Contributing to Parish Life

As Orthodox Christians, we know (even when autistic) that we don’t believe on our own. The concept of being a believer but wanting nothing to do with any church or community of believers is alien to us.

With good reason, I might add. When accepting no authority but our own (thinly veiled as ‘the Holy Spirit shows me’) and having no interaction with other believers to keep us on the right path, it is just a matter of time for heresy to crop up.

However, we do have trouble interacting with others, and we do experience difficulties. Being part of the Church in concept is all fine, but the practical application of this – and no concept within the Orthodox Church is without a practical application – is that we live in a parish with actual people. Some of us don’t manage that; that’s the way it is. The communication and social difficulties we experience can be completely overwhelming, and aside from our ineptitude in these matters, there is also the ignorance or unwillingness on the part of our fellow parishioners that may lead to a situation where participating in services and parish life is not an option.

It is, however, very much the way things are, but not the way things should be. Like so many times in the history of the Church and in the practices of local parishes, sometimes we go with what works, or deal with the situation as it is, when circumstances are not as we’d like them to be.

Still, I gather most of us do want to contribute if it were in any way possible.

When talking to my therapist the other day about employment and what kind of jobs suit people with autism best, she said, “Three things. You need a job where A) it is very clearly defined what your responsibilities are, B) there is little or no time pressure, and C) your work does not depend upon the work of other people and you need not work together with others too much.”

This goes for parish life as well, I have found.

From experience, I can tell you that trying to work with people in a parish or para-parish (is that even a word?) group is doomed to failure. Working with volunteers is even more difficult than working with co-workers, because generally speaking, volunteers are even less reliable. Alright, it usually fits the ‘no time pressure or deadline’ qualification, but unfortunately in many cases that means ‘we’re not going to make ANY sort of agreement on time-frames at all and even if we do, we’re not going to keep it.’ That is not something we can comfortably do.

There are other things, however, that we may be able to do. I’ve mentioned the choir, in an earlier blog, as a way of making services easier. Since I am wretchedly unmusical, that is not an option for me, but I have found something I enjoy doing.

Our parish likes to put the sermons on their website for people to read, later. My job is to transcribe the recorded English and Dutch sermons into text, and, if necessary, translate them from one language to the other.

It requires a little bit of interaction with others – with the reader to get the sermons that I have not recorded myself, which he generally sends within days of me sending a note which ones I still need. With the priests for their preferences – two like to get their sermons sent to them so they can add notes, one likes to read the translations, and the fourth is the only one whose sermons I send along without any comments at all. But these are all fixed agreements that needed to be made only once.

Serving in the altar (for boys) may be possible and provide a structure for services.

Depending on what other activities your parish employs, there may be things to do that fit the three qualifications my therapist mentioned. We don’t need to avoid people altogether, but find things to do where our dependency on them to complete a job is limited.

One of the other things I am doing is writing this blog, hoping that together we can help ourselves live more fulfilling spiritual lives, preferably within the context of a supportive parish.

For that to happen, however, we need to speak out, explain what is going on, why things are difficult for us, why we react the way we do, and what we need to function. Unfortunately, that requires a LOT of the skills in which our autism limits us, so it can be tricky. Start with one person at a time. Write a blog. Get someone you know and trust and who knows about autism to explain it for you. It is important to get key people aware of our autism. We hardly need to announce it to the entire parish, but it may help if some people within the parish are aware of it, understand what it is, and are aware of what this means for us in terms of our strengths and our limitations.

Please, do comment below on what you do/did/plan to do in your parish, how that is working out for you, and what you learned that might be of benefit to others.

 

 

 

Wibbly Wobbly Brainey Wainey Stuff

(Again I must credit Father Meletios Webbers book Bread&Water, Wine&Oil for an explanation of mind and heart. But don’t blame him if I get it wrong. Assume I’m a really bad student. Hesychasm is not my strong point.)

I’ve mentioned this in an earlier blog, but it bears repetition and further exploration because it is a very important point:

Autism is a brain difference, not a mind difference.

In the mind rests our ego, our logismoi are partying in there, through it we perceive the world around us. It is a useful thing and created by God, so intrinsically good, but it has been, since the Fall, running rampant and making us believe that it runs the show.

It does not, or at least, it should not. It is right that we must strive to rest the mind in the heart, however vague and incomprehensible that may sound. It has to know its proper place. It doesn’t get to run the show. We are in control of the mind, not the other way around.

