by | 29 November 2018 | 12 comments

‘You just need to forgive.’

I hang my head as shame courses through me again. I wish I hadn’t said anything. I wish I hadn’t asked for help. Because this is where it always lands: that it’s my fault. I’m only traumatised, Irene says, because I haven’t forgiven my abusers. If I would just forgive them, her theory goes, the flashbacks and dissociation would simply melt away.

Even as the shame nags at my guts, part of me is dubious. Part of me wants to look her in the eye and tell her that she’s wrong. But she’s powerful, and I’m not, and years of abuse taught me not to stand up to people more powerful than me. So I retain the self-protective shame posture of submission, and I mumble an apology, and promise myself silently that I will never initiate another conversation with Irene again.


Find the complete article in Carolyn’s new book, ‘Unshame: healing trauma-based shame through psychotherapy’, available now!

A word of explanation

I had therapy mainly between 2006 and 2015. These blog posts are not verbatim accounts of sessions, but rather the client equivalent of ‘case studies’ – amalgamations of various sessions, ‘narratively true’ rather than ‘historically true’. Although often written for stylistic purposes in the present tense, they are very much from a past period of my life. Ideally they should be read within the wider context of other blog posts, articles and my book, to give a more integrated and rounded sense of where I was at, where I’m at now, and the process that took place between those two points. I have been on a journey of recovery, and the difference in me from when I was in therapy (especially at the beginning) to now is testament to the brain’s ability to recover from even the most appalling suffering.

My primary work now is writing, followed closely by training therapists, counsellors and other professionals to support survivors of trauma. Regrettably I cannot provide one-to-one support but our charity framework PODS (Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors) provides a helpline and a range of other services: please go to for more information, and if you are looking for support.

For training, please see our range of live courses at, and our online courses at We also publish a range of resources to support recovery from trauma, which you can see at My first book, Recovery is my best revenge, is available to buy at




  1. Sam

    Brilliant, thank you.

  2. Victoria Telfer-Smith

    Fantastic work and a great write up of a very hard situation to deal with. You are wonderful and brave.

  3. Rachael

    Again, wow. So many times I read your blog Carolyn and where my words have failed me, hidden behind my trauma, you give me scaffolding on which to place my own mess of thoughts feelings and sensations, until I find the words. Thank you.

  4. Traci

    Amazing read and real connection to your words. Thank you.x

  5. Sandi Hill

    Absolutely and utterly true. I would add a few remarks of my own. Not everyone wants revenge, not everyone wants to hit back. Anger and disgust and bitterness are all emotions to be worked through and not to be denied. I just want the hurt to stop. Thinking of revenge for me means still thinking about the criminal and the things they did to me – I don’t want to do that. After healing and recovery if I want anything at all it is justice and exposure can be enough justice. Some acts and behaviours are simply unforgiveable except by a divine being – and I am certainly not that!! Anger is justice, but not if used against anyone at all. Anger makes us realise what was done to us was wrong, wrong, wrong. For me anger is good because it is energy and I am no longer afraid. Forgiveness is not necessary at all for me to move on. It may be ‘suitable’ for the community/family/church/others if we keep quiet and don’t rock the boat, social control is always so much more comfortable for ‘others’ than the abused. Living our lives to our fullest potential without ever having to think about the criminals again (if only) is what is needed. Forgiveness is not necessary for that. I want all my time and efforts and work for me. Forgiveness just gives to other people all the time. I do not wish them any harm, but I don’t want anything to do with them ever again and I certainly do not want to give them anything else at all, they have already taken too much from me. If they want forgiveness then they perhaps can ask a divine being for it. Because it is not mine to give.

  6. Helen

    Wow, with you all the way. Thank you Carolyn.

  7. Andy

    I really needed to read this today! I’m no where near my point A. Right now I’m struggling with the impossible enormity of all my trauma. I do understand the basic idea of Forgiveness, as having spent my whole life in the church. However I never really got the idea of it being moreso for our own healing process, than letting them off the hook. Thank you so very very much for sharing this.

  8. Tina

    k this was long to read and I did. Thing is some things are unforgivable, this is where you have radical acceptance. It does not mean you forgive what happened, yet you acknowledge that is was NOT ok, and how to help you move forward. Good trauma therapists know that. They would never lead a patient by telling them they have to forgive. Telling an abused person they must forgive is basically fueling a patient to continue to the self-torture of what happened and that they should play nice with their abuser, nope, not right!

  9. Jules

    This has helped me so much
    I’m blessed to have a therapist
    Who doesn’t push forgiveness on me x
    Aknowledging and releasing my trauma giving it a valid place in my healing and the companionship of someone listening deeply without judgment brilliant article bang on !!

  10. Chris

    Thank you so much Carolyn for your courage and your honesty . You have put into words things which I think so many find hard to fiind words for . Thank you

  11. Anon

    Thank you for this article I read it on the train to work. I am currently looking for a trauma therapist to work through my issues. This gives me hope.

  12. Cornelia

    You have no idea how grateful I am for your thoughts on this topic! Finding myself in a similar situation. I see you!


Submit a Comment

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

More from Carolyn…

The shame of dissociation

The woman’s eyes flick around the floor. Her breath is caught up in her ribs, hardly exhaling. Her fists are clenched. Her shoulders shrug upwards around her neck, protectively. The agony of being is raw on her face. Terror and dread and shame and confusion.

Why don’t I belong?

‘I don’t fit in,’ I complain, earnestly, full of pain. ‘I don’t belong. I don’t belong anywhere.’

The therapist looks at me steadily, brimming with compassion for me and probably a little stuck about how to respond. If she contradicts me, she’ll risk being misattuned. If she agrees with me, she’ll reinforce my misery. So she sits and waits and eventually she says, ‘When did you first feel like this?’

A brief guide to working with dissociative identity disorder

A brief guide to dissociative identity disorder, a post-traumatic condition, by Carolyn Spring.