Beginning in the 1980's Dr. Eileen Borris had been on the frontlines of forgiveness from the personal to the political. As a political psychologist Dr. Borris helps to rebuild war...
In 1986 Julie Chimes agreed to let an emotionally distressed acquaintance wait in her cottage, which was occasionally used as a waiting room for her partner’s busy General Medical Practice. The woman had been taken off a train for behaving in a strange manner and after a bizarre chain of events was eventually brought by police unexpectedly early to the public waiting room of Julie’s Doctor boyfriend. After receiving an initial assessment she asked if she could wait in the comfort of the cottage, until the Doctor could give her his full attention. No one, not even the woman’s psychiatrist or family knew that she had recently taken herself off all medication for paranoid schizophrenia. Within minutes of her arrival, she helped herself to a carving knife and set about her mission of saving the world in the name of Jesus.
I think of myself as fortunate because I have never felt a victim. When the knife entered me, something exploded in my awareness – a part of me became detached from my body. I was on a trapeze, swinging amongst the more brilliant stars I had ever seen, suspended in a vast, black velvet night sky, I rocketed back and forth, through the heavens. The speed was exhilarating – the vision intoxicating – my entire being exploding with the excitement of its new-found freedom, beyond the straitjacket rigidity of its earthly overcoat. There was no sound except the rhythmic beating of a heart. Time did not exist. Nothing mattered. I knew some tiny part of me was being stabbed, and it did not seem to be of any consequence…. I was so incredibly alive… I became aware of thoughts, calm, loving, soothing, beautiful thoughts.
I was observing the mayhem with total understanding and even a sense of humour. I can remember shouting out that I loved my assailant, which, given the circumstances was as much of a surprise to me as being stabbed. The physical pain was excruciating but a phenomenal strength and focus arose within me, and I ‘received very specific instructions, which guided me out of the cottage. I had a long crawl to the road, but was followed by my assailant who plunged the carving knife into my back, where it got stuck. As I struggled to the gate crying for help I saw passers-by running away, not that I blamed them, for in their shoes I probably would have done the same. Eventually a courageous passerby managed to disarm my attacker, as she was trying to hack off my head.
I was given up as dead by the first police officers arriving at the crime scene but I was aware of everything, including the unhelpful onlookers who were discussing the ambulance strike and the businessman who wouldn’t cover me with his jacket because he didn’t want it ‘ruined’ by my blood. I remember thinking, ‘Look at it this way kid, from here things can only get better!’. Lying in that cold wet Hampshire driveway in the south of the United Kingdom I was totally aware of everything going on around me. From a place beyond physical form I experienced profound feelings of compassion, forgiveness and love towards my psychotic attacker and the unhelpful ‘accident-onlookers’. The exsanguinated pile of flesh and bones slumped in the drive seemed to have little to do with who I was. I cheered inwardly when my partner Tony arrived on the scene. Cutting through the indecision and fear surrounding me he acted with immense courage and certainty. My subsequent survival from the multiple stab wounds, of which five were within a millimeter of killing me, was considered to be something of a miracle. I was, and am still, overwhelmed with gratitude for the courage and strength of those who fought to save my life. There was serendipity in the way my rescue unfolded and I knew I would live. My loved ones were not so certain.
In the hospital Intensive Care the main topics of conversation over my mummified body were blame and retribution. Tony became the scapegoat as he had agreed to let the woman patient wait in our cottage. From my perspective the sequence of events that had led up to her arrival in our kitchen were so bizarre I knew there was no one to blame. I felt certain the attack was part of a much bigger picture. I believed on some level that it had had to happen and it was not the tragic accident that most people thought. I was determined to understand and a quest for truth began to unfold within me.
My rapid recovery from the five main stab wounds was considered something of a miracle but there were difficult repercussions in every aspect of my life. My mother, having lost her brother tragically, remained inconsolable and had a breakdown. My stepfather blamed ‘my injuries’ for her ensuing illness and in a misguided effort to protect her from further upset he banished me from their lives. After her premature death he asked for my forgiveness. I am neither christened nor religious but Christ’s words about ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do’ is the closest way to describe how I felt. This expansive feeling of understanding and compassion even allowed me to take a call from my assailant’s sister, who wanted me to know her sister was desperately sorry and asked my forgiveness. As I blamed no one, there was nothing to forgive, but there was still a lot for me to learn and understand. I hadn’t become evangelical, walking around with a beatific smile on my face but I went in search of teachings and people who had touched on the same loving perspective. I wanted to know if it was it possible to reach this place of peace without some horrific trauma.
I have accepted what happened to me, not in a passive, beaten way but more an alive, dynamic excited way. So why did it happen to me? My suffering has enabled me to reach into areas that I would never have been permitted to enter, to speak with an authority I would never have achieved through intellect alone, to meet and share stories with audiences around this world and to instigate changes that can improve human rights. I now understand the journey of forgiveness and the remarkable healing power it bestows upon us. Above all, I can now love with a capacity that is ever deepening. What more could a woman ask for?