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Forgiveness and Acceptance

{written by : Ian Heath}

Article word count : 2435 -- Article Id : 1003
Article active date : 2008-11-03 -- Article views : 7989

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Article is about :
Abreaction produces unpleasant consequences. Resentment is generated by the abreaction of guilt, and bitterness by the abreaction of pride.

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Souring the Mind

Abreaction produces unpleasant consequences. Resentment is generated by the abreaction of guilt, and bitterness by the abreaction of pride.

If resentment and bitterness are not worked through then they lead to the production of long-term effects. Resentment narrows a person’s views of society. And bitterness hardens a person. The result is a sour mind.

Why do resentment and bitterness have the power to sour the person? To understand this effect we have to look at the factors of these two emotions

I repeat the sequence of the abreaction of guilt.
Narcissism leads to jealousy ; then jealousy leads to guilt ; then guilt leads to resentment.

Looking at the jealousy-guilt stage in more detail,
jealousy (= love + self-pity) leads to guilt (= self-hate + self-pity).

It took me a long time to analyse resentment ; the difficulty is that guilt is inward-looking and resentment is outward-looking. How does this change of direction occur? In the abreaction of guilt the switch from jealousy to guilt involves love leading to hate. Hence guilt is in the mode of self-hate ; this then leads to resentment. Resentment has an outward-looking factor that is conditioned by guilt. I eventually identified this factor as my idealism. It is idealism that gives power to resentment. The idealism can be moral, ethical, or a spiritual idealism.

So resentment arises when the person’s idealism is shaped and narrowed by guilt in the mode of self-hate. Therefore the more intense that a person’s idealism is, the more intense will be his / her resentments.

I repeat the sequence of the abreaction of pride.
Jealousy leads to narcissism ; then narcissism leads to pride ; then pride leads to bitterness.

Looking at the narcissism-pride stage in more detail,
Narcissism (= love + vanity) leads to pride (= hatred of others + vanity).

In the abreaction of pride the switch from narcissism to pride involves love leading to hate. So pride is in the mode of hatred of others. Bitterness is outward-looking and it too involves the person"s idealism.

Bitterness arises when the person’s idealism is shaped and made hard by pride. Similarly, the more intense that a person’s idealism is, the more intense will be his / her bitterness.

Emotional Dynamics

Any emotion is always a feeling (either positive or negative) that energises a mental concept associated with it. The mental concept is normally unconscious, so I call it an unconscious idea. Emotional dynamics are the principal unconscious ideas and their associated emotions that drive any particular state of consciousness.

The factors of these two emotions, or their emotional dynamics, are :

Resentment = . guilt acting on idealism.
= . idealism + guilt (mode of self-hate).

Bitterness = . pride acting on idealism.
= . idealism + pride (mode of hatred of others).

The intense levels of resentment and bitterness evidenced in the 20th century movements of fascism and nazism reflected the underlying confused idealisms of their forms of state socialism. Other forms of state socialism have been free of resentment and bitterness, since the underlying idealisms were not frustrated.

A long psycho-analysis generates resentment and bitterness repeatedly. When they are generated by abreactions in feeling mode, then they often fade away of their own accord since the problems that generate them are usually transient ones. But when abreactions are in insight mode, then resentment and bitterness are much more difficult to handle: they are prolonged because the contents of the catharsis and the sorrow feature definite and long-standing problems which have now been brought into the open.

Bringing a problem into the open means bringing the person"s beliefs and values into the open. To resolve the problem, the person has to adjust his / her beliefs and values, and this adjustment will take time. And during this time the resentment and the bitterness remain ; the person just has to persevere till he / she assimilates them.

The abreactions of guilt and pride are assimilated when two particular attitudes arise, those of forgiveness and acceptance.

Forgiveness dissolves resentment.
Resentment ends when we learn to forgive other people for what they have done to us in the past, when we forgive life itself for all our sorrows, and when finally we learn to forgive ourselves. The religious person seeks forgiveness from god. This is not enough to solve our problems. God does not remove personal responsibility from us. Many of my problems have been created by myself ; therefore I have to learn to forgive myself. As an existentialist, I am my own devil, judge, and jury ; hence it is only fair that I should be the one to forgive myself.

