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How I'm Learning What Forgiveness Looks Like With PTSD

Forgiveness is a very complex subject. To each person, it can be done differently. For each person, it can mean something different. That is why it’s so important, but also so difficult to understand.

By definition, forgiveness is: “A conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you.”

The important thing to remember about forgiveness is it does not mean you are condoning the act or forgetting it. In fact, to forgive someone, you can have nothing to do with them. Forgiveness is exclusively about the person who has been wronged.

Through my eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, I have learned there are four phases of forgiveness. It begins in “the uncovering phase,” where you more deeply understand the situation and how it has impacted you.

The second phase is gaining a better understanding of forgiveness itself, and making the decision of whether or not to move forward with forgiveness in your personal situation. This is called “the decision phase.”

Next is “the work phase,” in which you begin to understand the offender in a new way. This allows the process of positive thoughts toward yourself and the offender to begin.

Finally, in the last phase, negative emotions will be further decreased. You may also find meaning in the situation, and recognize how you may have grown as a person. This is called “the deepening phase.” 

As you will notice in all four phases, the only part consistent is you. Not all phases have to do with the offender, or even the offense. Forgiveness is about overcoming the trauma, for your own well-being. You are releasing negative emotions related to the situation.

Forgiveness is a long and difficult process for some. Everyone is unique, has experienced different things and processes everything differently. We are all entitled to this process, no matter how long it takes. Personally I have been attending EMDR therapy for approximately three months and am just moving into the third phase. I understand forgiveness is about me, and I have chosen to forgive. No matter the situation you endured, you deserve forgiveness, for yourself.

Unsplash image by Allef Vinicius