Do I always have to reach out to the one who hurt me? What if this person was tremendously mean to me such that I am re-traumatized when I meet this person? Would it be better then not to interact with this person?
You need not reach out directly to the one who hurt you if you are re-traumatized by meeting this person. You can reach out indirectly by donating some money to a charity in the person’s name or by saying a kind word about the person to others. When you forgive, you need not reconcile with the other if in doing so you are harmed.
I sometimes test myself by asking if I still am angry with the person who abused me. When I do this, I find that I still have some anger. Does this mean that I have not forgiven?
If your anger has fallen to manageable levels so that the anger no longer is controlling you, and if you now can wish the person well, then you are forgiving. Forgiveness need not be perfect in that there can be some anger left over. If you wish to reduce your anger even more, then you can once again start the forgiveness process with that person.
You talk about uncovering repressed memories so that the anger can come out. Yet, is it ever advantageous to keep some repression, or not remembering the details of what happened to me?
Repression is a psychological defense mechanism of not remembering that which might be upsetting to you. Psychological defenses in the short run can be helpful in that they keep specific ideas about past trauma away from a person who is not ready to deal with those traumas. So, yes, in the short run it can be advantageous to repress (and people are unaware that they are repressing), but in the long run, if the repression is leading to pent-up anger and anxiety, it is best to uncover the events and the persons who caused the trauma so that forgiveness of the unjustly-acting person can begin.
Both can be effective, as seen in the research section of the book, Forgiveness Therapy, APA Books, 2015. Yet, statistics show that one-on-one therapy (of at least 12 or more sessions once a week for 12 weeks) is more effective than brief therapy (which is about 4 to 8 sessions).
If I start to forgive, I have to look back at the past, at what happened to me. I am afraid to do that as it opens up deep emotional wounds. What do you suggest?
When you forgive a person, you focus on the qualities of that person, including the effort to see this person as possessing inherent worth. Yet, you need not go back in your mind and dwell on the unjust event itself. Once you have determined that the actions were unjust, you then can set aside the details of the injustice against you as you forgive. A focus on the event is not the same as focusing on who this one is as a person.