Sidney and Suzanne Simon, in their book, Forgiveness, identify several stages in the process of recovery from abuse. Recovering from hurt is a challenging but potentially rewarding life task.

Recovery involves –

1.) recognizing that the harm has occurred. We may cling to our old “family secrets,” or we may feel that “that was then and this is now.” Denial of the harm prevents us from working on the issues and moving to a place of integrity, where our old hurts are resolved and we can freely make our own life choices.

2.)moving away from self-blame and understanding that we were the victims of someone else’s aggression. We may feel guilty for allowing ourselves to participate in a situation in which we were harmed, but the guilt should not trap us in a cycle of endless self-blame. Accept that someone else harmed us and we did not have the life skills at the time to prevent it. We did the best we could.

3.)understanding the role of the victim. Being hurt leaves emotional marks. We need to develop a good understanding of the ways past hurts continue to influence our lives – how our anger, ability to trust, and self-esteem have been molded as we play the role of victim.

4.)separating ourselves emotionally from the harm. In our process of recovery, we declare our independence from the hurt and from victimhood. We experience emotions appropriate to the severity of the harm that has been done to us. We feel indignant toward the perpetrator. By placing our anger in the appropriate place, we take a stand that says, “I count and I should never have been hurt like this.”

5.)reclaiming our sense of self. We begin the task of finding out who we are, free from the pain of the past. We find out what our strengths are, what we value, what we believe in. We define ourselves as survivors.

6.)claiming our integrity. In the last stage of recovery, we know that we are more than the pain that has been inflicted upon us. And we know that the one who caused us harm is more than the perpetrator of pain. We know that we have the capacity to be moral, compassionate, loving, caring and nurturing – both to ourselves and to others. It is in this last stage that true forgiveness is possible, not for the benefit of the perpetrator, but so that we can live free of our old emotional pain.

Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT

San Diego Couples and Family Therapy serves the surrounding areas of Sorrento Valley Road as La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway, University City and Escondido.