Archive for February, 2020
My friend has anger. He seems to have a pattern of distracting himself whenever he has a resurgence of his anger. In other words, he buries himself in computer games, has fun, and the anger subsides. Yet, that anger never seems to leave. He can get all hot-under-the-collar, as they say, and have temper tantrums. So, is the method of distraction ok or not?
The method of distraction as a coping mechanism for deep anger only is a short-term solution. In other words, distraction masks the anger for a while, but it does not cure the anger. Have you talked with your friend about what is bothering him? If it is an injustice from another person or persons, perhaps it is time to consider forgiving. This may not eliminate all of his anger, but it should reduce it to more manageable levels.
For additional information, see Why Forgive?
As a follow-up to my previous question about retaining anger for years, is it truly forgiving another if there is anger still present, even if that anger is mild and not toxic?
Yes, if you wish the other well, if you see the other as possessing unconditional inherent (built-in) worth, and if you have committed to doing no harm to that person, then you have forgiven. Having some anger does not invalidate all of this goodness that you have toward the one who hurt you.
For additional information, see The Four Phases of Forgiveness.
You talk a lot about how forgiveness lowers one’s anger. You further state that too much anger is unhealthy for a person. Yet, isn’t it possible for anger to linger for a very long time when someone close to you betrays you?
Yes, you do make a good point. When betrayed by a loved one (and many other examples of injustice), anger can continue for a very long time, even years. Yet, there is an important difference between feeling some anger as you recall what happened and being dominated by intense, unhealthy anger. Forgiveness, practiced patiently over time, can reduce this unhealthy form of anger. Having some anger left over simply shows that you are human and you are still, legitimately, responding to what happened to you. You are saying that you are a person of worth who should not have been treated this way. So, I think you can go in peace knowing that you have forgiven even with some residual anger. If you are feeling the intense, toxic anger on a regular basis, I suggest that you turn once again to the process of forgiveness to lower that anger.
For additional information, see How do I know if my anger is healthy or unhealthy?
Suppose you hurt your knee while running. Further suppose that you want to make an appointment at Sports Medicine to address the issue. Is this selfish? There is a large difference between being selfish (absorbed with yourself at the expense of others) and engaging in self-care (attending to your needs without neglecting others’ needs). Forgiving is good self-care. Our research shows a cause-and-effect relationship between learning to forgive and improvement in heart health for cardiac patients:
Waltman, M.A., Russell, D.C., Coyle, C.T., Enright, R.D., Holter, A.C., & Swoboda, C. (2009). The effects of a forgiveness intervention on patients with coronary artery disease. Psychology and Health, 24, 11-27.
Our research shows a cause-and-effect relationship between learning to forgive and improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms:
Lee, Y-R & Enright, R.D. (2014) A forgiveness intervention for women with fibromyalgia who were abused in childhood: A pilot study. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 1, 203-217. doi: 10.1037/scp0000025.
A recent meta-analysis showed a statistically significant correlation between degree of forgiveness and a host of different physical issues:
Lee, Y.R. & Enright, R.D. (2019): A meta-analysis of the association between forgiveness of others and physical health. Psychology & Health, 34, 626-643.
So, yes, forgiving does seem advantageous for one’s physical health.
For additional information, see Forgiveness for Individuals.
A cutting-edge organization in California that sponsors groundbreaking scientific discoveries has launched a new service called Greater Good in Action and added forgiveness to its list of practices that can help you improve your social or emotional well-being or the well-being of others including your children.
The Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, Berkeley, not only studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being but also “teaches skills that foster a happier life and a more compassionate society–the science of a meaningful life.”
The Greater Good in Action initiative adds forgiveness to its list of established practices that include compassion, generosity, gratitude, honesty and others. It is a new addition to a service the organization began in July of 2017, called Raising Caring, Courageous Kids that is designed to help parents raise kids of high character who treat others with compassion and respect.
In its inaugural forgiveness practice called Introducing Kids to Forgiveness, Greater Good in Action cites the pioneering forgiveness work of psychologist Robert Enright, Ph.D., and psychiatrist Richard Fitzgibbons, M.D. (co-authors of Forgiveness Therapy, a manual providing instructions for clinicians who want to incorporate forgiveness interventions into their therapy with clients.
Referencing Dr. Enright’s years of hands-on experience teaching children about forgiveness (he has developed 17 Forgiveness Curriculum Guides for kids in pre-school through 12th grade that are being used in more than 30 countries around the world), Greater Good in Action links readers to a separate dissertation on Dr. Enright’s insights into how to help children and adolescents learn and practice forgiveness.
That work concludes that “a wide range of studies have found that forgiveness programs can help kids of different ages feel better, strengthen their relationships, and improve their academic performance.”
Because conflict is inevitable, teaching children about forgiveness early on
may indeed be a path toward building communities
of people who prize and cultivate peace.
Maryam Abdullah, Ph.D., Parenting Program Director at Greater Good
and a developmental psychologist with expertise in parent-child relationships.
The practices provided by Greater Good in Action are for anyone who wants to improve his or her social and emotional well-being, or the well-being of others, but doesn’t necessarily have the time or money to invest in a formal program. Through its free online magazine Greater Good, the GGSC provides articles, videos, exercises, quizzes, podcasts, workshops and more for parents and families to help them foster positive attributes like forgiveness in themselves and their children.
How Forgiving Are You?
When someone does you wrong, are you more likely to turn the other cheek or slash their tires? Take the Greater Good Forgiveness Quiz to find out.