By Justine The Witch
I feel called to address some serious issues that arise the more we push this concept of “love and light”, “The Law of Attraction”, and forgiveness. Don’t get me wrong, I do find some value in these concepts, but I also can see how they can be problematic and misrepresented. This may be upsetting or frustrating for some because the concepts I am discussing are very widely used, but just because they work for some, does not mean they work or are even realistic for all types of people. It feels important to address these concerns because I see these beliefs heavily pushed upon the spiritual community.
If you are unfamiliar, I’ll give you a Cliff’s notes version of this “spiritual movement”. The Law of Attraction is a mindset and belief that we can control outcomes based on our deepest desires. This practice encourages you to pour energy into an “abundance mindset”, and avoid the “poverty mindset” based on the idea that we attract that which we focus on. For example, there is much to be said about changing your verbiage from “want”, which is “lack”, to “have” which is “abundance”. Rather than saying “I want to be a chef”, you may say, “I am a chef.” When we are focused on what we do not have, we are more likely to stay in that situation, whereas if you are using verbiage that suggests you already have, you are more likely to achieve your goal. This can work with breaking habits, as well. If you are quitting smoking, you may say, “No thank you, I don’t smoke.” Rather than, “I am trying to quit.” You are more likely to actually quit if you reaffirm that you do not smoke. (You still have to put the work in to achieve goals, but I will get to that.) The Law of Attraction is often paired with the “love and light” ideals, where we stay in a loving mindset and avoid dark or negative thoughts, which bleeds into an expectation that you must forgive those who have hurt you in order to raise your vibration and heal.
There is a lot of value in the places we focus our energy, as witches, we know that intention is extremely important. As human beings, we have seen the research which shows that having a daily gratefulness practice has proven to help people to be less depressed, and less anxious, which can aid in being healthy, physically and mentally. I am not saying that it’s unhealthy to be grateful, nor am I saying that we can’t attract the things we want. What I am saying is that it is insensitive to claim that this is “the way”. It is unacceptable, and damaging to claim that our mindset will bring forth prosperity when we know that there are people who are starving, homeless, unemployed, abused, neglected, or in other ways less fortunate, and victims of circumstance.
Subscribing to the “love and light” ideals often causes victim blaming, whether it is intentional or not. We are placing a person’s situation on them, as though they created their reality. But the fact is, some people are at the mercy of situations they have absolutely no control over. For example, my client, who was heinously abused since childhood, did not create her reality, she was only a child. Even if you believe that her celestial self chose to reincarnate on this planet at this time, the abuser chose the violence. A child is innocent and reaps the mental, emotional, and physical trauma, which can lead to mental illness, substance abuse, and depression. Can you imagine telling this little girl that she agreed to this??? Can you imagine telling this little girl that she just needs to focus on the positive, and her life will magically transform? In the “love and light” communities we find people pushing the idea that we just need to let go, forgive, and move on, in order to have a happier and healthier life. They claim that remembering, or harboring our pain keeps us low vibe, and causes illness. In my opinion, this is gaslighting, manipulative, and abusive.
I find it abhorrent to place blame on a victim because they are still dealing with the pain of their traumas. In fact, the entire idea of expecting a victim to forgive their abuser is abuse! Forgiveness is extremely misunderstood, and in my experience, has been used to control. Today one of my clients expressed that her abusive ex-husband reached out to make amends because he is going through the steps of AA. He is on step 8, which is when a recovering alcoholic would make a list of anyone they harmed, and are willing to take responsibility and apologize to them all (unless doing so would cause greater harm). My client has been completely unable to respond to his amends. It was clear to me that she feels torn because she knows that it takes humility for him to take responsibility for his actions, but she just does not feel like she is ready to forgive, and she is not sure if she ever will be. I expressed to her that it is not her responsibility to forgive him, and if she does, she actually doesn’t have to ever tell him. It is not a victim’s job to absolve their abuser, in too many cases, forgiveness has paved the path to continued abuse. However, in many religious organizations, and in the love and light community, you will find that victims are challenged to not only forgive but also to take responsibility for the way they dealt with the issue. For some, forgiveness feels crucial, but I suggest unpacking forgiveness. What does it mean for you, and how does this make an impact on you? We know that forgiving is not forgetting, although, many abusers seem to think that once they have been forgiven, that’s the end of it. It’s very far from the end for those who have been hurt. People who have been abused may spend a lifetime grappling with what has been done to them. Many find themselves in the same, or similar situations because forgiveness meant allowing the abuser back into their life. Likewise, many victims of abuse do not continue to do the work to heal from their trauma because they were under the impression that forgiveness ended the whole cycle of abuse. In many cases, this turns into denial, and victims shut themselves and their emotions down. Some wonder why they have such strong reactions to certain situations, which may even include frustration towards people who are speaking up about their abuse.