However, our mind is not the same as our brains. And autism is a brain difference. The mind uses the brain, certainly. But so does the heart. The heart may quiet the mind, but it cannot shut down the brain. (and a good thing too, or we’d end up dead.)

The goal – whether the road we travel is that of hesychasm or any other – is only one: To connect to God, to attain unity with Him. That is where we, all of us, ultimately belong.

Our brain works differently. It works differently ALL THE TIME. Autism isn’t something we can switch on and off at will (or even at random). Yes, we have days where we are not overstimulated and can deal with things that are difficult. That is not the same as autism being absent, because overstimulation lurks just around the corner – because details can hit us hard – and while we may muster the energy for a while to practice our social skills, they still are a learned behaviour at best. If it truly were a mind issue and not a brain issue, then the act of getting the mind to quiet and the heart to take over would take away all difference between neurotypical and autist.

But – and this is very, very important – this is not the case. People who have accomplished this have not stopped being autistic. Many do not accomplish this because of being asked to use tools that are alien and inefficient. Autism renders those tools alien and inefficient, and there are few alternatives available.

All this affects how we connect to God. Not THAT we can connect to God – that is something that nothing in the world can ever take away – but HOW.

Last week I wrote in a blog about my action-prayer experiment. Other experiments are ongoing, and what works for me may not work for another. After many attempts and frustration, I’ve concluded that at this time, in the ways I have been taught, the Jesusprayer does not work for me. I may find a time and place where it will work, but for now, that’s the way it is, and I direct my energy to finding things that do work.

And that is the whole crux of the matter. We need to find our own ‘how’. Someone mentioned in an earlier blog how her headcovering has helped her feel more secure in church, enabling her to attend services. While it is usually only common for women to wear headcovering – if this is something that works for autistic men, as well, then why not? Give it a try. Granted, people may give you some strange looks, but they were already doing that anyway. (Also, if you use enough covering, you will no longer see them).

Suppose someone has been travelling to a certain place for years and years by the same road. At a crossroads they take a right. But then someone else comes, and to this person there is no road to the right, or if there is, it is closed off. This person takes the left road, and eventually ends up at the same destination – only approaching from the other side. What right or wrong is there in that? Only if the person who goes right, tries to force the person going left to take his preferred route instead. Or if the person going left forces the person who has been comfortably reaching his destination by the road to the right, to go left instead. (Encouraging this person to try the left road sometime, as an alternative, could be good, but that is another topic).

Lucky are those who can take both left and right without problems!

What we need from our priests, from our neurotypical brothers and sisters, is the freedom and possibly the help to find our own ‘how’ without condemnation – unless we really do something unwise – and what we need from ourselves is to take that freedom and use it responsibly. What we need from each other is to share our experiences.

It is especially important that we do so, because a new generation is growing up, a generation growing up in a Church that is becoming more and more aware of their autism, but doesn’t always know what to do with them. Keep them quiet, yes. Tend to their spiritual needs, not so much. Yet the Church has a responsibility to teach these children, too, how to connect to God. For her to refuse to do so, to assume that autism means that such a connection is impossible, would be extremely unorthodox. We cannot expect neurotypicals to understand exactly what is going on with us, just as we cannot understand exactly what is going on with them. The children and teens with autism that are growing up now are going to need adults who have explored and are still exploring the how of connecting to God with an autistic brain. We need to teach them not to be afraid – God is there and waiting, wanting to be connected to, and perfectly capable, from His end, to do so once we find our ‘how’.  We don’t have to become saints to do that – ordinary unholy people struggling daily to make sense of this alien world, struggling to get through services, struggling to understand other people, finding their way over unexplored terrain towards the loving embrace of God, those people will do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Diagnosis Did

As I was going through the process of getting a diagnosis – which started with yet another treatment for over 25 years of depression and anxiety until I met a therapist who finally became suspicious and suggested we first exclude the possibility of autism; which, it turns out, we could not exclude – some people around me asked, “But what will a diagnosis do for you? It’s not going to change anything. Do you really need a piece of paper?”

Technically, of course, they were entirely correct. A piece of paper doesn’t change anything. Reality stayed the same. But fundamentally, a few things did change and a piece of paper does make all the difference – most of all in being believed.

