Lynne is a contributor to a new book about forgiveness.
Her chapter is printed in full below.
FORGIVENESS AND CHILD ABUSE- Would YOU Forgive?
by Lois Einhorn, Ph.D., with a forward by Arun Gandhi, Mahatma's grandson
Riveting experiences and a diversity of views were contributed
by 53 people, including
Patch Adams, MD
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter
Mary Elizabeth King
and many others
This powerful book is available in bookstores and online.
AND CHILD ABUSE - Would YOU Forgive?
This is Lynne's chapter about forgiving her father who sexually abused and tortured her, other relatives, God and herself:
Your story touched me in many ways because it is eerily similar to my childhood experiences. I too was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by my father from the time I was a baby until I was eight years old. My mother witnessed the abuse. When I asked her to take me away, she hit me and distanced herself emotionally from me. My father also forced me to help him kill my kitten.
Sadly, our stories are not uncommon. I have heard similar experiences from men, women, and children across the country who came to me for counseling or attended my workshops for therapists and abuse survivors.
Some people find it difficult to believe that such terrible things happen to children, but studies show that at least a third of children in the United States under the age of eighteen have been sexually abused. Sexual abuse occurs in every ethnic, economic, and religious group, not just the poor and uneducated, as recent revelations about Catholic priests demonstrate. Studies in England, Germany, Australia, Canada, France, and Belgium reveal numbers of cases similar to those in the U.S. If criminal neglect and physical and emotional abuse are added to those numbers, the number of abused children is over two thirds. Child abuse is a world-wide epidemic. It is also a major cause violence in the world.
As you are all too aware, the most devastating effects of abuse are not physical, but psychological and emotional. While he was abusing me, my father told me that he was doing it because I was evil. He said I made him do it, that God told him to punish me because I was so evil, that I was a child of the devil, and that anyone I loved would die. The abuse made me hate myself, God, and everyone in the world. It destroyed my trust and love. It filled me with hatred, murderous rage, and a desire to die that that made every moment hell. I believed I was in hell and would be tortured forever, hardly conducive to a happy life.
Like you, Lois, I put on a great fašade. I drove myself to overachieve academically and professionally to prove I was "good". But my accomplishments provided only fleeting moments of pleasure before I sank back into despair. I unconsciously sabotaged anything good that came my way, including jobs, relationships, and finances.
During my recovery, I uncovered hundreds of self-sabotaging decisions made from confusion, despair, anger, and desperation. My healing process took sixty years and included years of therapy and self-analysis to clear out repressed emotions, memories, and self-sabotaging beliefs and behavior patterns. The abuse caused post-traumatic stress disorder, inappropriate emotional reactions, and self-sabotaging behavior. Trying to use my intellect and sheer will to change behavior and reactions didn't work. My mind had to be cleared of the old trauma so I could be free to choose how I felt and reacted.
You asked whether there is free will. Recent neurobiological studies show that until we clear our minds of trauma, we have only limited free will. Traumatic events are imprinted in our brains with all of the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings and emotions. These memories are like a computer software program running subconsciously in our minds. These stored memories and feelings can be triggered by later events, until memories and emotions of the traumatic events are brought to consciousness and released. When something in the present reminds us subconsciously of repressed traumatic events, the reasoning part of our brain is bypassed. Information is shunted down different neural pathways directly to the repressed memory, causing us to react as we did during the trauma. We lose our free will.
Most people find it easier to accept this fact in cases of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, than in adults who suffer from PTSD because of childhood abuse. But the neurobiological reactions are the same. If a medical helicopter flies overhead, Vietnam veterans may scream "Incoming, incoming" and dive under tables. They react as if they were still in Vietnam, even though most of the time they know the war is over and they are safe in the United States. These soldiers cannot "choose" to act differently. At the moment their repressed trauma is triggered, they have no free will.
The free will of child abuse victims is limited in the same way. When fear and rage suppressed during childhood abuse are triggered, as adults we may explode with inappropriate anger, destroy relationships, hurt ourselves, or even abuse others. I was horrified to realize how many people I had hurt, not physically, but emotionally and psychologically. Words can wound as much as rape and beatings.
There is only one reason why people abuse children: because they have been abused as children themselves. Abuse is a learned behavior. After helping thousands of victims, including perpetrators, training hundreds of therapists and reading hundreds of books, I have never heard of a case where a perpetrator was not also a victim. Sexual abuse is not a crime of lust; it is a crime of violence. Although only a small percentage of sexual abuse victims become abusers, children subjected to violence, especially when forced to abuse others, can repeat the same acts on others. Just as the sounds of a helicopter trigger a Vietnam vet to react with fear as if in combat, old feelings of helplessness and rage can be triggered in abuse victims, unconsciously causing them to repeat what was done to them, not out of lust, but out of feelings of helplessness and a need for control and power.
After my father received therapy and stopped abusing me, he would often come to me in tears. I remember his words clearly: "I'm such a terrible father. I did such terrible things to you. I'm so sorry. I love you so much. You would have been better off if I were dead. I should have committed suicide."
