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Katie van Schaijik

Gaps between theory and practice

Jul. 12 at 10:47am

According to my habit of mind, the discussion about unprincipled forgiveness has given rise to several spin-off trails of thought.  I have been busy mentally composing several further posts on the theme, or related themes.

One has to do with the often unrecognized gap between what we profess with our minds and how we live in practice.  

The fact that we see an error on the theoretical level is no proof that we're not guilty of it in fact, though we often imagine it is. 

So, for instance, I know men who grant that women are equal in dignity, but behave or speak in a way that plainly reveals chauvanistic tendencies. If I were to say of a particular instance of it, "That's male-chauvanism", they might indignantly reply, "How can you accuse me of chauvanism, when I just published an article on the complementarity of the sexes?!"

I know people who acknowledge, in principle, that St. Thomas Aquinas is not infallible, but who, in practice, treat any philosophical disagreement with him as outrageous impiety.

I may, in theory, readily grant that I am a sinner in need of mercy and forgiveness, but still have a very hard time taking personal responsibility for concrete offenses I've committed. 

I know some who see clearly that puritanism is a a false approach to sexuality, but who, in their dealings with the sexual sphere reveal themselves prone to it.  Same goes for bigotry.  

When it comes to the problem of "unprincipled forgiveness," too, we may grant it in theory and still fall into it in practice.

Recognizing an error as an error is an important step in avoiding it, but it's by no means sufficient.  Knowing the truth is not the same as living the truth.


 

Pete

Many thanks to those who have contributed to the "unprincipled forgiveness" threads.  I submit a quote from an interview with Alice Miller:

#1 - Jul. 12 at 12:05pm | quote

 

Pete

Katharina Micada:

Adults treated cruelly in childhood are frequently advised to forgive the perpetrators. This is the stance adopted by the religions and by most forms of psychotherapy. In your books you contradict this approach. Why?

#2 - Jul. 12 at 12:08pm | quote

 

Pete

Alice Miller:

As I said before, our bodies have no understanding of religion or morals. If we ignore the physical experience of cruelty, we pay for this self-betrayal with illnesses, or our children have to pay for it, or both. Forgiveness heals no injuries. They can only be healed by admitting the painful truth, not by self-deception. The healing process requires them to be uncovered, not left in the dark. Some priests abuse children for their sexual gratification BECAUSE they refuse to face the fact that they were abused in this way when they were small. Every morning they forgive all "trespassers" without knowing that they are driven by the compulsion both to repeat and to deny what they once went through themselves. If they were confronted with their own history and if revealing therapy enabled them to protest angrily against what was done to them in their early years, then they would not feel the compulsion to endanger the lives of their charges. I have described this approach to therapy in my last two books, notably Free from Lies.

#3 - Jul. 12 at 12:09pm | quote

 

Pete

Living the truth requires facing your pain and working through it with someone who has worked through theirs.  It does not have to be sexual abuse, but can be any form of mistreatment including any kind of emotional abuse.

#4 - Jul. 12 at 12:13pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Excellent reflection, Pete.  Thank you. My only quibble would be that I wish she had put "forgive" in quotations, to distinguish the false from true forgiveness. 

#5 - Jul. 12 at 1:31pm | quote

 

Pete

She doesn't make a distinction and she makes this explicit in her books.  She believes the body does not understand morality and religion and this is where the pain takes up residence.  She believes the truth is the only thing that heals you, and therefore, that forgiveness is not of the will.

#6 - Jul. 12 at 2:57pm | quote

 

Tim Cronin

The idea that the body is premoral goes against Theology of the Body although certainly trauma is remembered there and physical and emotional trauma needs to be healed. 

As far as differences between word and deed we can reflect on Jesus who had no divergence between Word and Deed.

#7 - Jul. 12 at 4:35pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Pete, Jul. 12 at 1:57pm

She doesn't make a distinction and she makes this explicit in her books.  She believes the body does not understand morality and religion and this is where the pain takes up residence.  She believes the truth is the only thing that heals you, and therefore, that forgiveness is not of the will.

 Does she think the body understands truth?  

