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Real Healing Starts with Forgiveness: Dr. Ani Kalayjian

“If your compassion does not include you, your compassion is not complete” Dr. Ani Kalayjian, Founder and President, MeaningfulWorld

New York City – An expert on traumatic stress management, Dr. Ani Kalayjian said that people who have experienced trauma, are primarily responsible for the healing of their own pain in order to enjoy life. 

“Do not wait for acknowledgment from your wrong-doer. Take responsibility and work on your healing,” said Dr. Kalayjian in the hour-long Speaker Series presentation on Forgiveness and Reconciliation in the UTS Oak Room at 4W43 in New York City on October 17, 2017. 

Kalayjian maintained that while “horizontal violence” such as slavery, genocide, terrorist attacks, internalized aggressions of perpetrators and colonizers remains alive and pervasive, the individual person is mainly responsible to get out of the pain.

Watch: Dr. Ani Kalayjian’s presentation to UTS students, faculty, staff, and guests live cast on UTS’ facebook page.

“We work for restorative justice, yes, but individual healing does not depend on reparations,” Kalayjian explained when introducing the cases of comfort women in the Philippines and Korea who were made sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II, and the example of the victims of the militarist Turkish government. 

Kalayjian is an adjunct Psychology professor at Columbia University, an NGO representative at the United Nations, and president of the Association for Trauma Outreach & Prevention and Meaningful World. She said that people are still using the old mentality of “keeping hurt, getting angry, being vengeful, and thus heightening violence.”

The cycle of violence, she noted, goes from post-trauma stress disorder, to addiction, and continued grief, sadness, and anger.

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. Hence, it is important with every traumatic experience to determine the lessons learned. In this process, we identify your strength, not your trauma. And the first step to healing is forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift to yourself. Forgiveness breaks the cycle of anger and hurt inside you, then you become strong,” Kalayjian explained.

As a victim of war trauma herself, Kalayjian struggled personally in her young life under the militarist rule of the Turkish government. She said that she was blessed to have met Dr. Victor Frankl, founder of logotherapy, with whom she underwent therapy for four years. 

In that therapy, based heavily on existential philosophy, Kalayjian remembers Frankl as very funny, grounded and humble. He asked me: what meaning did you get from that experience? In logotherapy, you have to help clients forgive. “It is a gift to yourself, to break the cycle of pain and hurt. It is an individual decision, and no religion can force you to do that,” she said in closing.