My father was not a "bad" person. My memories revealed his different personality states and his semi-autobiographical books describe childhood abuse and parts of his mind that made him do terrible things. In his primary, conscious state, he was not an abuser. My father talked about abuse by his mother, stepfather, and other family members and wrote about it in his books. He was also abused in a satanic cult in Austria. He did to me what was done to him. Once he knew consciously what he had done, he spent the rest of his life overwhelmed with remorse, trying to atone and show his love for me. He died before I recovered memories of the years of abuse. While he lived he had to see the effects of his abuse on his daughter every day of his life. I cannot imagine a more terrible hell.
But despite horrendous experiences and actions, my father healed himself, with therapy and his own introspection. One of his last poems, entitled "Escape", describes how he finally escaped from the tomb of hate in which he lived much of his life. It says that after growing up on "a childhood vow of hate" and years of blindness, he found "light."
As a therapist, I have seen into the minds of murderers and child abusers. Most perpetrators are not consciously aware of what they are doing when they abuse. When feelings of their childhood abuse are triggered, they have no free will. They are terribly wounded people who do terrible things. But they are not "evil". The sad fact is that hurt people often hurt others. People who act the worst hurt the most.
Religions advise us not to judge because we can never know another person's whole story. The Sioux Indians have an insightful prayer: "Great Spirit, help me to never judge another until I have walked in his moccasins for two weeks." We cannot know what someone has experienced and thus do not know what will break him and send him over the edge into violence.
Nonjudgment and forgiveness give birth to compassion. I believe that was Jesus' message when He said "Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do." He knew that until we realize who we really are - divine spiritual beings who are eternal expressions of Love -we have only limited free will. Until our minds are clear, we are puppets of our past trauma.
The key to recovery is forgiveness. But the concept of forgiveness is greatly misunderstood. It does not mean we condone what our abusers did. "Condone" means to overlook. We can never overlook the magnitude of suffering we endured. Forgiving does not mean what they did was all right. No child deserves to be abused. Abusing a child is never "all right".
Forgiveness does not mean we forget what was done to us. Those acts are irrevocable and affected the course of our lives. They are part of our history. To heal, we must remember traumatic events and release the violent emotions that create turmoil inside us. We must grieve for what we suffered and what could have been. We must make peace with the past. As long as we repress traumatic memories, we remained trapped in the trauma.
But abuse does not have to haunt us or be the focus of the rest of our lives. We can be free by letting go of the bitterness, anger, and hatred without condoning what our abusers did.
"Letting go" is the true meaning of forgiveness. Forgiveness is for the one who forgives, not the one who is forgiven. As long as we hold on to anger and resentment, we cannot be free. As long as we hate or resent our abusers, we remain tied to them. The energy of our anger keeps us enmeshed. We need to let go in order to free ourselves.
Forgiveness demands that we feel our anger, grief and resentment, not in the abstract, but tied to specific memories of what we endured. Most people are terrified of their own murderous anger - the shadow side. Some therapists and spiritual teachers have not done their own inner work and are afraid of anger. They discourage people from expressing and releasing it. But anger and hatred are just as much "God-given" emotions as love and compassion. When these emotions are suppressed, they act as barriers to love. If we do not allow ourselves to experience anger and hatred, we are unable to feel love and compassion. We are the walking dead. When we release the many levels of anger and hatred inside us, love, compassion, and happiness remain - our true nature.
Some therapists and spiritual teachers try to make people forgive before they are ready. Forgiveness does not come from an act of will. Rationalizing away our pain and anger because of what our abusers might have suffered denies what we felt as children and keeps us stuck in pain and anger. Ignoring the feelings that we had as children dishonors us and causes self-hatred. It is only when we know the details of how we have been hurt and release the violent emotions that we are read to forgive. When we release the many levels of anger and hated inside our minds, understanding and compassion come naturally and effortlessly.
Forgiving does not mean we must have further contact with an abuser. And we certainly do not have to allow someone to continue to abuse us or treat us with disrespect. We do not even have to tell people who hurt us that we have forgiven them. Even if the person never knows, forgiving creates miracles. Quantum physicists have proven that we are composed of atoms and molecules, tiny particles which when broken down are energy - conscious, intelligence. When we forgive - let go - we change our energy and affect the quantum field. It changes the energy of our abusers giving them an opening to change their lives.
The process of forgiveness has many levels. I had to let go of my anger toward my father, mother, and others who hurt me. Then my anger focused on my father's abusive mother and other relatives involved in the chain of abuse. I had to forgive all the people who didn't help me. When I thought I was done, I uncovered my rage at God for not protecting me and for allowing me to be abused.
Last, but certainly not least, I had to forgive myself for hating myself, hating others, sabotaging my life, and hurting myself and others. It was a long process. Even now the old tapes sometimes play in my mind, but they are shorter and I can clear them more quickly.
Each time we forgive, miracles occur. Our beliefs and emotions, conscious and subconscious, act like blinders that control the way we view the world. Anger, hatred, resentment and our judgments keep us from experiencing the miracles and love that surround us. When I stay in faith, forgiveness, peace, gratitude, and acceptance, I live in the flow where serendipity, synchronicity, and miracles surround me.
