Perspective, Reality, and Happiness

When I was young I went through some traumas that shaped how I viewed and moved through the world. I spent a good amount of my childhood reading non-fiction, daydreaming, and immersing myself into any imaginative activities that allowed me to escape how I was feeling and what was going on in my life. This is normal for kids, and usually isn’t an issue. I don’t think it was an issue for me either, but because my brain had me focusing on surviving through my problems, I lost some of the growth a lot of young kids, teens, and young adults gain.

Outwardly, I know I’ve grown a lot when it comes to friendships and social interactions. I’m more confident, I don’t shy away from certain experiences and activities anymore. I’ve learned to listen more, and to reciprocate in friendships in a way that I was horrible at as a teen and young adult. I still have a lot of growing to do when it comes to interactions with people. I could probably write an entire article on all the ways my PTSD affects my relationships with others, how hard I’ve worked to overcome that, and how much more work I have ahead of me. I’m aware of the growth in that respect because it makes itself visible through a kind of “return” in life: more friendships, better conversations, a general sense that my interactions were more positive.

The part of my own growth that I didn’t realize until recently, was more internal. The results were less visible and the effect on my life wasn’t as apparent to me:


Those childhood daydreams I had were often about fantastical scenarios: super powers, saving the world, having an easier life, meeting hobbits, battling orcs, living the lives of my favorite characters from all kinds of different media. I immersed myself in fantasy because facing my own life was something I wasn’t ready for. Facing my own faults and traumas was difficult, and imagining a world where flying on broomsticks didn’t exist just didn’t seem as fun. My perspective was focused on unrealistic goals and stories because I didn’t think improving my own life was as possible. It felt like I had to wait for help, or a miracle, or someone to hand me an opportunity.

I was, actually, handed a lot of opportunities and I passed them by. I wasn’t ready and they often involved interacting with people in ways that I just didn’t know how to do yet. I needed to grow more. Instead of recognizing that my lost opportunities were, in fact, my fault, my young mind framed it in a way that made it feel less like my fault and more like random chance or circumstance, or someone else’s fault. My perspective was coming from a less developed place; that’s okay. Everyone learns and grows at their own pace, and you cannot do things you’re not ready to do without it causing more issues later on. I try not to beat myself up about the things I caused myself to miss out on.

As I’ve gotten older, my daydreams and interests have become more focused in realistic goals. Does this mean I never fantasize about flying on a dragon, or helping a wizard with a quest? No. Enjoying non-fiction is a great hobby, and everyone deserves time to relax and unwind once in a while. But I also do something I learned from a very wise friend a long time ago: chase discomfort. I look for things I can change, and if I have to be uncomfortable while I change them, that’s okay. In fact, it’s how we grow. If we’re always comfortable, our bodies and our minds never learn how to adjust to new things, new problems, new stimuli. We also generally learn to take the comfortable for granted; you need both comfort and discomfort to appreciate both the good and the bad things in life.

My daydreams now focus on the things I want to achieve: things that now feel within my reach. Things that would make me happy, and that don’t need to be some fantastical scenario involving magic, miracles, or princes who save me from the bad things in my life. I can tackle the bad things on my own, or with the help of people who care for me.

Instead of flying on broomsticks, I want to learn to do a backflip or a b-twist. Instead of swimming with mermaids or sliding down ice hills with magical penguins, I want to learn to hold my breath for 5 minutes or more, or spend 2 minutes or more in an ice bath as I practice the Wim Hof Method. Instead of having fairy godmothers make me new clothes that fit well and never get dirty, I want to learn to design and sew my own clothes. Instead of riding in the TARDIS with The Doctor and automatically having languages translated for me, I want to spend the time and energy learning 8+ languages so that I can meet people from all-over and make my own adventures.

I no longer focus on the destination or the results. Half the fun in life, and all of the experience, come from the journey of reaching goals. I love the days I take cold showers, or do breath-work. I adore sitting down to solve a difficult problem or try something a bit more physically challenging. This change in perspective has made me happier. It’s so much easier to look at my life feeling grateful for the good things, and accepting the bad ones. I no longer question “why did this happen to me?” and instead I ask “How can I make it better, or learn to live with it?”. It’s no longer “How can I survive?” but “How can I thrive?”

