Moral Disconnection And Forgiveness Of Yourself

If you have behaved badly towards someone else and you want to make peace with it, it is crucial that you forgive yourself. There is no other way to accept responsibility for your actions and repair the damage as much as possible. 
Moral disconnection and forgiveness of yourself

Forgiving oneself can be complicated. It is a relevant concept on both an individual and social level, especially in high-conflict zones or in a war. If you do not forgive yourself, you create an almost impenetrable barrier to living a fulfilling emotional life. However, it is easier said than done because of the mechanism called “moral decoupling”.

Moral disconnection is a form of veil over your consciousness. It makes something you once considered amoral suddenly seem acceptable. It is a form of self-deception that can open the doors to atrocities to a greater or lesser degree. Moreover, it makes it impossible to forgive yourself.

Sad woman playing with her hair

Moral disconnection

You are not born with a sense of morality or a set of ethical principles. You develop them over time and they vary depending on the community you live in.

As you grow up, you acquire principles and standard behaviors that enable you to respond to situations that are guided by the values ​​you have learned from your experiences. These principles serve as a way to maintain collective and individual well-being.

However, these kinds of value systems and ethical principles are not permanent. In certain circumstances, they may be suspended. For example, during war, it may be permissible to take someone else’s life, even if it is considered wrong, sinful, and illegal under normal circumstances.

This breach of the prevailing value system leads to moral decoupling. If we use war as an example again, it stops being morally wrong to kill or deceive someone. In these particular circumstances, the former moral and past ethical standards do not apply.

The mechanisms behind moral decoupling

Studies show that moral decoupling is triggered in four ways. They are all related to a change in perspective, and they justify behaviors that would not otherwise be tolerated. The four mechanisms behind moral decoupling are as follows:

  • Dissemination of responsibilities. This occurs when someone who is morally reprehensible is backed by a group of people. The fact that others do too dilutes individual responsibility.
  • Transferred responsibility. This occurs when someone places the responsibility for their actions on another person. They simply obey orders, avoid punishment, trust what others tell them, and so on.
  • Minimizing the consequences. When you try to underplay how much damage you have caused, as a way to justify your actions.
  • Blackening of the victim. This concept is very familiar to all of us, especially on a broader scale. It is when a person or group justifies the harm they cause to someone by claiming that they deserved it.


Why is moral disconnection related to self-forgiveness? To begin with  , it is impossible to forgive something that has not been recognized as a mistake or amoral act. If you want to forgive yourself, you first have to stop justifying or minimizing what you have done. Otherwise it will be impossible for you to do so.

This is important because the aggressor will sooner or later have to return to the value system and ethical principles that he or she temporarily set aside. This is what happens when soldiers come home from war, for example. When confronted with their moral decoupling, a kind of emptiness opens up.

There are different ways to deal with this emptiness. It can be denial of facts, hiding your participation in events or taking on a cynical perspective of what has happened. Furthermore, you may also feel an overwhelming sense of remorse, which can lead to self-flagellation and self-punishment.

Sad woman staring into the air

Forgiveness allows you to move on

After some conflicts, moral decoupling can make it possible to function normally. Here, it is best for your mental health to create conditions that facilitate self-forgiveness and allow you to do well again.

If you do not do this,  you will either become a scammer or be completely paralyzed by guilt. None of these cases solve the problem. Both ways make the situation worse and have a very high emotional price.

Self-forgiveness begins when you take responsibility for your actions without making excuses. Once you have done this, it is time to repair the damage in some way, even if it is only symbolic. Another important part of healing is asking for forgiveness. This process is the only way to make peace with the past and move on.

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