How I used restorative justice to move forward

We have all had negative experiences. These can range from the relatively small to the absolutely tremendous, from the local shop being sold out on your favourite cereal to a relative dying. However, most of these experiences to be just that: temporary sensations or events that pass with time, whether it be in hours, in days, in years, and so on. Eventually – hopefully, we move on through making peace with what has happened. However, as an intern at RJ4All and as someone who has had to make peace with the past, I am interested in how restorative justice facilitates this process of making peace with the past and giving people the ability to move forward with their lives.

How we make peace with negative events

There are a variety of ways we cope with events and eventually make peace with them. For the sake of this blog, I want to discuss what some of these mechanisms of coping and acceptance may include. It has been argued that positive emotions help to buffer against stress1. In this sense, positivity itself can be a coping mechanism, but being in the presence of friends has also been found in these three tests to have a similarly buffering effect2.

Therefore, I argue that having good social support and a more positively-oriented mind can help stabilise people in the face of bad events. However, I have still not explained what exactly the mental processes of people are when coming to terms with bad events.

In regard to PTSD, “social support” is not the only factor in helping symptoms of PTSD to decline: “cognitive restructuring” and “expressed emotion” also contribute towards achieving this3. Based on this, we can come terms with past events through having support from their social circle, restructuring their thought processes (which can include therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), and by expressing how we feel. It is not just a matter of having personal and interpersonal structures in place to buffer against negative events, but also having them after the event to sustain the recovery. Bearing this in mind, it to us becomes clearer how restorative justice can potentially help people to make peace with these past experiences.