Until we clear our minds and forgive, we remain blind to the perfection, love, and beauty that are right here, right now. Most of us believe we have done terrible things. We punish ourselves. No one judges us; we judge ourselves. It's all in our own minds.
The startling truth is that we experience only as much happiness as we believe we deserve. When we totally pardon and love ourselves, we experience inner peace, compassion and love - nirvana, shambala, the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Forgiving allows us to tap into this kingdom, the world of miracles that surrounds us right now. The answers are inside ourselves. No matter what we have done, or what has been done to us, we can pardon ourselves and heal. There are no exceptions.
I used to be the quintessential victim, insisting everyone else was to blame for my unhappiness. My hardest lesson was accepting the fact that I was responsible for my feelings and that all the answers I needed were inside me. Enlightened psychiatrist Carl Jung said: "Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." I had to look inside to find the truth of who I really am, powerful, eternal, unlimited and loving.
The world "outside" is a mirror of our thoughts and beliefs. This truth has been recognized by sages and mystics throughout the ages. Playwright George Bernard Shaw advised: "Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world." Thomas Dreier echoed, "The World is a great mirror. It reflects back to you what you are. If you are loving, if you are friendly, if you are helpful, the world will prove loving and friendly and helpful to you. The world is what you are."
The Lord's Prayer says: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us". This is cosmic law. To the extent we forgive others, we forgive ourselves and are forgiven. Harboring anger and resentment keeps us in hell. Forgiving allows us to live in the flow, in the kingdom of heaven.
When I realized who I AM, I also realized that the Universe is perfectly orchestrated. There are no mistakes. There is a perfect plan for us all. Everything that happens to us is a gift designed to wake us up, to bring us to enlightenment.
If you are thinking this is "airy fairy nonsense", I suggest you rent a video of the Michael Douglas movie, The Game. Douglas portrays a cold, arrogant, wealthy executive. When his brother enrolls Douglas in "The Game", which is the game of life, people do "terrible" things to Douglas. They rob, beat, and try to kill him.
At the end of the film, all the people in Douglas' life, including those who did "terrible" things to him, celebrate his awakening at his "birthday" party.
The Game is based on ancient spiritual teachings in various religions as well as the Bible: everything that happens to us and every being we meet is a gift designed to bring us to enlightenment and Self-realization. In an early scene, Douglas asks an older man who has played "The Game" to explain it. Smiling, the older man says, "I was blind, but now I see."
Everything that happens is a gift, never a punishment, designed to wake us up. In the kingdom of heaven there is no duality. There is no "good" or "bad". All is well, all is good, all is God/Spirit/divine consciousness. There is a divine plan motivated by love. When you see the world in this light, your life will change and you will see miracles everywhere.
One of my therapy clients, a survivor of satanic cult abuse, made a list of the strengths she gained from what she had experienced. Surprisingly there were many, as I found when I made my own list. Included among them were courage, resilience, compassion, and spiritual awakening.
Would I have had these qualities without the abuse? I don't know. However, my pain spurred me on to greater spiritual growth, propelling me to become more understanding, tolerant, and compassionate than I might have been otherwise. I am also blessed with having been able to help many people, survivors of unimaginable abuse and suffering, because of my experiences. The ultimate gift is that I now live in a world of constant miracles, a divine flow that brings me everything I need and want effortlessly.
We are living in a time of rapid evolution. We face many changes and challenges as spiritual beings having adventures in human form. Sometimes it may seem overwhelming. But we are never given anything we are unable to handle because, at some level, our souls choose our destinies. The Universe/Spirit/Consciousness already knows the outcome for all of us - and it's perfect. Some people call these the "end times" and fear a terrible Armageddon. But based on years of study, I believe Revelations has been grossly misunderstood. The world will not end. What will end is our illusion of a "physical" world we think of as reality. We will step into the perception of a new reality, the true reality, where we realize that we are love, spirit, consciousness, connected to and part of All That Is.
After the devastation of hurricane Katrina, Lynn Robinson, a dear friend in Mobile, Alabama wrote, "The storm is an invitation to love." Every challenge we face, all pain and suffering, are invitations to love. As C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain: "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." Pain and challenges are gifts designed to wake us up, to bring us to enlightenment and love.
We are all helping each other every moment, even though we may not be aware of it. The fun comes when we become consciously aware of the synchronicity and see the perfection at work, the intricate symphony playing in our lives. Being fully aware of the people who are sent to me for help and who are sent to help me is living magic. When my intention is clear, I can just follow my feelings and do what I want. Whatever I do is perfect - even if I decide to do nothing.
No one can "give" you enlightenment. You are already enlightened. You are only limited by your limiting beliefs. Enlightenment does not need to take years of struggle; it can happen in an instant. You do not have to earn it; it's who you are. You only have to realize that you are already enlightened, pure consciousness, spirit, eternal, and unlimited. That is why it's called Self-realization. You are perfect right now. We are spirit, divinely guided and always on the right path, despite outward appearances.
My favorite quote is from the Buddha: "If you search the wide world over, you will never find anyone more deserving of love than yourself." This applies to everyone.
When we see the truth of who we are, we know that all is forgiven and all is well.
Love and blessings,