Forgiveness of other people who have hurt us is not a sign of magnanimity; forgiveness of others simply prevents their negative impact on us from continuing to influence our lives.

Acceptance dissolves bitterness.
Bitterness ends when I learn to accept life itself, when I learn to accept my present state of evolution even though it is far short of my ideals. Acceptance means that I can be glad for my memories, whatever they are like, whether they are happy ones or tearful ones. I accept that my present personality could only be formed under the impact of sorrow. I do not need to justify sorrow or to reject it; it is just a feature of life, nothing more. A full acceptance has its base in narcissism, in the love of life.

Role of Narcissism

It is always narcissism that dissolves the pain of life. Narcissism has two modes, those of vanity and love. The vanity mode stimulates two major states of mind that partially dissolve sorrow.

First, the vanity mode sees life as drama – in this mode forgiveness arises, that is, forgiveness is an attribute of narcissism in vanity mode. Secondly, the same mode is responsible for the need to dramatise my pain, to romanticise the difficulties in life that I have had to face ; this romanticising helps me to partially assimilate the pain. The stage of romanticising the sorrow may take months to fade – it is not a continuous process but occurs piecemeal.

The romanticising of sorrow is just as compulsive as the phantasising on forbidden themes during the stage of catharsis.

Therefore, under the impulse of narcissism, the person first interprets life as a drama, and then inserts his own role in that drama. This predilection helps to generate forgiveness and assimilate sorrow.

Both these states of mind occur in the narcissism stage of the abreaction of pride. If the current problem features other people, then forgiveness of others is felt. Whereas, if I am dwelling on my own inadequate responses to life, then I am absorbed in romanticism and this facilitates my capability to forgive myself. Romanticism lifts me out of the dreary view of life that regular sorrow produces, and enables me to forgive myself.

Finally, bitterness is completely absorbed when narcissism switches to love mode: all pains and sorrows are dissolved in this state of mind.

Both forgiveness and acceptance occur in stages, each time going deeper into the subconscious mind. For example, the complete solution to a difficult problem may require several levels of forgiveness. First a shallow level of understanding of the problem is achieved, leading to an initial forgiveness. If then the person becomes immersed in a deeper aspect of that problem, and becomes hurt once more, so the previous forgiveness will be repudiated. The person now has to battle his way to a deeper understanding. If this is achieved then a new forgiveness is realised. If the person goes deeper still into the problem then this process (repudiating the old forgiveness and struggling to a new one) replicates itself.

Forgiveness is always conditional on an adequate grasp of the problem. When the problem becomes too difficult to handle or to master then forgiveness cannot be maintained: the old psychological hurts return. Acceptance works in the same way.


However, there is a major feature of forgiveness that the person needs to be aware of and to be wary of. Forgiveness occurs during the stage of narcissism in the abreaction of pride. Forgiveness always creates a backlash – the following stage of pride generates an intense degree of hatred, hatred against the very conditions or situations that forgiveness was felt towards. The deeper the feeling of forgiveness, the greater is the intensity of pride in its hate mode. And the subsequent bitterness is just as bad. It is best to avoid social company whilst the hatred and bitterness are being worked through.

For example, suppose that, in the past, someone had hurt me. In order to forgive that person and let go of the relationship with them, I have to live through the hurts, in all their intensities, that I had received from that person. Correspondingly, I have to work my way through all the hatreds that I had generated towards that person. Hence deep wounds may require many rounds of forgiveness to effect a total detachment from the relationship.

Alternatively, I may decide that now I am willing to improve a present relationship that is poor or bad. I am willing to abandon my veto on participating in that relationship. I forgive the person. Yet still when I switch to pride (in mode of hatred), I dwell on all the times that I have been hurt by that and other relationships. I feel the rejection and the pain that I have been subjected to. My mood becomes very unpleasant.

In general, any anti-social or individualist attitude that has ‘hard’ boundaries (that is, any rigidity or aggressiveness in such an attitude) is a defensive manoeuvre to protect oneself from being psychologically hurt by other people. When such an attitude is replaced by another attitude which has ‘soft’ boundaries (for example, the attitude that one should be friendly or caring to other people) then there is normally a backlash. The backlash occurs because the person is now releasing the stored-up anxiety over becoming vulnerable.

