Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Victim of Dove

Forgiveness and the Victimization Drama

I had the most amazing car accident last month.

The show opens
Absent-mindedly driving home, I jerked to alertness as I nicked the car in the next lane.  The woman in the other car looked surprised and angry, cursing and gesticulating her arms wildly.  Unable to talk to her, somehow I remained calm. I instinctively held my right hand out in the Abhaya Mudrā, a Hindu-Buddhist hand-gesture representing protection, peace, and dispelling of fear.  She didn't seem consoled, and drove off as her lane's traffic cleared the intersection.  I caught up to her past the intersection and we again stopped in traffic.  I rolled down my window, and motioned for her to do the same.  She did so, quite reluctantly.
"I'm sorry, I don't know what happened back there."  I wasn't sure if it was my fault.
"I think we just hit our side mirrors together, like this."  She mimed.
"Got it.  I see a little nick on the side of your mirror, but no paint gone."
"Oh, I think the mirror is totally fine.  I got a little startled."  She was shaking.
"Got it.  Hey... I'm really sorry to have scared you."  I was really sorry.
"Thanks…  Yeah…. I think I'm okay, it was just a bit surprising."  You could see her body let the trauma go.  Her shaking stopped, her shoulders relaxed, and blood returned to her face.  Traffic was starting to move.
"Well... I hope you have a really nice day!" I'm not sure what came over me in that moment, since that's not the first thing you would say to somebody you just hit.
"I hope you have a great day too! Take care!"  she beamed back. 
We smiled and waved each other farewell, like two old friends parting.
Critics are raving
Allow me to speculate what happened with my leading lady.  In one miraculous minute, we traveled from trauma through victimization to vulnerability and forgiveness.  We plumbed the sad depths of human relationship, and reached the heights of human compassion.

The instant I hit her car, she had the emotion-free sensation of being surprised, and the empowering readiness for action.  Stuck in her seatbelt, unsure of what happened, she started to feel fear and paralysis, intertwined.  Instead of shutting down, her fear gave way to empowering anger, in her familiar drama she played the role of victim and cast me as victimizer.  Replaying an unresolved hurt from her youth, she shook in hyperarousal.  She resisted my first attempt at reconciliation, feeling that I might abuse her again (verbally this time) if she opened up (her window) to me.  Once she did open, something in my manner enabled her to bravely express her initial sensation of surprise instead of her defensive emotion of anger.  The sincerity of my apology allowed her to deeply feel the sensation and then let it go.  We thereby sidestepped the boring reenactment of Act II of the drama, where curse words fly generously in both directions.  I chose not to take the role of victimizer, giving her space to be vulnerable and reconcile.  Her forgiveness was palpable and instant, so much that I felt grateful.  I expressed this to her spontaneously, and she echoed it back to me.  Two strangers bonded through adversity.

Best supporting actor
We are very quick to flee our initial sensation for the comparative safety of a story we created.  Sometimes the story is useful to delineate what's bad for us or what to do.  It might protect us from a similar situation, or keep the original memory at bay when it's too painful or too early for our body to process.  The stories we repeat, however, are often more complicated.  They are cemented fables of a childlike mind, struggling to understand an unexpected world of hurt.  We often hold on to them long after they outlive their usefulness.  We bend our perception to fit the script -- categorizing random occurrences of our life into predefined buckets.  We perpetuate a childlike world where we struggled to love and be loved, where authority disappointed us.  In this world, we are victims handing enormous power to a victimizer.  We beg others to take this leading role in our drama, because no matter how painful or disempowering, the script is familiar.  While angry stories can be empowering, like all stories they shield us from direct confrontation with our unresolved hurt.  Any empowerment we feel is derived from this hurt, not independent of it.  We can live as a martyr, but we cannot live truly inspired.  Inspiration comes from a deep and present connection to your mind-body, not a cemented connection to the past

Sometimes, we find a break from samsāra, this neverending cycle of dramatizing our pain.  Exceptional cameo performances by forgiveness provide relief for our body, mind, and soul.  Performances can be sudden, as in my car accident, or gradual, over years of repeated interaction.  But how do you set the stage for forgiveness?  How do we practice forgiveness with our loved ones, the people that (can) hurt us most?  I'll share a few answers I've found, as I believe forgiveness is fundamental in healing the body-mind.


zoe lunch said...

wait: does this mean whenev i'm mad + wanna cuss them out, i'm putting myself in victim role? is it possible to be mad w/o being helpless victim?

eudae said...

ya know, @zoe, i'm still puzzling over this. on the one hand, i spent like a decade learning to express my emotions, and anger took especially long for me to find. on the other hand, i'm starting to think sensations are the root -- behind the stories and emotions. on that note, i've seen futile therapy of a few different kinds that encourages a kind of addiction to catharsis/expression, rather than seeking the root.

forgiveness tends to operate on an emotion/story level, and sensations work at a fairly inexpressible/esoteric level. i'm afraid to let go of the tangible emotions and focus on the sensations, but my gut tells me that's where I should be focusing.

You probably read 'em, but JFYI I wrote about sensations vs. emotions here:
And finding your sensations here: