How to Release Trauma: Forgiveness Is the Key

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Success Principles" by Jack Canfield. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here .

How do you cope with trauma? Do you tend to bury it with distractions or do you ruminate on the pain? What’s a healthy way to release trauma?

When you experience something painful, but don’t process it, it diminishes your ability to take on similar or new challenges. That’s why it’s important to put the pain beyond you the sooner the better. Forgiveness is the key to doing so.

In this article, you’ll learn how to recognize when you’re holding yourself back and learn two techniques to overcome past hurts and pains.

Negative Emotions Are Poisonous

Negative emotions like anger or resentment rob you of energy that you could use toward more positive outcomes like achieving your goals. For example, if you’re trying to work on a project but can’t stop thinking about that mean comment your friend made about you, you won’t move as quickly or accomplish as much. From a Law of Attraction perspective, whatever emotion you’re releasing into the universe is what you attract—if you harbor anger and resentment, you’ll attract more of it into your life.

Forgiveness is the key to breaking this cycle. It helps you express your emotions and release trauma. For example, forgiving a business partner who stole money from you allows you to acknowledge your resentment and put the past behind you so you can focus on the present. This doesn’t mean what the person did is acceptable or that you should trust them, just that you acknowledge what they did so you can move forward.

Recovering from Physical and Mental Trauma: Phan Thi Kim Phuc’s Story

In the midst of the Vietnam War, a photographer snapped a photo of a screaming young Vietnamese girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, running naked down the road. She was in excruciating pain because her village was bombed with napalm, a chemical agent, which had given her third-degree burns on over half of her body. After treatment and surgeries, she survived, became a Canadian citizen, underwent a forgiveness process, and founded an organization to help victims of war. People remark that she is amazingly calm and forgiving given her experiences.

Technique #1: The “Total Truth” Process

When someone upsets you, you may experience anger at that person, but you may not fully express to them how you feel. When you don’t express how you feel, it can fester inside you as resentment, making it difficult to have a productive relationship with that person. Plus, hanging on to negative emotions hampers you from feeling happy, which is where joy, creativity, and inspiration come from. To restore your relationship, express your emotions fully: The Total Truth Process is one way to do this.

The Total Truth Process means expressing your emotions equally in six different stages, beginning with the negative and transitioning into expressing gratitude and love. This sequence helps you address your emotional distress and truly forgive someone who has wronged you. However, it doesn’t mean you’re trying to change the person. You can do this verbally, or in writing.

First, make a list of every person who has wronged you and how. Use this template:

(PERSON’S NAME) hurt me by (BLANK). Then, go through the total truth process with each person using either of the following options.

Option #1: Verbal

1. Identify the person you need to talk to. Ask their permission to tell them what’s on your mind.

2. When you meet with the person, discuss each category of emotions, giving equal time to each. Here are the categories, along with prompts to get your ideas flowing:

  • Anger and resentment. “I’m angry that…” “I hate it when…” “I resent that…”
  • Hurt. “It hurt me when…” “I felt sad when…” “I feel disappointed about…”
  • Fear. “I’m afraid of you when…” “I’m afraid that I…” “I was afraid when…”
  • Regret, Remorse, and Accountability. “I’m sorry that…” “I didn’t mean to…” “I’m sorry for…” 
  • Wants. “I want(ed)…” “I deserve…” “I want you to…”
  • Compassion, Appreciation, Forgiveness, Love. “I understand that…” “I appreciate…” “I forgive you for…“ “Thank you for…” In this section, you’re recognizing that the person did the best that they could with the resources and knowledge they had at the time, and you’re forgiving them so you can move forward.

Option #2: Written

This option works well in the following situations:

  • You want to write your thoughts down first.
  • You don’t feel comfortable talking to the person face-to-face.
  • The other person won’t or can’t participate in a conversation.

Here are the steps:

  1. Write a letter that dedicates equal parts to each of the emotional categories from Option 1.
  2. If the person is willing to participate, have them write you a letter, too. Arrange a time to meet and swap your letters. Read them together, then discuss the experience. As you discuss it, try not to defend what you’ve said. Instead, focus on what the other person has to say.
  3. If the person isn’t willing or can’t participate, write your letter, then toss it. The main point is for you to express your emotions, so just getting them on paper can be useful.

Technique #2: Tapping Therapy

Tapping therapy is another way to address past wrongs, as well as fears and phobias. For centuries, healing in Eastern cultures has addressed energy flow through different parts of the body, or meridians. Sometimes, chronic pain is thought to be a result of previous emotional distress that is held in certain parts of the body. Based on these ideas, clinical psychologist Roger Callahan developed tapping therapy to release pain from different areas of the body and to get over fears and other negative emotions that hold you back.

Here are the steps:

1. Close your eyes and think of a fear or emotion you’d like to rid yourself of. Assess how strong it is on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the strongest.

2. Think of the feeling as you tap the heel of your hand (the area near your wrist) 10 times. Tap firmly enough to feel it without hurting your hand. Phrase your thoughts in a way that connects them with the emotion they bring out. For example: “Even though I’m scared to lead the meeting at work tomorrow, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”

3. Tap these other points on your body while thinking of the emotion:

  • Top of the head
  • Eyebrow
  • To the right or left of your eye
  • Underneath the eye
  • Underneath the nose
  • Chin
  • Collarbone on each side
  • Underneath one arm

Tap each point firmly five to seven times while thinking variations of the first phrase you used. For example, while tapping the top of the head, you might say, “I’m afraid people will be bored during the meeting.” As you move to the eyebrow, you might say, “I’m afraid no one will want to do the ice breaker.” The exact words don’t matter as long as you’re focused on your emotions every step of the way.

4. Repeat the sequence from the top of the head down, saying the phrase in your head until the intensity of the feeling dissipates or to a level one or disappears.

Tapping Therapy Works: Kelly Ripa’s Story

After witnessing the 9/11 terrorist attacks, actress and television host Kelly Ripa was afraid to fly. When she got a call asking her to record an episode of her television show at Disneyland requiring her to fly, she called Roger Callahan for help. Callahan led Ripa through tapping therapy over the phone and she was able to take her five-hour flight without trouble. She invited Callahan to join her at Disneyland and give tapping therapy to people who were afraid to ride rollercoasters. Seventeen participants underwent tapping therapy and were able to ride a rollercoaster, with most saying they’d like to go again.

How to Release Trauma: Forgiveness Is the Key

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Jack Canfield's "The Success Principles" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full The Success Principles summary :

  • The 67 principles to help anyone achieve their goals and dreams
  • Why achieving your goals requires you to invest your time and effort
  • How to take responsibility for your own life

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *