As so many of us do, I carried wounds from my childhood into my adult life. As a young girl I was molested by some boys. At the time I was devastated. I was sure it was my fault, and when the boys told me not to tell anyone or they would kill me I believed them. Before that I never felt like I fit in, afterwards I felt like a total misfit. I was sure life was a complex game and everybody except me knew how to play.
When I began my journey of self-discovery in my twenties I ran across the concept of forgiveness and with a great deal of anger and judgment promptly rejected the idea. Over the years my thoughts on forgiveness have changed drastically. Now I believe forgiveness is one of the most important steps we can take toward achieving self-acceptance, peace of mind, and happiness.
We are taught to think in terms of duality: right and wrong, positive and negative, good and bad, black and white, you and me. Our society is based on the concept of domination -- the society and the individual are seen as separate -- the problem and the solution are two different things. As long as we view the world that way judgment and comparison are very much a part of our thought process. Forgiveness seems like we are letting them off the hook -- punishment makes much more sense than forgiveness.
We aren't taught to believe that everything in life is one. But in truth we are all one, everything and everyone is part of the great mystery of life.
There Is Another Way of Viewing Life
There is another way of viewing life, which I call dominion. Symbolically I think of dominion as a huge sphere, a womb that holds everything lovingly within it. How we view events in our life depends upon where we are standing on that sphere. I am not separate from anyone hence no one can do anything to me, they just do it. Viewing life this way makes forgiveness a desirable and understandable component of life. Let me explain.
As I embraced the concept of dominion I realized that those boys didn't do anything to me, I just happened to be in the same place they were when they decided to do something. The boys that molested me dealt with their emotional pain by passing it on to me. It was really all about them. What a gift that realization was for me! Not only was I able to forgive them but I was able to forgive myself and really see the experience for what it was, an opportunity to learn how to open my heart and love at a much deeper level.
I strongly believe that if we learn to live in dominion instead of domination the world would be a much more loving and gentle place to live. In dominion, instead of judging things we embrace them. Life, relationships, and everyday events become an opportunity for us to see our filter system, which is composed of all of our assumptions, agreements, and beliefs.
Get The Latest From InnerSelf
Choosing How We See Events
In each moment we have a choice -- will I see this through the eyes of my filter system, the eyes of fear and separation, or will I see through the eyes of my spirit, the eyes of love and oneness? In each moment we can choose to either be in domination or dominion.
When I first introduce these concepts to people they usually say I am asking them to be a doormat. They ask me how I can embrace the rapist or the murderer? When they ask that, I share the story of my family.
The Nazis killed my great grandmother during the holocaust while a cousin went back to Germany to fight with the Nazis. Dominion allowed me to accept and understand both a brutal murder and murderer. Many holocaust survivors share that they couldn't make peace with their experiences in the camps until they forgave the Nazis.
Getting Rid of Weeds at the Root
I believe that as a species we missed a wonderful opportunity after World War II. If you want to get rid of a dandelion, cutting the head off won't work. If you deal only with what's on the surface the weed will come right back; if you dig out the root, the weed will be gone forever.
The legacy of Hitler and the holocaust isn't just about unthinkable cruelty and genocide. Those were just the head of the dandelion. If we have the courage to really examine the root we will find judgment and our need for domination. I believe the questions we ask as a society often define us.
What if we had asked ourselves what caused Hitler to have a filter system that allowed him to make choices that resulted in the death of millions of people? What if we had seen judgment as the cause of all that death and suffering and Hitler as the symbol of our collective hatred, criticism, and judgment? What could we have changed as a society? Where would we be today if we had sought to free ourselves from judgment instead of focusing our judgment on what they did?
Everything in life is a process and by definition a process takes time. Getting to the point that we are even willing to think about forgiveness often takes a long time. I believe exploring the concept of dominion expedites arriving there. When we view the world from a place of dominion our perspective changes and we are able to fully embrace the experience. As we learn to embrace the events in our life the problem and the solution become one.
Emotional Healing: Freely Venting Our Anger and Judgment
The first step in our emotional healing is allowing ourselves to freely vent our anger and judgment. It is important not to rush through this step. Do whatever is necessary to release the emotional trash surrounding the issue; write a series of letters fully expressing all your thoughts, judgments, and feelings and then burn them; draw pictures; scream and yell; beat on pillows. After all, if we have a lot of emotional trash hanging around it makes it much harder to move toward forgiveness. Once we release the emotions we have attached to the memory we can begin the process of forgiveness and acceptance and then we can begin to see the gift every event in our life contains.
All of our emotions are generated by what we tell ourselves about the events in our lives rather than by the events themselves. As we change what we tell ourselves about an event our emotions will change as well. Our emotions are really signposts that point toward our filter system. Our filter system is composed of our beliefs, the assumptions we've made about life, and the agreements we have made with ourselves and our world. We think we are seeing reality when we are really seeing the distortion version of reality created by our beliefs, the assumptions we've made about life, and the agreements we've made with ourselves and our world; we see our filter system and not the world.
We often say things like, "You hurt my feelings," or "You really make me angry." What actually happens is someone does something, then we tell ourselves something about what happened, and those words generate our emotional response. All the events in our lives are emotionally neutral until we attach an emotion to the event by what we tell ourselves. When we realize our emotions are our own creation we can use them to set ourselves free of our limiting beliefs. We can use the events in our life to illuminate our filter system. Instead of focusing our attention on our emotions and trying to change the events in our life we can change the way we think. We don't want to suppress our emotions, it is important for us to feel them and do what is necessary to release them. That allows us to have an opportunity to see our filter system in a neutral and non-judgmental manner.
Setting Ourselves Free
After we achieve a degree of emotional neutrality it is much easier for us to see to see our filter system for what it is -- a collection of ungrounded and limiting beliefs. Our mind would much rather be right than be happy. Our spirit is limitless while our mind feels safer within the familiar limits of our filter system. Once we fully embrace that which our mind wants to judge we can then set ourselves free. At that point not only do we forgive ourselves and anyone else involved with the event but we move beyond the need for forgiveness.
As we move beyond forgiveness and toward acceptance we see the beauty of all of our creations. When we view life from the perspective of dominion we begin to see it as a work of art we create moment by moment. Every event in our life is an opportunity to deepen our connection with ourselves, the people in our lives, and with God, the Great Spirit or whatever you choose to call the Creator of this magnificent universe. After we clearly see the role our filter system plays in our experience of life we often want to release it.
Until then we frequently attempt to control things beyond our control so we can be happy or at least comfortable. We try to change the events in our lives instead of how we see them. When we learn to focus on our filter system instead of what "they did" or "what happened to us" we can learn to be happy no matter what is going on in our lives. We can move beyond forgiveness to a deep sense of acceptance of life just as it is. When we finally realize it has been our filter system that has prevented us from being happy we can change how we think about life.
Changing your mind is a process and it can be an easy and enjoyable one or one that is full of pain and struggle, the choice is ours. To make it a more enjoyable experience create an inner sanctuary for yourself, become your own best friend, talk lovingly to yourself, and gently accept yourself just the way you are. Remember, learning to see life through the eyes of dominion and love is a process that takes time. Give yourself the gift of taking as much time as you need.
Book by this Author:
Published by Renaissance Books Inc. ©2000
About The Author
Dr. Susan Gregg is the author of numerous books including her most recent: The Toltec Way: A Guide to Personal Transformation. She has her doctorate in clinical hypnotherapy and completed an apprenticeship with Sister Sarita and Don Miguel Ruiz author of The Four Agreements. Susan lives in Hawaii and specializes in leading sacred journeys of transformation. Visit her website at www.susangregg.com