flowerbudh wrote:Hello friends,
I am seeking guidance in dealing with my relationship (or really, lack of a healthy one) with my father. I won't go too far into detail, but he is a man with very little virtue... abusive emotionally/physically/mentally. I am sure he will be reborn many, many, many times. You see, I have forgiven him, in a sense, and I do my best not to think thoughts like, "He ruined my childhood", "He raped me", "He will suffer" etc. and I have cut contact with him (although he drives me to school occasionally/comes to the house to see my brother), but still, fear contaminates my heart whenever I am near him and sadness wells up in my whole being. What can I do to heal and overcome these emotions? How is this abuse viewed karmically, if at all? Any and all other thoughts/comments welcome, please share personal experiences if you have them.
Boundless love to you.
To begin with you must make peace and space within yourself, which will require effort and time. Forgiveness, acceptance, and determination to make the best out of a horrible situation is in my opinion the best helpers your situation. How do you make the best out of it? What good can come of it? Pain can easily ripen into wisdom when we allow it to. As Buddhists if we manage to let go, we can make strides in our development. Then it becomes of immense benefit to other beings, especially those who suffer the same problems, because we can help and relate to them in ways that we couldnt before. Also, we cannot help but learn about ourselves and the world no matter what happens.
Once you have space and peace within yourself, part of the process may be involving him in your healing process if that's something you want to do. From the beginning you should accept that he might not want to have anything to do with it, he might be in denial, and he certainly has a number of issues of his own as well as a lot of emotional and mental pain of his own. Nobody chooses to harm others, especially those they love, unless they are already deluded and in pain. Recognizing that might help you move towards total forgiveness as well, but don't pressure yourself. Feel however you want to feel, no feeling is wrong in this situation.
Dont forget to be kind to yourself. Even if you don't blame yourself, forgive yourself for the ways in which this situation might have made you a more difficult person (if it has at all), don't be hard on yourself, beating yourself up over something you didn't ask for. You may not have had control then, but you have it now, so don't let someone elses abuse transform into self abuse!
Karmically there is no easy answer. The reality is that whatever happens to us in life, whether good or bad, karma exists primarily in our own mind. How we handle situations, how we deal with experiences, what happens in our minds... that is karma. Some Buddhists say that whatever happens to us in this life we "deserve" it from our past actions. This is not necessarily false, but in order to understand this view, its important to consider the perspective from which it is spoken. From this perspective, we have been incarnated for countless millions of lives. In those lives we have taken numerous shapes, sizes, sexes, and have taken incarnation as numerous kinds of creatures or spirits. According to the teaching on karma, basically, we have all done untold countless negative actions in our past countless lives. We have done good ones too of course, and both good and bad things arise in our life as a result of this. So we might have a situation where we are abused, but have a wonderful and committed best friend. Or maybe later in life we become wealthy. Or maybe we find true love. Who knows what might happen? So when Buddhists talk about people deserving what they get, its not because in THIS life they are a bad person and now are being punished for their actions, its because at some point in countless lives and rebirths we have done an action which is now manifesting as this event.
Yet it would be wrong for me if I got hit by a car and was paralyzed to then blame the event for my suffering! From the Buddhist perspective, I suffer due to how I see the event itself. We act based on whats in our mind, and we experience the reality that our mind creates. We see the world based on whats in our mind. How we treat others, what we think of them, is based on whats in our mind. Its easy enough to see just by seeing how people react differently to the same situation. How they react is based on whats in their mind, not on the external event itself and this fact is empowering. It means that nobody and no event can ever gain total control over us and our reality, and in fact there is nothing stopping us from attaining total freedom within ourselves... except for our own ignorance which we must clear away through meditation and study. Buddhism focuses on becoming aware of our mind and transforming it through the power of intentional thought and action coupled with presence and awareness in order to remove ignorance. Few people are aware of whats happening in their mind in any deep way. Many people are just dragged around by their minds by the noses, following every appearance and impulse that arises as real and never for a moment conscious or aware of how they are being led around by their own thought patterns and emotions. You are fortunate because although you are young, you already have an interest in this science of the mind. Since Buddhism can without a doubt lead to freedom from all suffering, its wonderful to have found it at such a young age.
The emotions themselves, Buddhism takes many approaches. For example "sitting with them" is a common practice. This means that you neither reject them as bad, nor do you focus on them and allow them to dominate your mind. When fear arises you just look at it, aware that its fear. You know its there, you know its cause, and you sit together with it. What is "It"? It is you, or at least a part of you. But its you in the same way that your foot is you. You don't have to identify with it in order for it to be yours. Your foot is your foot, but there is no need to attach to it or try to avoid it. You have a foot, but you are not a foot. You have fear, but you are not fear. If you lose your foot, you don't lose yourself. And gaining a foot, you don't gain yourself. Since self is neither lost nor gained through the presence or absence of your foot, you should consider emotions in the same way since they are no more real than your foot nor is their arising any different fundamentally from the arising of your foot. What you are transcends all temporal appearances. You just let them be. Emotions are neither you nor are they separate from you. They just are. So just let them be. When emotions are attached to, they produce the three poisons which stirs the negative karmic imprints in the mind and this in turn causes the poisons to strengthen, and so on and so forth (the cycle of samsara) which is why we seek to not attach to these appearances. Finally in Buddhism its taught that the Buddha nature is present at all times, which means its also present in moments of fear or discomfort.
You might also look into Shamatha meditation, or Calm Abiding. It is a wonderful practice and extremely beneficial for life in general, the sooner you learn the skill the better off you will be all around, all the time.
Keep being courageous!