Being physically ill, and having to focus on survival, probably had a lot to do with this change in perspective. When you have to accept that your life might not be as long as you thought, and that time is out of your control, you also start thinking about all the things you’d miss; surprisingly, the bad things are there too. You learn this in therapy as well; especially when you’re learning to heal with PTSD. Learning to accept the bad things is part of the process. Learning to notice the great things is too. All of life, is what makes it life – pain and pleasure both. I will continue to chase discomfort and grow.


Lately, part of my communication with the chronic illness community has covered some territory that the broader, more healthy, community doesn’t normally consider. For example, if one woman in a particular group I am a part of said she had multiple physical ailments that limited her ability to move and function, most healthy individuals might think about all the ways that would be physically limiting for her.

You might cite her inability to go out, or get herself out of bed, or bathe, eat, go to work etc. You might imagine she has nurses/aides, special medical equipment, and various medications. You might think about the ways jobs or other groups would need to help accommodate her so that she could participate. After all of that, many people unfamiliar with the Spoonies community might think they’d covered all the struggles of having physical illness that requires assistance.

So, you might be surprised to find out that the people meant to help her have harmed her. This woman told us a story about her medical aides who had stolen from her, physically harmed her, and mentally abused her for months before someone in a position to do something about it was alerted to the problem. That meant months of trauma she had to endure. While trauma is a worthy topic, I’d prefer to talk about forgiveness.

First, the definition of forgiveness is as follows based on The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:

1 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)

When people talk about forgiveness, many times it’s said from a perspective of victim blame (even if they don’t mean to): “How can you move on if you don’t forgive?” Then there’s the phrase an acquaintance of mine got recently: ” If you don’t forgive them, how can others forgive you for your mistakes?” These are both pretty problematic; the first needs to be framed in a non-harmful way, and the second is just harmful.

“How can you move on if you don’t forgive?”

  1. For some, forgiveness means going back and trusting their attacker/abuser. This can feel like a phrase that invalidates the pain that person inflicted.
  2. When dealing with PTSD most people have a hard time even thinking about their attacker, let alone focusing on the event long enough to let go of their animosity for that person.
  3. Sometimes animosity can be a good thing. Too much can be toxic, but a lot of people use their negative feelings towards an attacker/abuser to push themselves to be healthier, go after opportunities, be themselves, or move on in their lives without having to let go of the feeling that their trauma was horrible.

To frame it differently, I think most people’s intention with this one is to say “you can’t be free from it until you stop letting it bog you down”. Most people don’t literally mean “forgive and forget” (some do); but unfortunately, how the word forgiveness is evaluated is usually based on what you learn as a kid. “Give them a hug, shake hands, and be friends again.”

It’s also extremely difficult without active treatment, or similarly based resources, to mitigate the body’s response to trauma triggers. Your Amygdala is the brain part responsible for fear and conditioning, and when it comes to trauma it’s pretty stubborn. This is humanity’s greatest survival method, but it can also be a hindrance. Asking someone with PTSD or C-PTSD to stop having the reaction or feeling they do about a certain person is like asking someone with motion sickness to stop vomiting after riding the tea-cup ride at Disney World; it’s an automatic response their brain and body have.

“If you don’t forgive them, how can others forgive your mistakes?”

I generally try to reserve severe judgement on this blog; my goal is to provide a place for everyone to gain insight into their own lives or learn something new, or just be distracted for a while. However, for this phrase I’ve got pretty strong feelings. Here they are:

This is toxic as heck. It’s hurtful, it’s gaslighting, and it’s victim blaming/shaming. There is nothing good about this phrase. It isn’t helpful and it actually teaches people to accept abusive situations.

I’ll break all of that down :

  1. It’s gaslighting.
    • To learn about gaslighting in all its forms, checkout this article.
    • This form of gaslighting is a more subtle version of trivializing:

Trivializing: This occurs when a person belittles or disregards the other person’s feelings. They may accuse them of being too sensitive or of overreacting when they have valid concerns and feelings.

What is gaslighting? Examples and how to respond. (2020). Retrieved February 04, 2021, from

This is trivializing because it implies that the victim is simply being too sensitive about the situation. That it should be simple to let an action, like the one their attacker/abuser took, go, and simply forgive them for the pain they caused. It implies that their own actions, even if they never caused severe physical or mental harm to someone, are equal to that of a physical or mental abuser.

