Apologies in Trauma Recovery

Apologies nearly never do what my clients with developmental trauma hope that they will do.  Most of my clients will not get an apology at all, nor anything that approximates any recognition of harm.  All that wanting for any form of recognition of deep harm gets them nothing.

In the few clients who have received a relatively comprehensive apology, they hear things from the abuser that weren’t actually spoken or intended.  Because they have the illusion of being heard, they assume that the abuser now understands some things about them and isn’t going to do things anymore that are triggering.  But, people with trauma are easily triggered and that sense of feeling understood is usually very short-lived.

When it comes to small things and the maintenance of a relatively healthy relationship, apologies are perfectly healthy and perhaps essential.  When it comes to trauma, they’re almost useless.  They’re never a substitute for deep healing.  They’re nearly as useless as forgiveness and for the same reasons.  However, some clients are initially consumed with the desire for abusers to fully see the harm that they have caused.  It can be a bit of an art to help clients see that deep healing requires nothing new of abusers.  I work with clients using EMDR to help them get healthy enough so that they require nothing of abusers for them to be okay.

Ironically, it’s after clients have worked to resolve their traumas that they can sometimes have productive conversations with parents/abusers and feel heard and not be strongly triggered by these interactions.  This seems to reinforce a truth observed over and over in trauma recovery: You can get what you need from others, but only after you heal enough to no longer need it.

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