NEED to have an "abuser" take on the burden for you.
These external influencers are not even the cause of anything. They're scapegoats that we use to project sin and disown responsibility. And until this power is taken back and reclaimed, a "victim" cannot feel empowered or free of victimization. It's kind of a two-way street. You can't be secretly victimizing, which all victims do, if you want to be free of being victimized. If you believe in victimization you become a victimizer and pretend you are the opposite. Obviously that's not a sane position to take.
There is hope for healing and true release from all suffering, all abuse, all symptoms and effects, all baggage and all pain. But it does require that you take full responsibility for your choices and your participation on making happen what you thought happened against your will. You cannot see yourself as being an unwilling participant if you want to find the power of the wil. And the only way to be truly free is to accept the atonement truth that you never sinned in the first place, such that you don't need anyone to exonerate you through suffering.
Who is the abuser who really needs your forgiveness? It's you.