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Forgiveness: Not a Golden Ticket to Healing Trauma (But EMDR Therapy Might Be!)

It is time to have a heart-to-heart about something that's been on my mind. Forgiveness. Yes, that elusive concept we've all heard so much about. "Forgive and forget," they say. But here's the tea: forgiveness is not a mandatory step in healing from trauma. Yep, you heard me right.

Forgiveness: Not Your Trauma Healer-in-Chief

Now, don't get me wrong. Forgiveness can be a powerful and liberating experience. For some, it is the internal shift that allows you to separate yourself from the chains that bind you to those who have hurt you. It’s like taking off those heavy, ugly boots (or a bra!) after a long day and feeling that sweet, sweet relief. But let's be real here. Forgiveness is often touted as the ultimate step to healing, the golden ticket to freedom from pain. And frankly, that’s just not true for everyone.

Picture this: you’re holding onto a cactus (ouch, I know). Someone tells you to forgive the cactus for hurting you, and maybe you’ll feel better. Or, to spend a lot of time and energy trying to understand why the cactus is so prickly to begin with. Meanwhile, the thorns are still digging in deep. Forgiveness won’t magically remove those thorns or stop the pain. Sometimes, it's about finding a way to heal those wounds first before even considering the f-word (forgiveness, obviously).

Embracing Anger and Resentment

When dealing with stress and harm caused by other people, systems, or institutions, it's crucial to recognize that feelings of anger and resentment can be healthy and valid responses to being wronged. Anger can be a powerful signal that something is not right, and it can drive us to take action and seek justice. Resentment, too, can highlight ongoing injustices that need addressing. These emotions are not inherently negative; they can be empowering when channeled constructively.

The Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is often misunderstood as something you do for the other person, but it's actually more about finding peace within yourself. It doesn't mean you condone the wrongs done to you. Instead, it's about letting go of the hold those wrongs have on your emotional well-being. Forgiving someone can free you from the burden of anger and resentment, allowing you to move forward with greater clarity and strength.

Enter EMDR Therapy: The Game-Changer

So, if forgiveness isn't the holy grail of trauma healing, what is? Allow me to introduce you to EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Sounds fancy, right? But it's actually pretty straightforward and, dare I say, miraculous.

EMDR is like a guided tour through your trauma with a super skilled therapist as your guide. It’s designed to help you process and make sense of traumatic experiences without having to rehash every painful detail. Think of it as the Marie Kondo of your brain, helping you tidy up and let go of what doesn’t spark joy (or in this case, what sparks pain).

How EMDR Works

Here’s the lowdown on EMDR:

  1. Preparation: Your therapist will help you understand how EMDR works and what to expect. You’ll also develop coping strategies to handle any distress that might come up.

  2. Assessment: You identify a specific traumatic memory to focus on. This could be anything that's been haunting you—big or small.

  3. Desensitization: Through guided eye movements or other bilateral stimulation (like tapping or auditory tones), you process the memory. This might sound weird, but it’s incredibly effective. These movements help your brain reprocess the trauma, reducing its emotional charge.

  4. Installation: Positive beliefs and feelings are reinforced. It’s like replacing those negative, traumatic memories with healthier, more empowering ones.

  5. Body Scan: You’ll check to see if any physical tension or discomfort remains when thinking about the trauma. If there is, it’s addressed until you feel calm.

  6. Closure and Reevaluation: You’ll end each session feeling grounded and safe, and your therapist will check in on your progress regularly.

Why EMDR Might Be Your New Best Friend

EMDR doesn’t require you to forgive your abuser, those who have harmed you, or the traumatic event. It doesn’t demand that you feel compassion for someone who hurt you. Instead, it focuses on you—your healing, your peace, and your journey forward. It’s about reclaiming your power and freeing yourself from the chains of trauma.

Healing is a deeply personal journey. What works for one person might not work for another, and that’s okay. You don’t owe forgiveness to anyone. Your primary obligation is to yourself and your well-being.

So, the next time someone tells you that forgiveness is the key to overcoming your trauma, feel free to give them a knowing smile and say, "Actually, I’m working on it with EMDR." Trust me, you’ll feel empowered just saying it.

Remember, beautiful souls, healing is your right. You deserve to feel whole and happy again. And if forgiveness isn’t part of that equation, that’s perfectly okay.

You do you. 💖

Until next time, stay sassy and stay strong. 💪

P.S. If you're curious about EMDR and want to explore it further, don’t hesitate to reach out to me (or any other qualified EMDR therapist). Your mental health journey is worth investing in!


Erica Wilcox, LPC is a Certified EMDR Therapist and EMDRIA Approved Consultant in East Hampton, CT. She is the Founder and CEO of Wilcox Wellness Center for Personal Growth and speaks globally about mental health and wellness. She specializes in intensive EMDR therapy and works with clients across the nation who travel to Connecticut for a self-led therapy retreat focused on intensive EMDR and healing.

Contact Erica at to connect and take your next step towards freedom.


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