First of all, I finally got to the bottom of the problem. Depression and anxiety were only symptoms. For years I struggled to function in a world I did not understand, believing that I was lazy, uncooperative, stupid, stubborn, manipulative, lying…and so on. As it turns out, I’m not – my brain just works differently. I found some of my own worth as a person.

Second, I am more free to be myself – now that I know a bit more about who that self is – and can spend my energy on what I’m good at, instead of waste it trying to do things I will never be able to do properly. I found direction.

Third, even though many people still do not understand after many many explanations, I can at least now explain what is going on, and why I cannot do some things, and can do others. Why I react the way I do, and why the way I react is slowly changing as I am returning to my default setting, and get rid of the many unnatural changes I made over the years in an effort to fit in. A few people get it, most don’t, but that doesn’t matter. I am learning to protect myself. I found boundaries.

In church, this translates to finding that I am not unspiritual, no more so than the average believer, at any rate. I am not a control freak (well…no more than autists usually are. Lack of predictability and clarity will cause us to try and create it for ourselves, and that shows up as control-freak-like behaviour as we try to make sense of the world around us, but it is a survival strategy, not a personality trait). I WAS going to type ‘I am not a heretic’ but I think, after what I’ve written in this blog so far, that the jury might still be out on that one 🙂

It also sets me free to explore why some things seem to be so difficult, some things do not work properly, and why some things work so very well. To not be forced into behaviour that, to me, is unnatural, and thus takes an enormous amount of energy. Not continually hold back what are natural reactions, just because they are not socially acceptable. Leaving church on the verge of tears most of the time from sheer frustration and exhaustion is not how it should be. I’m pleased to report that I now only leave church on the verge of tears less than half of the time, so that’s a major improvement.

It sets me free to work out my salvation – MINE, not anyone elses – and connect to God in the best possible way, instead of only barely getting in touch with Him because I am trying ways that my brain just won’t do.  It’s been like being told that to connect to the person living down the street is utterly, vitally important, more important than anything I’ll ever do in my life – but I can talk to them only via smoke signals and Morse code. Now, I can find ways to walk down the street and talk properly, meet for coffee, set up a joint project to trim the hedge and all the other things that allows the building and growing of a relationship. Yes, the smoke signals and Morse code would have done, in the end. If that’s all I would have had at my disposal all my life, and had done with them what I could, I am sure the mercy of God would have done the rest. But this is a lot more fun and a lot more satisfying.

So, no – diagnosis hasn’t changed anything, and yet it makes all the difference.

 

Speechless

In this blog, I’d like to share the results of an experiment I’ve been conducting over the past weeks.

Prayer has always been very challenging to me – at least, getting a hang of morning and evening prayers. After writing about prayer, I decided to see what would happen if I started to pray without words, only actions.

Well, for one, my icon corner has never been more decorated than it is now.  I made beeswax candles for the little hanging lamp, and some to put on the little table beneath the icon corner. So there are plenty of candles to light. (and also, due to feline interference, to blow out when I leave the icon corner, except for the hanging lamp)

Then I got flowers and put some with each icon, the remaining ones going in a vase on the table.

Intercessory prayers consist of two bowls, one filled with small stones. I transfer these stones, representing people, from one bowl to the other, one by one (although, quite quickly sometimes).

I make sure to do this when I have enough time to give it my full attention, and to brush aside any thoughts that wanted to interfere (like dishes not being done…) and only ACT. Although any remarks aimed towards God I did allow, but found that at some point, there were no words anymore there, either.

The result was a very peaceful and refreshed feeling, despite never once speaking or even opening a prayer book and despite not even looking to find such a feeling. All I did was, with all the attention I could muster, look after my icons as if looking after the actual people, with care and no particular expectation.

 

 

 

A Note for Neurotypicals

Since some of us have run into somewhat similar problems, I’m posting this ‘guest’ blog – guest blog in the sense that for once, this post is for neurotypicals, and not autists.

 

We’d like you to know a few things about us.

  1. You don’t know everything about autism. WE don’t know everything about autism, and we have lived with it for 30, 40, 50, 60-odd years. Psychiatrists don’t know everything about autism. It’s relatively safe to say that beyond God, no one does.
  2. Not everyone with autism is the same. That you know one person with autism doesn’t mean you know them all. That would be like us saying that because we encountered one neurotypical, we know them all. Autism is a huge spectrum. Severity of autism often, but not always, corresponds with severity of symptoms, symptoms vary from one person to the next and from one situation to the next. Yes, there are limitations and specific symptoms. But what combination of symptoms shows up in any one person may vary. And aside from that, we have our own personalities.  I’ve worked with autistic children and not met two that were exactly alike, even at a young age.

