For so many people, the issue of forgiveness is often a central theme in therapy. Forgiveness, some have said, is something that you do for yourself. In addition, forgiving someone who has hurt you does not mean that you forget or condone the behavior.
Intellectually, I know that “hurt people, hurt people.” The people that have hurt us, most likely, have also been hurt by someone in their lives. Sadly, this can become a cycle of emotional pain in many families. In addition, the traumas we have experienced can live on in our memories for many years, with past hurts creating pain for us in the present.
If you are dealing with an unhealed emotional wound or trauma, it is first important to acknowledge it and recognize that what happened to you was not fair and that it was not your fault. You cannot change or work on something that you do not name or identify. Unfortunately, shame can breed silence. In choosing to view yourself as a survivor, you have every right to feel anger. Therapy provides an individual a safe place to work through the anger she may have been living with for years. This anger can represent a tremendous burden that continues to exert negative influence on our lives in the present. Living with chronic anger also has been linked to a host of physical and emotional problems.
Many people who have been hurt also want to seek revenge on the people that have hurt them. Many of us invest a great deal of energy in this area, robbing ourselves of the opportunity to live fully in the present. However, revenge or retaliation does not bring long-term satisfaction. We often believe that hanging on to the anger and not forgiving gives us power, when the exact opposite appears to be true. Instead, we surrender our power to the individual that has hurt us by remaining connected to him through anger. In addition, the desire for revenge can consume people and exacerbate feelings of anger and bitterness.
It is possible that the only way to experience peace and healing is to forgive. When we choose not to forgive, we remain emotionally connected to those who have hurt us. Forgiveness becomes a gift that we give ourselves. And this is something that we deserve.