2. It’s victim blaming/shaming.

There’s a common cycle in abusive relationships where the abuser harms the victim, apologizes, the victim forgives/forgets believing the abuser won’t do it again, and then things go back to normal and the abuser fails to address their issues. They don’t go to therapy. They don’t stop harming the victim. They don’t change. But time and time again the victim will forgive them and remain in the relationship because of this “forgiveness narrative”. Because someone told them that if they couldn’t forgive their abuser, then they also don’t deserve to be forgiven.

Now, this statement might make sense, if the two people have done the exact same thing to harm the other. The part where this gets convoluted is when the victim’s “negative actions”, are lacking in the severity of the abusers. They start to believe that if they can’t forgive their spouse/friend/sibling/parent of the physical or mental harm they’ve done to them, then that person won’t forgive them for the things they believe are just as bad. These things vary because they tend to revolve around what their abuser believes is incorrect or flawed; it could range from spilling some food on the floor, to simply smiling at the wrong time.

By telling someone that no one will forgive them if they don’t forgive others, or that “everyone deserves forgiveness”; you’re quite possibly framing abuse in an “it’s okay as long as they seem sorry” way even without meaning to.

3. It makes the victim feel like they were put through their own trauma because they just couldn’t be kind/forgiving enough, or because they’d hurt the other person in the past.

This goes along with point 2; if someone continues to be hurt out of spite or anger for some small thing they did, this narrative can make it seem like that’s only happening because they aren’t really letting go of the past. They can’t stop flinching when around their partner, so that makes their partner angry. They feel anxious when their partner is home so they can’t focus on the cooking and burn the food. I could go on and on, but the point is while this “forgiveness narrative” can be helpful for some if the thing they need to forgive is small or the other person is truly regretful and is taking steps to get help/make amends, but for abuse victims or survivors this narrative is harmful and toxic.

4. It teaches people to accept abusive situations.

Being told that maybe someone hasn’t forgiven you because you haven’t forgiven them is a harsh narrative for victims of abuse. It implies that the yelling or hitting they’ve dealt with is simply a cycle based on their lack of forgiveness. That if they can forgive their abuser for the harm they’ve caused, then their abuser will forgive the infraction caused by some minor inconvenience (such as burning dinner) and stop being abusive.

This thought process can cause someone to continuously forgive and stay in an abusive situation simply because the other person says they’re sorry, or because they blame the situation on the victim’s inability to complete tasks the way they want (more gaslighting). Fixing a situation and getting real forgiveness starts with the person who caused real harm going out and addressing the issues that made them harm in the first place. Therapy is usually a pretty good start, but just because you go to therapy and try your hardest doesn’t mean the other person has to forgive you.

No one owes you forgiveness. You don’t owe anyone else forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t like consent, it doesn’t have to go both ways and it’s not required. Looking for someone to forgive you because you’re struggling with your own guilt over your own actions, is a personal issue, not an issue for the person you hurt. Forgiveness is a feeling, not a choice. You either feel like the situation is resolved and you can trust that person again, or you don’t. You can accept an apology and still not forgive someone for their actions. If you don’t feel less resentful of what that person has done to you, that’s not something that will change over night.

When you use these two statements, even if you have the best intentions, especially on a broad platform like a public Facebook page, blog, YouTube channel, or in a seminar you might teach in, you never know what your listeners have been through. Many Spoonies are Spoonies because they’ve gone through some kind of mental or physical trauma, or some have gone through those things as a result of being disabled. This community is filled with people who hear these phrases as invalidating and harmful.

Letting go of a situation is not the same as forgiveness. Getting out of a situation is not the same as forgiveness. Ceasing to allow an abuser to continue abusing you is not the same as forgiveness. Not pursuing revenge/retaliating against someone who harmed you is not the same as forgiveness. Always make amends properly by getting help and stopping hurtful cycles. Always allow yourself to take steps to become more free from a past trauma. Being healthy and happy after a trauma does not always mean you must forgive the person who traumatized you; and it does not mean you aren’t worthy of your own forgiveness when it does come to you.