It is important that we take responsibility for our actions. However, I do not agree with the notion that victims should be held accountable for the ways they attempted to protect themselves, or the ways they stood up to their abusers. I am suggesting that we give victims a break, that we are gentle with those who have been victimized, and those who are less fortunate. I am abolishing the idea that remorse and apologies must be met with forgiveness. I reject the idea that we should just let go of our past pain, and move on. My pain has driven me to this place, a place where I am able to support my friends and my clients, a place where I can witness and hold space for victims, a place where I can stand up for those who have been abused. I have spent the past decade exposing the atrocities that have happened and still happen in the cult I was raised in. Thanks to being a “dog with a bone”, I have helped many people to free themselves from the cult. If I had just let go and sent love and light to my abusers, I would not have been able to support those who needed someone to validate their experiences and show them a way out. I have not forgiven the cult for the way they treated me, and my loved ones. Do people tell me that it’s time to let it go? Has my own husband asked me repeatedly when I am going to get over it? Yes. In fact, even other victims have said that I need to forgive and look at the positive things that came from those experiences. My lack of forgiveness is not keeping me in an angry space, it is righteous indignation, and it is aiding in healing for others, who otherwise would feel lost, confused, and dejected.
According to The Law of Attraction, there is a lot of value in where we place our energy, but we know that energy must be matched. Daydreaming all the time about losing weight is not going to help anyone drop a few pounds, we must match the energy with action. This means we make healthier food choices, and add more movement to our lives, in order to see results. The same goes for that promotion we have been hoping for, we have got to apply for the position and work hard to prove ourselves. This, however, is a particular challenge for people in certain circumstances, especially health-related issues. The amount of times I have heard of doctors fat-shaming, rather than finding ways to help their patients who have health issues that inhibit their ability to move or are hormonally imbalanced, is cringy! In these cases, it is insensitive and ultimately cruel to push these ableist ideals. It is extremely important that we give grace, and have empathy, and sensitivity to folx who are differently-abled, and have health concerns that inhibit their energy, and movement.
“I ask that we all take some time to be gentle with ourselves, and with others. To take responsibility for the ways we have been insensitive. Be mindful of our words, and our expectations of others. To do what works for you, but allow others to find what works for them.”
Justine the Witch
While I have personally experienced success in using some Law of Attraction concepts, I admit that this is due to my own privilege. I have had the good fortune to have a partner who supports my dreams and goals. He was the primary breadwinner as I poured my energy into my writing and my craft. In complete honesty, I do not know that I would be as successful as I am today if I had to work full time and squeeze out extra energy at the end of the day. My partner is a very dedicated parent, as well, so I have support with the kids when I need time and space to work with clients or meet a deadline. Again, I don’t know how I would have been able to create a business without that added support. I am able-bodied and healthy, I have had the privilege of being in therapy, I have been gifted retreats and seminars, and I own a vehicle. A lot of the people I love do not have any of these things. Some are single parents, some have health issues that inhibit their movement and energy, and some have mental health issues and do not have the funds for proper therapy. I have found myself inserting my foot into my mouth after gushing about how my hard work has paid off, only to recognize that I am privileged to be able to work as hard as I do and to take time off to rest and recuperate.
I ask that we all take some time to be gentle with ourselves, and with others. To take responsibility for the ways we have been insensitive. Be mindful of our words, and our expectations of others. To do what works for you, but allow others to find what works for them. And, if you find it in your heart to support a friend who may need a ride, or groceries, or a shoulder to cry on, and you have the energy or the ability, then go for it. Not out of guilt for what you have, but out of love and respect for those who don’t. Nobody wants to be a charity case, and you don’t need to be a hero. Just be kind. And as always, do what works for you, if you find success in The Law of Attraction, by all means, attract away! If “love and light” is your jam, then “love and light” all day! If you feel strongly that forgiveness is healing, forgive, but I ask that you don’t push your beliefs or experiences on others.
Justine Lieberman or “JustinetheWitch” (she/her) is a practicing eclectic witch who specializes in shadow work and Tarot reading, she refers to herself as a “Tarotpist” and “Word Witch”. Her love for writing and passion to heal spiritual abuse has been the catalyst for her activism and her Craft.