Forgiveness and PTSD: Releasing Trauma or Excusing the Guilty?
But let’s consider this:
In his book, USE YOUR BODY TO HEAL YOUR MIND, Dr. Henry Grayson writes,
“When we live with resentment and do not practice forgiveness, we are holding on to … emotional injuries. By staying attached to these negative feelings we keep the cells in our bodies in the state of negativity rather than at peace, setting up potential illnesses.”
Wow, from this perspective, forgiveness takes on a whole new meaning. Now, more than ever before, it’s clear: Forgiveness is not for who hurt us, it is for us.
How to Forgive and Feel Good About It
Recently on my radio show, Changing Direction, I interviewed Dr. Margaret Nagib, a clinical psychologist and faculty member at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. She shared with me the enormous power of forgiveness by explaining,
“When we refuse to forgive it’s because we get stuck in an unwillingness to recognize our vulnerability. We need to get comfortable with the idea, 'I was hurt, and I will be hurt again.' Then, we need to release that idea and the feeling it creates. Forgiveness offers you the chance to acknowledge your vulnerability and decide what you want to do and how when a similar situation happens in the future. When we don’t allow this process, we stay stuck in our wounded identity.”
Yikes! The process of healing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder is all about letting us out of our wounded identity. Suddenly, forgiveness sounds incredibly relevant.
PTSD, Forgiveness and Reconciliation
Dr. Nagib went on to make a critical distinction about the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation:
“Forgiveness can happen and we still remain disconnected from the person who hurt us. There are people I have forgiven that I will never see again. Reconciliation takes two. That is, both parties have to be willing. We can forgive and not reconcile.”
I like this idea of separating out cutting the ties versus maintaining them in new ways. This perspective brings even more power into the process of forgiveness, shifting it even further away from what we do for others versus what we do for ourselves.
In my own PTSD recovery, I did choose to forgive the person who hurt me. I didn’t reconcile with him. In over 30 years, I’ve never spoken to or seen him again. While I still hold him responsible for the trauma I endured, I have released all of my active anger toward him.
What are your thoughts about forgiveness and its place in healing posttraumatic stress? In my post next week, I’ll share five steps for a smooth forgiveness process.
Rosenthal, M. (2013, August 28). Forgiveness and PTSD: Releasing Trauma or Excusing the Guilty?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2013/08/forgiveness-ptsd-releasing-trauma-or-excusing-the-guilty