And then there are a few things that happen to us, that may need some explaining.

Open Files

For a moment, say the brain works like a Windows computer. We, like computers, need extremely precise information, predictability, and reliability to function. Information is sorted in files. If a piece of the information needed to complete the file is missing, the file opens. And stays open.

That file then acts like a pop-up. It will constantly appear on the screen, no matter how often you try to click it away. It will only close when that missing piece of information is somehow resolved.

Now imagine not one file open and popping up, but three. or four. or ten.

You’d never get any work done with a screen full of pop-ups. And that’s what it’s like for us. Our brains are dealing with these pop-ups and when there are too many (and how many we can handle varies per person and per situation) we no longer function. The files take over everything.

Sounds simple, right? And not particularly troublesome. Just need to keep files from opening. Or close them as soon as they do.

You wish. We don’t have a detail/important filter. So files open for things that you never even saw. Information we needed and you failed to give us because you didn’t realize we needed it. An agreement that you failed to keep, possibly because you never realized it WAS an agreement. “We should get together for coffee” is an agreement to us. A solid declaration to do something, requiring only a date and time to be finalized. You, however, may have long forgotten ever even saying such a thing. And you want to know what it feels like when that happens and you dismiss it because it didn’t seem important to you? Well, like this:

I walk up to you with a baseball bat and proceed to casually break your leg in passing. Whilst you are moaning on the floor, I raise an eyebrow and inquire what you are doing there. And why on earth you’re not getting up and getting things done. You’re supposed to run up to the attic and get some things. Get going.

…What do you mean, you can’t because I broke your leg? What a horrible thing to accuse me of! Besides, it’s not like a broken leg is that important. You’re just whining. You’d better repent. Oh, and get the stuff from the attic.

And I walk off, shrugging, leaving you behind on the floor to deal with your broken leg. Oh yeah, and that stuff that’s still in the attic, too.

When I say we need reliability and predictability, I don’t just mean you need to be more reliable and predictable than the average person. No, you need to be reliable in the 95-100% range.

That’s right, you’re not going to get there without putting in some effort. Few people are naturally up in that range. But when you’re not there, you’re constantly breaking our legs.

Now, you may think that we’re an awful lot of work. And yeah, we are. But look on the bright side – being incredibly reliable is not a bad thing. It will help you in many areas in your life, not just in your relationship with us.

 

Communication

Again, no two of us are alike, and while some general issues hold true for almost all of us, not all do and everyone has his or her own quirks in communication. And that includes YOU, you neurotypical! (Else, no two neurotypicals would ever have miscommunication amongst themselves, and I know for a fact that’s not true!)

Puzzling

No, I don’t mean that we are puzzling. Or that you are. Although, admittedly, you are.

What I mean, is that we often require a bit of time to process things. We see details, and need time to create the bigger picture from the details, as if we’re constantly solving a puzzle.

Any new incoming details end up on the pile of puzzle pieces yet to be sorted. How long it takes for your question or remark to get through, depends on a whole lot of things.

First of all, some of us are better at it than others. Second, it depends on how full our head already is with other pieces of various puzzles. If we’re trying to make five at the same time and have a huge pile of pieces to still sort out, you may imagine it will take a bit before we get around to replying. Third, it depends on what it is about.

For example, if you catch me at a friend’s office where I often hang out and ask me to make a cup of coffee, the response time will be almost instant. Familiar place, familiar activity, familiar to the point where it is almost automatic.

But if you are in a conversation with me that provokes an emotional response, you will likely never even see my reaction, because it can take literally days for me to get around to reacting. I need to discover that an emotional response has taken place, first. Then discover what the particular emotion was. Then discover why it occurred. Then discover that it has to do with our conversation. Then find out what it was in our conversation that triggered it…and so on.

So, give us a bit of time if you don’t see an instant reaction. We’re probably not ignoring you, but busy processing.

Also, if we’re trying to do five puzzles at the same time, chances are that in the midst of sorting, puzzle pieces will be lost and one or more of those puzzles will never show the complete picture. Or pieces get connected in the wrong way, to the wrong puzzle, even.

