Posted in Lost in Thought, Political and Social Issues, Writing

Keeping Perspective

I never posted my last blog post…. that’s two or three I wrote that never got online! Well, I hope this one is luckier.

A day or two ago, this writing prompt from WordPress arrived in my inbox:

I Can’t Stay Mad at You
“Do you hold grudges or do you believe in forgive and forget?”

Topical. 🙂

Several weeks ago I searched for ‘forgiveness’ and discovered it’s defined in a way that doesn’t match my understanding of it.

It seems if you forgive someone, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will continue to have anything to do with that person. It merely means you won’t be acting on ‘it’, whatever it was.

It makes a certain sense if you see forgiveness as a form of self-regulation. If someone damaged something of yours, you might choose not to chase them for reparation. In such a situation, perhaps other things would be of more value to you — community goodwill, for instance, or family ties.

Whether you continue to deal with that person is another issue entirely, and has nothing to do with forgiveness. Well, that’s the impression I formed after reading around.

I always saw forgiveness as continuing to see and speak to the person without changing towards them. If you cut him or her out of your life, that doesn’t seem like true forgiveness. How can you forgive someone without letting them feel it?

I don’t know what to think now. I don’t know enough to know the truth of it, and maybe none of us do.

I enjoyed the following:

Forgive (The Word Detective)

Still on topic, and looking back at the blog prompt… do I bear grudges?

Most of us do, I imagine. First I wrote, “we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t,” then realized cats, dogs, horses and birds in trees most likely bear grudges. Yes, birds sitting on rooftops do; also those flying over your washing. That line of thought was tying me in knots, so the best way of releasing myself was to cut the entire phrase loose…

Yes, I bear grudges over plenty of stuff that has happened to me over the years, and though I don’t act on these things, think, or even talk about most of them, I can still get grumpy when I remember any. Like the time the janitor rapped my knuckles with his keys when a few children were taking refuge in the hallway for some warmth. That really hurt… and I wasn’t shouting, swearing or doing anything wrong… I just didn’t want to be out in the icy playground. How old was I? Six? Seven? How long can we bear a grudge? Oh, as long as we live!

‘Grudge’ is an odd word, but less of a mystery than ‘forgive’. It’s to feel bitter about a wrong done to you. I guess it doesn’t even have to be a wrong that a human, cat or dog has committed, but something more abstract such as… life circumstances, perhaps. You can bear a grudge against the world. The phrase ‘done me wrong’ is interesting, though — very sure of itself.

Perhaps when someone wrongs you, it’s not always something intended to hurt you in any way or to any degree — just a fallout of how things actually are. In that case, what is it we grudge or forgive?

I was interested in the suggestion that ‘forgiving’ means not taking offence at all. Most of us will feel hurt by something, and need a way to move on from that, but what if we can bring ourselves to realize “it’s just how it is” and that no one was being actively malignant?

Can we realize in a comfortable fashion that something is not worth taking offence over? Or does it always take a bit of ‘processing’ to reach that point? Sometimes you have to work out the dynamics of the situation. If they are not clear, then nor are your feelings.

At any rate, there’s often a bit of a battle in our minds when feeling wronged or hurt. The way old grudges fade is when you see them as a curiosity, a bit of social history — something that happened to someone else a long, long time ago. We can’t possibly remember all the ins and outs after all this time, and sometimes we wrong ourselves as well as others if we judge an isolated experience without having all of the facts. Then again, when you find something similar happening all over again, and the same negative feelings surfacing (the ones you’ve long lambasted yourself for giving way to), you suddenly remember why you reacted the way you did all those years ago and appreciate afresh the rollercoaster of emotions you were dealing with back then. You are also faced with the unsettling realization that you’re not really a wiser, mellower being! You haven’t even shown more understanding of your younger self, and (it turns out) you still have those fierce internal battles to deal with. They were only dormant because no one was stirring the magma.

So, forgiveness… what does it mean? I always thought I knew, but life is messy. You can’t say “I forgive” and literally never think of it again, unless you really understand everything and know there’s nothing to forgive.

