For those with post-traumatic stress disorder, self-forgiveness is a valuable yet often neglected part of trauma healing. While most people emphasize the idea of forgiving others, learning how to forgive ourselves is not often discussed in mental health. However, self-forgiveness is vital to our mental wellbeing, especially for those who have survived traumatic experiences such as near-death events. These experiences can bring out a lot of shame and guilt, and learning how to let go of those emotions is an important step toward trauma healing.
Why Self-Forgiveness is Often Hard For Those with PTSD
When someone personally suffers through traumatic events, suffering through those moments can cause a great deal of shame and guilt. Often, these feelings can occur as doubts, regrets, and what-if scenarios about the situation. In these moments, the trauma recovery process is messy, as the emotional trauma that arises from having PTSD can cause unintended consequences. These consequences include:
- Avoidance Methods: People diagnosed with PTSD can experience a loss of interest in their lives, resulting in isolation and avoidance techniques of people, places, events, and feelings that may associate with the trauma.
- Intense, Reoccurring Nightmares: Nightmares and revolving memories of events can exasperate traumatic responses, impacting feelings of guilt and shame associated with the traumatic event.
- Depression and Anxiety: Feelings of shame and guilt can also lead to depression and anxiety, negatively affecting one’s health and worsening symptoms.
- Irritability or Outbursts of Anger: With oneself and others, feelings of shame and guilt can preside underneath emotions of anger and irritability, which can cause unintended harm to others and damage relationships.
- Suicidal Thoughts: In worse-case scenarios, shame and guilt can fuel suicidal thoughts and feelings, leading to life-threatening consequences without emergency mental health care. If you’re thinking about suicide, text the suicide and crisis lifeline at 988 to chat with a representative, especially if you’ve been experiencing emergency-related thoughts and feelings related to suicide.
Overall, feelings of shame and guilt caused by PTSD can fuel these symptoms. Going through the trauma healing process means addressing all aspects of emotions and thought patterns related to those events and how they frame your worldview, including how to forgive yourself.
Why Self-Forgiveness is Important in PTSD Recovery
Self-forgiveness is a vital aspect of this healing process. It means letting go of anger and resentment held towards yourself for mistakes you made or believe you made. It means accepting the past for what happened and making future changes to not cling to the things you cannot change. PTSD causes people to go over memories; learning ways for self-forgiveness can help people with PTSD find healing and move forward.
If you struggle with self-forgiveness and have PTSD, make the first step towards healing and speak with a therapist today. Your therapist can help you open up about perceived events and past mistakes that feel terrifying, embarrassing, and infuriating, but taking this first step is the hardest and most essential part of taking control of your PTSD.