From the CFAR reading list. It’s kind of a relationship guide, but written from a strongly Christian point of view. I’m going to heavily paraphrase the author because he’s speaking a different language than I’m used to hearing.

There is a selection pressure to be able to explain to the tribe that it’s totally not your fault and they shouldn’t have been so close to the tiger and whose idea was it to hunt tigers anyway? Humans are excellent lie detectors, so there is a nearly unnoticeable transition from suspecting that you are in the wrong to immediately generating and believing an internal narrative where you are the aggrieved party, unfairly accused despite perfectly reasonable decisions.

The author points out that this internal rehearsal of a victimized narrative rarely happens when you are actually being victimized, so if you notice it you should immediately suspect that you might be in the wrong. Just the act of honestly considering how you might be in the wrong can be enough to trigger a reframing of the situation.

He contrasts two different modes of living, labeled I-It and I-You. There are long descriptions and comparisons of each, but I’m thinking of them as status-seeking/defending vs cooperative/empathic. In the latter mode, you are presumably less likely to begin looping that victimization narrative and more likely to reframe the situation from other points of view, and maybe even pro-actively avoid the conflict in the first place. In contrast to typical Western emphasis on individual freedoms, the I-You person finds happiness in their bonds to others. There are shades of Taoism in the way the author describes the I-You person as making the right choices without having to consider their options and without experiencing any internal conflict.

Moves on to cycles of defensiveness where each party is generating narratives in which they are the victims, which justifies their defensive reactions, which makes the other parties feel even more victimized etc. The only way to break the cycle is to erase the slate. If you pretend to forgive someone while still blaming them internally, that will come across in your words and actions and the cycle will continue. So you have to strive to genuinely forgive the other parties.

Towards this end, it again suggests considering actions you have taken that contributed to the problem, reframing the situation from other perspectives and trying to understand the reasons that people behave poorly, and above all internalizing the idea that people are hugely fallible and should be expected to behave poorly. Just as children are gently encouraged towards good social behavior rather than ostracized for their mistakes, being a good person is something that people have to strive for and be gently encouraged towards their whole lives, rather than being harshly punished for each failure.

Even in the case where someone’s behavior is sufficiently toxic that you need to remove them from your life, or even have them punished or imprisoned, the author still calls for forgiveness. In this context though, it sounds less like forgiveness and more like a Stoic fatalism. Even after someone is out of your life, that defensive internal narrative infects other interactions and continues to harm you. You can acknowledge that you were wronged, but let go of the urge to continue casting your life in terms of that narrative, which only existed in the first place as a social defense mechanism and has now outlived it’s usefulness.