In any case, I agree with her that truth is the key.  Among my objections to the false notion of forgiveness is that it downplays or even bypasses truth altogether.  

True forgiveness has to comprehend the whole truth of the wrong done.  

#8 - Jul. 12 at 7:59pm | quote

 

Pete

With adherence to Alice Miller's empirical methods, I have written the steps to healing as I understand them.  It may be that forgiveness comes about through grace after all, but never before hard fought encounters with the real evils dwelling within the unconscious aspect of the human being, in the form of repressed true needs and feelings exerting their pressures within the body in search of an outlet, one way or the other, for the truth to be revealed.

Note that I have adapted these methods of healing to any trauma or injustice that occurs and not necessarily for a mistreated child, as Alice Miller has. 

When we are in pain, we have repressed our true emotional reactions to an injustice either for our own safety and well being or because we learned it, and thus, we are living an untruth because we have subverted the authenticity of our experience.  In order to heal from any trauma or injustice we must:

#9 - Jul. 12 at 8:21pm | quote

 

Pete

Identify each initial traumatic experience that occurred. We must experience the feelings, or rehash and consciously process the general climate of the environment that caused the repression, and understand the dynamics, the quality of the emotions and the extent of their repression, thus bringing consciousness to the associated trauma. We must link the present pains in our bodies, or our deviant emotional expressions with the events of the trauma that led to the repression and that took place in our past. Once we are conscious of the actual cause that took place in the past and we have linked our present emotional disturbance with the traumatic events of the past, we no longer are subject to the unconscious repressed emotions reeking havoc in our bodies and minds – we can now live an emotionally conscious life in the present as opposed to living largely unconscious and emotionally in the past. We can now make conscious choices with no interference from our previously unresolved unconscious psycho-emotional disturbance(s). 

#10 - Jul. 12 at 8:23pm | quote

 

Pete

Is that all?  No.  We must then fully grieve the loss of our true feelings and needs which were repressed as a result of the traumatic environment, and which were sacrificed in order to survive our traumatic environments.  We must understand that this process created our false psychological and emotional self that we have lived with in confusion.  We must reject the impulse to pretend that ourselves without our consciously intact true needs and feelings are who we truly are as a way of avoiding the pain of facing the truth of our loss.  We must grieve this fact that periods of our life were wasted as we were in identification with our false emotional self and the pain we may have caused others who were dependent on us.  We must grieve this loss of our true self and all of the pain that it caused in our lives.

#11 - Jul. 12 at 8:25pm | quote

 

Pete

Are we done yet?  Nope.

How do we tell the difference between our true psycho-emotional self and our false psycho-emotional self?  By doing the lonely work.  The lonely work is the work that is done when we arrive at the truth.  We arrive at the truth by listening to and understanding the pain in our bodies.  Our bodies and our unconscious minds never lie to us and we can count on their fidelity with our unconscious, unresolved psycho-emotional trauma 100% of the time with 100% accuracy.  Repressed needs and feelings are locked up in our bodies and our unconscious minds.  These repressed needs and feelings are our true needs and true feelings that were never expressed.  They exert pressure within our body because they seek expression as their final impulse.

#12 - Jul. 12 at 8:28pm | quote

 

Pete

More? Yep.

Once we have an idea of what our true self is, how do we then begin to express our true needs and feelings?  First we have to identify the players responsible for the cause of the repression.  This is the difficult part for most people.  It is important to note that the players are not to be blamed, because they themselves were victims once, forced to repress their own true needs and feelings.  Rather than blame them, we must properly identify the cause of our repression.  In identifying the players as the cause, foregoing placing judgment or blame, yet properly and accurately identifying the cause, we now can become fully conscious of the reasons behind our trauma, the reasons for needing to grieve the loss of our true selves, and the necessity of relinquishing any guilt that was unconsciously placed on us by the players.  We must then direct our true needs and feelings at the players involved in creating the repression of our true needs and feelings.  

#13 - Jul. 12 at 8:31pm | quote

 

Pete

Grace does not come easy people.