One way or another, it works best when you are still actively engaging with the other person. It’s a live, warm connection. Your experience of the person continues to update (and isn’t frozen at some point in the past). That’s a healthy situation. Less healthy is thinking you know someone based on something they did years ago, while more recent information is lacking.

These are general thoughts only, and wouldn’t fit all cases. At times we are wise to ‘cut all ties’, but it’s not a decision to be taken lightly and without considering one’s own part in it. We are a community for a reason — there has to be communication. Forgiveness should be about allowing that communication to continue.

Have just noticed I’ve blogged on this topic before, and my perspective does not seem to have changed. (The Point of a Grudge). Having gone through some kind of recent upheaval, I’m glad I can say that. 🙂 A tried and tested viewpoint! I prefer my older post to the newer one, especially as I forgot about Mme Ramotswe’s take on forgiveness.

Posted in Books, Hearing Loss, Life and Family, My Cats

Emotional Toil

Well, I finished Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence, and had mixed feelings about it. Some of it I agreed with, some of it made me uneasy. Parts of it were uncomfortable reading… descriptions of the hurtful rows couples can have makes you curl up in a ball. It’s not just couples, of course; you can have these painful clashes with anybody whose good opinion you value.

I haven’t had any huge arguments lately, or ruined friendships (that I’m aware of), though the other night I didn’t understand something Mum was trying to say till she blew up and stamped about and threw things. I thought we were having a chummy evening in, so it was a shock. What did I do? Turned out she was asking me to stop playing with the cats, as it was distracting her from the TV. I thought she was saying other things, and kept right on…

It sounds both funny and stupid, but it made me feel quite ill. It reminded me of something on TV about a deaf Dalmatian dog; it couldn’t hear warning growls from other dogs and would keep right on… and got attacked. It haunted me at the time, and I couldn’t help remembering it.

I did some stamping and door-slamming myself (retreating upstairs to watch my own TV), and didn’t forgive Mum for two or three hours.

The book said you can get blazingly angry about something all in an instant, but if you stop and think about it, you realize there’s an underlying emotion such as hurt or fear. People get angry because they feel threatened in some way. I didn’t have to think about it very much, I knew about it already. It came before the anger.

The treatment meted out by other people to their friends and partners is not pleasant reading. It makes me want to reach through the pages and shake some of them till their teeth rattle.

It’s purely opinion, but I was dubious about some things in the book. I giggled when reading about a study of one particular group of patients. Some received therapy along with their treatment; others did not. The ones receiving therapy left the hospital an average of two days earlier than the rest. I said to Mum “do you suppose they were trying to escape?”
“I’m quite sure of it,” she said.

I imagine I would have been one of the schoolchildren hinted at (further along) who consider mediation and therapy at school to be an invasion of privacy. Ironic… here I write to the whole world what I’m thinking, but clam up when therapists/consultants/whoever are talking nicely to me in a quiet room. I even clammed up when the university tutors were trying to discuss my thoughts about things I’d read, which was completely missing the point of having tutors… but that’s by the way.

There was a bit about timid cats catching smaller mice than their more courageous brethren; I took issue with that use of the word ‘courageous’. It’s supposed to mean you’re scared but go for it anyway; not that you weren’t particularly scared and waded joyfully in. Mum said it showed a basic misunderstanding of cat behaviour.

Finally I finished the book and handed it over to her in case she wanted to read it, and she dropped it in the bin. “You’re supposed to make up your own mind about it,” I protested, and she said “I have… I’ve had bits of it read to me!”

Finally she relented and pulled it out again, but I don’t care what she does with it. I’ve begun reading Cat on the Edge by Shirley Rousseau Murphy and it’s wonderful. I already see the hero cat (Joe Grey) as being my own Sharky, though Sharky wasn’t ugly and grey with half a tail. It reminds me how I would go off my chump when he (or any of the cats) disappeared. I could just imagine him doing some of those things… but I won’t give away any more, except to say that the pretty girl cat (Dulcie) reminds me strongly of Delilah. Nobody could be cross with her for any reason.

Am taking it to bed, along with cuddly moose, cuddly mouse etc.