“I’ve just had a shouting match with my ex-husband!” laments a dear friend. “Completely lost my cool. Regressed into a screaming three-year old!” As we stand in the light, we cast a long shadow. For so many of us who strive to live consciously, it comes as a shock when an event, a “chance meeting” with a former partner, a blow-up with a family member, exposes those orphaned parts of ourselves: the arrogance, irresponsibility, the greed, and the violence we disown in ourselves. Our shadow resides in the aching back, the stiff knees, the gnawing rat in our stomach. It lurks in what we idealise, or what repels us, in others. Our shadow holds a vast ocean of energy, which crashes through the containment of the harbour walls. We practice random acts of kindness, yet cannot bear to be in the same room as the one who hurt us so badly all those years ago. Gandhi said that forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. And time after time, we find we are not strong at all. We can hardly bear the weight of our own weakness. Catherine Ponder, author and minister, writes, “when you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”
We cannot bridle this dark energy, curb it’s wildness with whip and spurs. We must approach carefully, with respect. If we lock it away in a stable, it will kick down the door when we least expect it. And yet, ride it we must. How can we ever be intimate with another if we do not ride on the same black steed as Mephostopheles?
Taking our “power back” has become the catch-phrase of the self-absorbed 21st Century. What is this “power” we are urged to take back? The Latin word for power or force is vis. The vis, the living force, we now call energy, is also the urgent thrust of our life force – All that we are. Our Light. Our Shadow. We cannot eradicate, repress the vis of the soul. It will find its way up to the light. And our ostracised collective repressions materialise as missiles, gunmen, wars. Then, something, someone, pushes our lethally destructive “button”. Detonates the bomb of unforgiveness we have secreted in the dim-lit arsenal of our very own psyche.
Many therapists urge their patients to express their anger. In astrology, our libido, life force, anger, is the province of the god of war, Mars. We all have Mars in our birth charts. For so many of us with Mars in fixed signs or a challenged Mars, the act of forgiveness may be harder, take longer. We may never be ready to release it in this lifetime, and there is no right or wrong in this decision to hold on if we cannot bear the freedom of letting go. It is when we overlook, dishonour our Mars that we consciously or unconsciously embark on a painful struggle. Like Love, Forgiveness is a conscious, choice. “The act of forgiveness takes place in our own mind. It really has nothing to do with the other person,” says Louise Hay. Ultimately, it is up to each one of us to set ourselves free from our own painful hold on the one who has wronged us.
Therapy, forgiveness workshops, rituals can all be helpful. Setting boundaries, a time limit each day initially for our grief and anger. Not allowing it to spill over and pollute our lives, blacken the future. One antidote against the poison of our dark thoughts is the simplicity of gratitude. Committing to writing a daily dozen opens the bud of a new consciousness. The practice of ho’oponopono, is a practical way to forgive and cleanse clinging thoughts that make us literally or metaphorically ill. Only we can choose to see our enemy with compassionate eyes. This does not mean condoning or agreeing with their behaviour. This does mean acknowledging that there are no mistakes and that there is always a new birth in the chaos of destruction.
If we trust the healing process, dedicate time to be aware of our thoughts, our actions to witness the metaphors in our dreams, our lives will flow into new experiences, new learning, new ways of being, beyond our imagining. Says Marion Woodman: “The Self pushes the neglected forward for recognition. Do not disregard it. It holds energy of highest value. It is the gold in the dung. Do not disregard the dung.” It is very difficult to be judgemental of anything outside ourselves once we recognise that what we loathe in the other resides within ourselves. Only we can use the dung in our lives to fertilise a spring garden where fragrant blossoms of forgiveness bloom.