It is often said forgiveness allows the victim to move on from the pain, trauma and/or anger caused by someone else. From a psychological perspective forgiving someone is less about the person being forgiven and more about the forgiver. Forgiving someone who harmed you in some way doesn't mean letting them off the hook, inviting them back into your life or forgetting what happened. Forgiving is the process of letting go of what happened and moving forward. Below are five steps that may assist in the process.
1. Identify the person who you feel wronged you and and put into words what was done to you. This may seem simplistic but often we hold on to anger to the point we forget why we are angry. The first step of forgiving and moving on is being clear you understand who wronged you and what behavior it was that has affected you.
2. The next step is to identify the emotions associated with the situation to be forgiven, experience and process the emotions either through therapy or a self-guided process. The key is to understand how the situation has made you feel. Putting words to your emotions is the first step in moving forward.
3. Understand the need for forgiveness. No-one can force you to forgive someone that has hurt you or harmed you. You have to come to an understanding of why forgiveness is important. Remember, forgiveness is about you moving on.
4. Set Clear Boundaries. Often, we are still in contact with the person who caused the pain or trauma we are experiencing. It is very important to set boundaries with the perpetrator, to understand the need to protect yourself emotionally and/or physically and to arrive at a place where you feel competent in asserting your boundaries in a healthy manner. Whatever decision you come to, it is important to have a clear plan if the individual is still in your life.
5. At the end, forgiveness is an internal process that concludes with the release of negative emotions. Becoming confident in your ability to forgive for your own sake is key to moving forward. Worked through properly, each stage assist you in finding the confidence to forgive.
adapted from Curran (2013). Trauma-informed interventions: activities, exercises and assignments to move the client and therapy forward. Eau Claire, WI. PESI Publishing and Media
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