This process may involve articulating our feelings and needs either verbally to a therapist who qualifies as an enlightened witness*, or writing them down in a journal or in a letter to the players.  In short, we must finally express our true needs and feelings as they were meant to be expressed, thereby completing their initial trajectory and absolving the repression.  It is not necessary to directly confront the people responsible for our repression.  In fact, this can be counter productive in our efforts to heal ourselves because in the end, we must be understood, respected, and our true needs and feelings must be taken seriously in order for the repression to be resolved and the healing process to begin. The qualified enlightened witness is a necessary component for all of this to take place successfully - we not only must express these needs and feelings, but we must also be respected, taken seriously and we must be received with understanding by another person who does not have unconscious, unresolved psycho-emotional disturbances themselves – we must have this experience of being understood by someone who qualifies as an enlightened witness to be fully healed.

#14 - Jul. 12 at 8:37pm | quote

 

Pete

Almost there.

What is an enlightened witness? *An enlightened witness, according to Alice Miller, is an individual who was fortunate enough to have been respected, listened to and understood, allowed to express their true needs and feelings without being punished, fortunate enough to have been mirrored to and had their feelings, needs, expressions and behaviors acknowledged and supported in an emotionally honest atmosphere, and experienced emotional honesty by a primary care giver, therapist, a journal, or through reflection, processing, articulating or writing about their true needs and feelings - consciously and in the first person - that were never expressed and were never acknowledged and reciprocated. After having put oneself through this process, uncovering all unconscious and unresolved repressed emotional disturbances in the mind and body, one can be considered an enlightened witness. It goes without being said that this process requires uncompromising integrity not to mention tremendous courage within the individual, and rigorous yet subtle and delicate interaction with one’s unconscious psycho-emotional storehouse of repressed emotions.

As far as my understanding goes, this is what Alice Miller requires of us if we are sincere about achieving health.  Forgiveness isn't an act of the will but is achieved through grace.

#15 - Jul. 12 at 8:44pm | quote

 

Pete

One important qualification to:

"It may be that forgiveness comes about through grace after all, but never before hard fought encounters with the real evils dwelling within the unconscious aspect of the human being, in the form of repressed true needs and feelings exerting their pressures within the body in search of an outlet, one way or the other, for the truth to be revealed."

The real evil as Alice Miller sees it, as far as I can tell, and I myself do agree with this, is the act one makes in violation of another while unconscious of ones own pain.  

The repressed true needs and feelings themselves are not evil at all, they are the unconscious emotions that have not yet reached their full trajectory which, if expressed would have fulfilled their truth function in one's life, avoiding the repression and therefore, the trauma altogether.

#16 - Jul. 12 at 11:22pm | quote

 

Pete

Katie van Schaijik, Jul. 12 at 6:59pm

Pete, Jul. 12 at 1:57pm

She doesn't make a distinction and she makes this explicit in her books.  She believes the body does not understand morality and religion and this is where the pain takes up residence.  She believes the truth is the only thing that heals you, and therefore, that forgiveness is not of the will.

 Does she think the body understands truth?  

In any case, I agree with her that truth is the key.  Among my key objections to the false notion of forgiveness is that it downplays or even bypasses truth altogether.  

True forgiveness has to comprehend the whole truth of the wrong done.  

 Yes, she does think the body understands truth.  She believes that it does not understand religion and morality. She does not believe forgiveness heals anything.  She believes that processing the truth of one's pain heals one. From this, I make the assumption that she believes that forgiveness is not an act of the will but is an after effect, which one could call grace if they want to.  It would be the same phenomenon as I see it - a non-linear phenomenon.

#17 - Jul. 12 at 11:36pm | quote

 

Pete

Please remember that this is my assumption, otherwise I would be making the error of putting words into Alice Miller's mouth.  

The assumption I make is that she believes forgiveness is real, but not an act of the will, and yet a concomitant and graceful phenomenon dependent on the grunt work laid out in my posts above, and therefore, very different from our current and omnipresent utilization and understanding of forgiveness.

#18 - Jul. 12 at 11:54pm | quote

 

Tim Cronin

From Veritatis Splendor:

48. Faced with this theory, one has to consider carefully the correct relationship existing between freedom and human nature, and in particular the place of the human body in questions of natural law.

