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questioner [Liza,a visitor to Todos Santos, was abused by someone claiming to be a spiritual teacher. The “teacher” told her that by having sex with him she could advance more quickly]: I have a tendency to blame myself and be angry with myself for being so naive and letting this happen. I do recognize that it wasn't my fault. I was the trusting student. But it is just hard to forgive myself, and even harder to forgive him. I know that it is healthy, important and good to forgive people. . . . I know that I have a lot to work on myself and I want to try to stay present, clear and without grudges, sadness or anger. . . .

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dr-robert: One of the problems with sexual abuse is that sex itself often feels good, and can be enjoyed simply as a physical sensation. Then, the person who has been abused might feel somehow responsible and guilty for the part of the transaction that was enjoyed.

People like [name withheld], who are needy, deeply injured, and in denial of their pain, often defend against their injuries by claiming powers (such as being able to teach or to “do good”) which they really do not possess. Then, in the guise of teaching or doing good, this kind of abuser makes emotional demands--a kind of psychic vampirism--on people who do not have strong boundaries against that kind of attack. In this form of abuse, which really is like a vampire's bite, abusers may be trying to suck the good out of the victim, and also may be trying to put some of their badness into the victim, thereby imagining that they are ridding themselves of it.

I give you this psychological background to underscore that you are in no way responsible for what happened to you, and also to explain why you might be feeling heavy and depressed as you said. This is an old modus operandi of [the abuser]. He has acted it out often, and has always told the young women that he "loved" them. Yes, Liza, due to some of your past experiences, and because you are a person who has a natural need to be trusting and open, you were easily fooled, but that is certainly not your fault, and by continuing the therapy we started, you will be able to grow in wisdom and will learn to make boundaries that can protect you better.

Forgiving those who have injured us is important, but forgiveness must not, and really cannot, be produced by force of will. If forgiving is attempted as an obligation, the person doing the forgiving may be injured on subtle levels. Just as you cannot force yourself to love (love simply arises, or not), you cannot force yourself to forgive. However, as a farmer prepares the ground for planting in order to make more likely a good crop, you may able to prepare the ground for the flowering of forgiveness.

You could try preparing this ground by observing carefully that you, just like all of us, tend to get lost in ego. That's all. Simply become aware of and watch your own egoic, self-centered concerns: fantasies, schemes, fears, and desires. Then you will understand how others can do the harm that they do. If you will practice this kind of non-judgmental self-observation, you will find that compassion, both for yourself and for others, will naturally develop. Then, from that ground of compassion, real forgiveness, a forgiveness based on understanding, simply arises without direct effort on your part.

As for staying "present,” and “clear," please do not misunderstand this vital point: "Being present" does not mean to be without anger, grudges, or sadness, but rather to be aware of whatever you are feeling and thinking, including anger, grudges, sadness, or any other state. In other words, Liza, the state of presence is not an ideal state that one achieves sometime in the future after one has become calm, compassionate, and without anger, greed, lust, etc. Not at all. The state of presence is here right now. Always right now. All one can ever do is to notice that state and reside in it.

Be well.


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