You say that the biggest surprise you had when studying forgiveness therapy was its effectiveness when trauma is present in the participants. What was your second biggest surprise?
I think the second biggest surprise is that when people forgive and recover from the effects of trauma, they often develop a new purpose in life. That new purpose is to help others who also are hurting from other people’s mistreatment of them. This new purpose seems to give hope and vitality to those who were carrying a large emotional burden within them.
How does the issue of repressed memory fit into the forgiveness process? In other words, if I cannot remember abuse against me from my childhood, then how can I even consider the forgiveness process?
Repression is a defense against being overwhelmed by our feelings. This can be a protection for our mental health, at least in the short run. Yet, if the repression is so strong as to prevent an awareness of past trauma, so that the trauma cannot be uncovered and healed, then it can work against one’s psychological well-being. A key issue is this: Trauma that is deep and not uncovered can lead to symptoms in the present such as a lack of trust in others and/or anxiety. If a person presents with such issue of mistrust or anxiety, it can be helpful first to let the person know that there is a scientifically-supported approach to confronting any past trauma, if this happened in the person’s life, and experiencing healing from that trauma. That approach is Forgiveness Therapy. This can help people let down their psychological defenses, which then can lead to insight from the past, and this then can be the beginning of psychological healing through forgiveness, if the person chooses to forgive.