A freedom which claims to be absolute ends up treating the human body as a raw datum, devoid of any meaning and moral values until freedom has shaped it in accordance with its design. Consequently, human nature and the body appear as presuppositions or preambles, materially necessary for freedom to make its choice, yet extrinsic to the person, the subject and the human act. Their functions would not be able to constitute reference points for moral decisions, because the finalities of these inclinations would be merely "physical" goods, called by some "pre-moral". To refer to them, in order to find in them rational indications with regard to the order of morality, would be to expose oneself to the accusation of physicalism or biologism. In this way of thinking, the tension between freedom and a nature conceived of in a reductive way is resolved by a division within man himself.

This moral theory does not correspond to the truth about man and his freedom.

#19 - Jul. 13 at 8:07am | quote

 

Tim Cronin

Alice Miller's view that the body does not understand morality is false. There is emotional pain and trauma in the body at the breakup of a fornicating relationship precisely because the body was "used" immorally instead of "lived" to its true ends.

As far as hypocricy only Jesus (and Mary) can call someone a hypocrite and not be hypocritical.

Also in the Mass we see Word and Deed together.

#20 - Jul. 13 at 8:10am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Pete, I think there's an awful lot of good and true in your theory, and Alice Miller's.  And Tim, I don't think it's nearly as opposed to the Theology of the Body as you seem to think it is.

It's exactly because our bodies are so intimately connected to who we are as existential individuals--so bound up with our moral being— that they respond to wrong and injustice.  They are, in a way, respositories of our experience.  

I agree with her (as she's here represented by Pete) that forgiveness is not an act of the will, and when it's deployed as if it were, it can do harm.  It "papers over" wrongs, instead of resolving them.

I, too, am convinced that it's only by a kind of "grunt work" of "owning the pain" of a wrong committed against us--fully absorbing it and suffering it as a wrong--that we can find the grace of authentic forgiveness.

#21 - Jul. 13 at 9:00am | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

Katie van Schaijik, Jul. 13 at 8:00am

I agree with her (as she's here represented by Pete) that forgiveness is not an act of the will, and when it's deployed as if it were, it can do harm.  It "papers over" wrongs, instead of resolving them.

I, too, am convinced that it's only by a kind of "grunt work" of "owning the pain" of a wrong committed against us--fully absorbing it and suffering it as a wrong--that we can find the grace of authentic forgiveness.

 Do you think that the will has any role in forgiveness?

#22 - Jul. 13 at 9:16am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Patrick Dunn, Jul. 13 at 8:16am

Do you think that the will has any role in forgiveness?

Yes, yes!  Absolutely, yes!  As with all the deepest acts of the person, it is impossible without the collaboration of my will.  It comes from my free spiritual center.  It must, or it isn't forgiveness at all, but some counterfeit.

I am working now on a post elaborating the point. 

#23 - Jul. 13 at 9:37am | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

Katie van Schaijik, Jul. 13 at 8:37am

Patrick Dunn, Jul. 13 at 8:16am

Do you think that the will has any role in forgiveness?

Yes, yes!  Absolutely, yes!  As with all the deepest acts of the person, it is impossible without the collaboration of my will.  It comes from my free spiritual center.  It must, or it isn't forgiveness at all, but some counterfeit.

I am working now on a post elaborating the point. 

Ok, I just wasn't sure as you said in a prior reply to Pete that "forgiveness is not an act of the will."  I figured you did think it must also involve the will, though, because that same reply presupposes the role of the will: "only by a kind of "grunt work" of "owning the pain" of a wrong committed against us...". 

I'm grateful for your replies and what Pete has provided here in terms of the steps to healing.

#24 - Jul. 13 at 10:12am | quote

 

Patrick Dunn

A question that has come up for me in reading through this is how to distinghish the Christian notion of patience (long-suffering) - and when we're called to that - from the need to expose the real evils dwelling within the unconscious aspect of the human being - and so when we're called to focus on those in order to arrive at healing.  I have fears in both directions: that by focusing on being patient and suffering through evils, I become distorted either in my health (physically, emotionally, psychologically) or in my spiritual outlook such that I become a self-appointed victim or martyr; and that by focusing on my own need for healing, I become self-absorbed and my spiritual outlook becomes dominated by my own pursuit of wholeness, intergrity, well-being.

