One of the toughest parts of being human is experiencing the pain of being hurt by someone else, whether it's a deliberate act of cruelty or unintentional thoughtless behavior. But the resentment we feel against someone who's harmed us can injure us even more.
In a 2003 article, German psychiatrist Michael Linden identified a mental malady, post-traumatic embitterment disorder or PTED, in which memories of the event and continuing anger over the injustice can lead to depression, sleep disturbances, physical pain and loss of appetite, to the point where a person can become paralyzed by such feelings [source: Linden, Joshi]. But researchers have found that it can be difficult for people to forgive, in part because victims of wrongdoing tend to remember the event much differently than the perceived transgressor, over time embellishing negative details and leaving out mitigating factors that might help them to get over the hurt [source: American Psychological Association].
Psychologist Ned Hallowell advises following a four-part process.
- Acknowledge your pain. Admit to yourself that you've been hurt.
- Ask yourself, what do you want this pain to turn into? It's not about how your transgressor feels, but about how you want to feel. Forgiveness is a service to yourself.
- Work through your anger. It's okay to imagine vengeance, as long as you don't act on those urges. But it's better to think of how much happier and better off you'll be once you are free of these feelings.
- Renounce your rage and resentment. Recognize that they may never go away completely -- but resolve that if and when you do feel them again, you'll simply repeat this process and regain your feeling of peace [source: Oprah].