Usually acceptance produces a backlash too, but sometimes it does not appear to. Acceptance does not always involve the resolution of past anxiety, as forgiveness does ; instead it often focuses on acquiring a realistic (instead of a romantic) self-image on which the person can base future idealism. If a backlash is produced, then it is not felt as severely as that which forgiveness produces.

Sometimes the stage of forgiveness seems to have been by-passed ; then the stage of acceptance produces a backlash as severe as would have been generated if the forgiveness had been passed through. The psychological pain that has been built into the person"s character and identity cannot be reduced by avoiding stages of resolution.

Forgiveness does most of the work of resolving a problem, and is eventually followed by the acceptance of that problem as a learning stage in one’s personal evolution.

The overall theme of sorrow resolution is that a romantic / dramatic view of the world is generated in order to facilitate forgiveness, and then acceptance removes the romanticism and produces a realistic world view.

Stages of Sorrow Resolution

In order to fully assimilate a problem there are two separate approaches that the person needs to follow. These approaches can be labelled ‘form and content’. The form is the kind of problem that one is facing, and the content is the particular occurrences of that kind of problem.

For example, the form may be ‘victimisation’: this sets the framework in which personal experiences may be interpreted. The content is all the times that the person has actually been victimised.

Content approach
In order to deal with the content of a problem there are often several different levels of acceptance to work through, so that acceptance can be full or partial.

It requires a spirit of optimism to create the conditions for a full acceptance. When the person is an optimist, then he / she can joyfully accept whatever disasters have happened to them in life ; the disasters were merely a challenge.

The partial forms of acceptance occur when the person delves deeper still into the subconscious mind, and goes through the stages of pessimism. Now acceptance becomes negative, because it is accompanied either by fear or by hate. The partial levels of pessimistic acceptance may generate a backlash.

The lowest level of partial acceptance becomes based on over-riding fear, and turns into indifference. Indifference is the rationalisation of defeat. Now the person can accept their place in life (which curtails the possibilities of fame), accept the necessity for rules (which curtail freedom), and accept even the concept of duty (which curtails the possibilities of power). This generates a pessimism that is typified by an attitude of ‘I don’t care’ to the world and one’s place in it. Heroism has departed for other pastures.

An intermediate form of partial acceptance occurs when fear is reduced and sadness becomes the dominant background mood. This is resignation or Stoicism. The sadness arises as the pain of existence for everyone (not just for oneself) is fully realised and not denied. The basis of making moral judgements evaporates: no one is to blame for their badness. Rationality replaces emotion as the basis of decision-making.

The highest level of partial acceptance is detachment. This centres on pride in the mode of hatred. Often the detachment will stimulate a desire for solitude, as the person feels world-weary. Detachment is attained after he / she has worked at forgiveness. Mindfulness is the technique for learning detachment: ‘in the seeing, only the seen’, etc.

Finally, perhaps, at a later period, acceptance returns to the optimistic mode as joy comes back ; however, this time the naiveté has been reduced from the person’s view of life. The reduction of naiveté is the function of pessimism.
As an ascending sequence of attainment, these steps are :

5. Full acceptance

4. Detachment

3. Forgiveness

2. Resignation

1. Indifference

Form approach
This approach needs to go hand-in-hand with the content approach. In the content approach, all that forgiveness and acceptance do is to annul the past content. However, future content is always possible.

For example, I may have resolved all the content of past victimisation. But if tomorrow I am subject to new victimisation, all the anxieties associated with this form will re-awaken and arouse me once more. To prevent future arousal over victimisation I need to neutralise the form as well as the content. The form is handled by learning detachment to it, similar to practising mindfulness on content, but now emphasising the attitude that any unpleasant experience is ‘just another experience’.

The purpose of detachment is to remove any kind of valuation from that experience, whether of content or of form – when an experience has no value for us, then it cannot affect us.

Author Bio :
Copyright © 2002 Ian Heath, owner of a map of psychological spirituality suitable for modern times.

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