 

We’re not always wrong, even though we are.

We get genuinely upset. It’s not fake, even if you think it’s over something completely trivial. And sometimes we get upset over things that would upset anyone.

We have a disorder, we are told, that comes with some difficulties with empathy and a tendency to not understand social conventions, meaning we can, at times, be awkward, say things we probably should not, and disregard peoples’ feelings because we missed the nonverbal clues that they were having them.

If that is a *disorder*, then what makes it alright to shrug off OUR feelings as unimportant, disorder-induced, or irrelevant?

Aside from all that, we also have our strengths (no, not all of us can count the matches falling out of a box instantly or count cards at poker) which means in some areas, we may be able to contribute something very worthwhile if you bother to invest in an environment that enables us to function to the best of our ability. And many of us are capable of telling you what we need. Just talk to us (or better yet, write an e-mail with a list of points and a clearly specified request).

 

There are many more things I could write down, but again, one person with autism is not the other, and really the best thing to do is get to know the person you’re dealing with at that time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not A Conclusion

So how do we connect to God?

Unfortunately, there’s not one single answer. Generally speaking, there are a few things we can try:

  1. Communicate with God. Words are optional. Our world is often one of details, but God made every little detail, so He sees and appreciates them as much or more than we do. Share the obsession!
  2. Find the manner of prayer which works best. Practice some that don’t work perfectly, but are more common, so you can fit in if needed. If you do best with action as prayer, then try to do those action prayers at a time when your head is empty and you can give it your full attention.
  3. If an emotion occurs, fine. If emotion does not occur, fine. If you don’t understand the emotion and it bothers you, get someone to explain it. If no one can and it bothers you, tell God ‘there’s this freaky emotion and I don’t know what it is’ and close the file. You may find out later. Or maybe not.
  4. Love is NOT a feeling. It may CAUSE feelings. Do onto others as you would have them do unto you, because that’s probably where your strengths are. Be reliable. Be responsible. Show integrity. And if you do feel the overwhelming urge to hug someone, that’s fine too (if it’s someone you don’t know well, it’s probably best to ask first). Love God by putting in the effort on your part to build a relationship with Him.
  5. It’s not that our ego’s are more massive than anyone else’s, but we do have trouble seeing beyond our own minds. There isn’t a great deal we can do about it since that is part of what autism IS, but we CAN learn and memorise by heart what other people generally do and do not like. It may seem like total nonsense to us, but it’s real enough to them, so we’re going to have to make an effort here. Again, they can’t help it. Their brains just work that way. Likewise, there are things that we know God likes and dislikes. (Although God is generally far more consistent and predictable in His likes and dislikes). Part of what He likes is all of us making an effort to get along, so it’s important that we give it our best shot.
  6. Give it your best shot. But ONLY your best shot. It is not required that we somehow try to be something that we are not. Very little else is required of us on this topic, since God is perfectly aware of what we can and cannot do.

There’s much more – feel free to contribute to this list in the comments.

On another note, a few people have indicated an interest in writing something for this blog, so hopefully we’ll be able to put up a guest-blog-entry by them soon. Contributions are always welcome – sharing our experiences and difficulties may help all of us.

Moving Towards God – Forgiveness

Forgiveness

Forgiving is not optional; we’re supposed to love our enemies by forgiving them and praying for them. And if we’re expected to forgive our enemies (if God expects it of us, then obviously it is possible to do so) then we should forgive the people who are not our enemies even more.

There is, however, a bit of a snag for us when it comes to forgiving.

There is a difference between being reluctant to let go of anger to forgive, and suffering from unclosed files. They occasionally go hand in hand, but are in fact two separate things.

For example: someone promises to get some work or some article or whatever it is, to you by a certain date. The date arrives and passes, but your mailbox remains empty.

What happens then is an open file situation. Anxiety skyrockets, increasing and severe discomfort occurs, possibly resulting in anger because the situation is so unpleasant. The person involved does not react to our increasingly desperate requests (and then demands) to supply the promised material. The file remains open.

So, what do we do with this thoughtless and unreliable person causing all this?

At this point, with an open file and increased anxiety, don’t even bother trying to think about the command to forgive. It’s not going to work. In fact, all it’d be doing is opening ANOTHER file that won’t close.

