I recently attended a wonderful workshop, entitled Anger, Forgiveness, and the Healing Process presented by Robert Grant, Ph.D. Having received training in helping clients who have experienced trauma many times in the past, I was not sure what I would walk away with after this recent training.
Suffice it to say, the program was excellent. Dr. Grant shared powerful examples of traumatized individuals who experienced military horrors, 9-11-2001 stress, the aftermath of violent crime, and the painful baggage of sexual abuse, along with other types of trauma experiences he had worked through with his anonymously presented former patents. All of the success stories shared the common theme of clients having worked through the stages of anger, forgiveness, and the healing process.
Individuals who have been hurt, betrayed, and abused have the right to be angry and resentful. These are normal reactions and emotions when feeling the crushed spirit that can come from being disrespected or abused. If not dealt with, such angry reactions can damage personal health on several levels: These include killer cell cytotoxicity, autoimmune suppression, disruption of personal relationships, Acute Coronary Syndrome, and consequent increased mortality,
Below is a summary of the key points Dr. Grant shared that promote emotional healing from trauma.
• The reality is that anger needs to be acknowledged and processed even though most people are not comfortable with their anger in the first place.
• Acknowledging revenge fantasies within oneself or with trusted others is integral to the process of freeing oneself from the shackles of anger.
• Finding common ground between yourself and your offender/aggressor helps to lead the way to forgiveness.
• At the same time, seeing how you are different in that you would not act out in the same way also keeps you separate which is important to promoting emotional health.
• Forgiving yourself is crucial for healing. To forgive yourself, you must accept that you were/are vulnerable and allow yourself to be human. This means accepting that you may have made mistakes if, in fact you had made any concerning your safety or welfare.
• To truly heal yourself you must be willing to move from our "pleasure world" of main stream consciousness and acknowledge, and stay in, with inner pride, your own suffering. The mainstream world we live in fills us with media portraying easy living devoid of pain. Freeing yourself means you must leave the fairy dust fantasies of what you SHOULD have in life and accept the painful realities that have come your way.
• Staying in the darkness of your suffering is where true learning and a deeper sense of personal meaning can arise.
I find the above points easy to relate to as I consider the painful experiences I have faced in life. Coming out on top (or at least continuing to work toward doing so) from painful memories of childhood, divorce, and my fiancee's pancreatic cancer has not been easy. But as Dr. Grant shared, "Suffering is the only thing powerful enough to wake you up to reality."