#25 - Jul. 13 at 10:21am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

My suggestion in answer, Patrick, would be that we should focus much less on our subjective condition and much more on objective reality.

I love the Serenity Prayer in this connection.

Lord, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can.  And the wisdom to know the difference.

In other words, get objective: What can I change?  What can't I?

One thing we can't change is other people. But that doesn't mean we can't address the evil they do to us or others, including by calling it what it is: wrong, abusive, not okay.  If we can put a stop to it—for instance, by intervening to protect another, or by walking away to protect ourselves—we should, IMO.    

#26 - Jul. 13 at 10:43am | quote

 

Pete

Katie, I agree with your suggestion.  Alice Miller's steps to healing can be seen as filling in the gaps between theory and practice in an effort to achieve integrity within oneself.  This is a difficult endeavor that takes courage and fortitude, and I believe is necessary for living the truth.  

Patrick, as far as I can tell, Alice Miller does not believe that the real evils are the repressed true needs and feelings within the unconscious aspect.  

She believes that people are afraid to express their true needs and feelings because they learned that the feelings themselves would cause a problem if they were expressed, and it is precisely their expression that is needed in order for them to live the truth. 

Sometimes going over and over something we can't change only causes depression.  It's not necessary to beat the past to death.  The goal is to come to terms with it. 

Facing the issues that cause us disharmony should promote greater balance in our lives.

Do not let it destroy your peace of mind and do not let it stop you from enjoying the present and the future.

#27 - Jul. 13 at 1:02pm | quote

 

Tim Cronin

I agree with Alice/Pete that we need to work through the trauma. The trauma effects the person, that is spirit, soul, and body. What does everyone think of affirmation therapy: http://www.conradbaars.com/affirmation-therapy.htm

Evil is in a sense a "no" to our true being. Jesus is yes to the Father and us. I think there is something to affirmation therapy.

#28 - Jul. 14 at 9:21am | quote

 

Tim Cronin

From this morning's Office of Readings "Grant that where sin has abounded, grace may more abound, so that we can become holier through forgiveness and be more grateful to you."

#29 - Jul. 14 at 9:26am | quote

 

Tim Cronin

My issue with Alice's statement was that our body is not moral or religious. That would mean our body is atheistic. Therefore this is false. Man is homo religiosus. We also have an anamesis of our origin from God (whether we choose to ignore this memory or not)

#30 - Jul. 14 at 9:31am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Tim Cronin, Jul. 14 at 8:21am

I agree with Alice/Pete that we need to work through the trauma. The trauma effects the person, that is spirit, soul, and body. What does everyone think of affirmation therapy: http://www.conradbaars.com/affirmation-therapy.htm

Evil is in a sense a "no" to our true being. Jesus is yes to the Father and us. I think there is something to affirmation therapy.

I only know a little of Conrad Baars.  My impression is that there's a lot of truth there.  I certainly agree with the point that evil is a rejection of our true being.  

I think he's weak in certain respects.  For example, he holds (if I remember rightly) that emotions are "morally neutral."  That needs lots more nuance, IMO.  

#31 - Jul. 14 at 9:36am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Example.

I know Catholics who, following Truwe and Baars, and their idea that we should "validate emotions," will explain that the difference between love and lust is to be found in the object.  If the object is your spouse, it's love.  If it's anyone else, it's lust.  

Same goes with anger.  Anger in itself is "morally neutral"; what matters is what we do with our anger.

Both accounts are too simplistic, IMO.  Lust and love don't only have different objects, they are radicaly different in their basic structure and motivation, as well as their moral worth.  Love wants to give; lust wants take.  It is possible to lust after one's own spouse.

Likewise with anger.  Some anger is a "due response" to an objective wrong.  Some is a welling-up of pride.  Only in the former case should a therapist "validate" the emotion.

And so on.

#32 - Jul. 14 at 12:07pm | quote

 

Tim Cronin

Good points Kaite. I may have read a Baars book years ago but I didn't realize the disregard for the subjective structure/motivation/moral worth.

#33 - Jul. 16 at 9:32am | quote

 

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