First of all, the file needs to be closed. Until it is, it will not be clear whether or not forgiveness even comes into play. It’s not a matter of being unwilling to forgive. What we need is to be given a new date when to expect the material (and this one being kept) or an immediate delivery of said material. Most likely either of these will close the file and solve the problem.

Chances are that once a file like that is closed, forgiveness won’t even be an issue. Although some of us might appreciate an apology for the discomfort it caused, in others such a thing might not even register.

But we certainly are *capable* of holding a grudge! If that is the case, then we should take a good look at the command to forgive, and attempt to do so.

Forgiveness, however, comes in three levels of difficulty.

  1. The person who wronged us is aware of it, is sorry, apologized, and wants to make amends. This is an ideal situation (although it might still be difficult!) in which to forgive, especially if the person involved is a friend.
  2. The person who wronged us is unaware of it. This is a bit more difficult. There are two choices here: forgive with the situation being as it is, and the recipient of forgiveness unaware of even needing it. This is what we will encounter frequently, since a lot of people will be unaware that they cause us problems and pain. The other option is to make the person aware of our sense of being wronged. They will inevitably revert to situation 1 or 3 in that case.
  3. The person who wronged us has been informed of this, but is indifferent, uncaring, or even hostile. This makes forgiveness a bigger challenge.

Expect to encounter 2 and 3 most frequently. The things that trouble us are usually incomprehensible to others, and most often they will simply not realize, not care, or shrug it off as some quirk of ours. In fact, that we have autism will often lead people to think that any upset in us is due to our autism – which it may often be, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, or that dismissing our feelings is not painful.

We DO sometimes react in ways they do not understand. This is not necessarily a fault of theirs. It is one of the biggest differences in their brains compared to ours.

To us, almost everything is of equal importance. Our brains do not do a lot of filtering. We see loads of details…LOADS. We tend to remember a lot as a result, but not always in its proper context, or in any context at all. This is probably also why we may completely freak out over something ‘unimportant’ but be completely unconcerned about something neurotypicals would consider a big deal if it were done to them.

Neurotypicals, however, not only differentiate between ‘important’ and ‘unimportant’ but the ‘unimportant’ things ACTUALLY DISAPPEAR FROM THEIR BRAIN! They get caught in the filter and are washed out as if they’d never entered in the first place!

So what upsets us may, to them, never even have happened. It’s completely crazy, but apparently that’s how it works for them.

Knowing this may help us in forgiving the shrugging off.

A subcategory of this topic is:

Asking forgiveness

We wrong people all the time. It’s a given. Often, but especially in a meltdown, we can be rude, aggressive, ignore people, reject those who wish to help, or a combination of those. We may believe others guilty of willful hostility and malice, when most of the time they are only ignorant.

A lot of the time we don’t do any of this on purpose. We’ll not go into the matter of sin again here, as we’ve already said enough on that earlier.

But sin or no sin, guilt or no guilt, we can always apologize, especially to those we consider friends, and/or those we encounter frequently.

It is not necessary to apologize to random passers-by, people we most likely encounter only once (like on the bus or train). In situations with people we encounter frequently, however, an apology and some explanation may be acceptable social behaviour. Take care not to go into unnecessary detail in an explanation. ‘I got overwhelmed/stressed out/my brain had trouble with all the noise/I need a lot of clarity and in this situation I did not know what to expect’ usually is plenty of explanation in such situations.

Our friends are a different matter. They will already know what went wrong, and most likely have forgiven us already, if they even held it against us in the first place. That would negate the need for an apology, except that we, of course, do not mean to hurt our friends any more than they mean to hurt us. An apology serves in this case as an acknowledgement of this. It says ‘Even though I could not help the situation, the result was that I treated you in a way that does not belong to the behaviour commonly associated with friendship. I wish you to know that I acknowledge that, and do not mean to treat the situation as if rudeness/aggression/rejection towards you is in any way unimportant or pardonable’. That whole paragraph can be summarized by ‘I’m sorry that this and that happened.’
Jonah: I find forgiveness in the case of abuse to be complicated. Forgiveness does not excuse the abuser, nor does it mean I will trust. It means that I no longer motivate myself in the relationship based on the abuse. To suggest that forgiveness is initially more is not safe.
The depth of forgiveness for me requires focusing a lot of energy on getting to know myself. I begin to understand the ‘why I do certain things’ of it all. At the depth I meet my own needs and attempts for survival and get to look at how those survival skills have both helped and hindered me.