Archive for February, 2022
If a person denies the injustice that happened to him, is it possible for the trauma to continue to exist in his subconscious? Could this be what is the root of some people’s depression?
When a person is in denial from a serious injustice, then the effects of that injustice can still very much live within the person. As you say, there may be a subconscious acknowledgement of the trauma which can increase anger. The effects of the trauma also can include fatigue, feeling unsafe, and displacing anger onto other people. These effects of the trauma can work in the person’s favor in this way: The person likely will be able to see and acknowledge at least some of these effects such as fatigue and anxiety. These discomforts can open up discussion about the causes of them, which eventually can lead back to a conscious (rather than a subconscious) acknowledgement of the trauma. Once the person acknowledges the trauma, then a discussion of forgiving the other person for that trauma might commence.
How can I be assured that, if I forgive, I will no longer experience negative emotions such as anger?
Forgiving others who acted unjustly does not automatically end negative feelings. Our research shows that anger and other negative emotions can lessen, even in a strong way, but the negative emotions can resurface. For example, you might have a dream about the person and you awaken with anger. Yet, I have found that as people forgive, the anger reduces and becomes more manageable. So, you should expect some relief from intensive anger, but because we are all imperfect people, some residual negative emotions may be present, at least at times.
How can parents help children to forgive their divorce when the parents say different things about why they divorced?
I think the key is for the parents first to realize that the children are now vulnerable because of the divorce and because of what led to the divorce. With that in mind, the parents need to be careful in not letting their own anger at their former spouse lead to a competition for the children’s affection. In other words, each spouse needs to be careful not to paint a very negative picture of the other to the children. After all, both still are parents to the children and so the divorced adults need to preserve the personhood of the other spouse to the children. This is not easy especially when deep resentment is present. Therefore, it may be best if the spouses first forgive each other and then be aware that the children should not become victims of resentment by the parents disparaging the other spouse to the children. When ready, the custodial parent might consider helping the children to forgive by first apologizing to the children for this family challenge of divorce.
When I do the forgiveness work, I try to take what you call the personal perspective of the one who hurt me. Yet, how much of this work must be factual rather than speculative?
As you say, we ask people who forgive to take what I call the personal, global, and cosmic perspectives. The personal perspective deals with facts, to the best of your ability to gather those facts about how the other person was raised and the challenges faced in life. If you have no knowledge of the other person’s past, then I recommend that you move to the global perspective in which you begin to see the common humanity that both of you share. You do not need to know precise details of that person’s history to know that you both: 1) have unique DNA, making both of you special and unique; 2) must have adequate nutrition to be healthy; 3) will bleed if cut; and, as one more example, 4) will both die someday. Seeing your common humanity may aid you in softening your heart toward the person, not because of what happened, but in spite of this.
A research study published last month, utilizing Dr. Robert Enright’s forgiveness intervention model, showed that students in college nursing programs would benefit from a forgiveness intervention in the areas of self-care and forgiveness facilitation.
The nursing students, randomly assigned to either an experimental group or a no-contact control group, used Dr. Enright’s book 8 Keys to Forgiveness as the project’s treatment manual. After studying one chapter a week for 8 weeks, the students in the experimental group showed greater improvement in forgiveness compared to those in the control group from the pretest to the posttest which was maintained at the four-week follow-up. In addition, those in the experimental group showed statistically significant decreases in anxiety, depression, and fatigue from pre-testing to both post-testing and follow-up testing periods.
The study was conducted by a team of 8 researchers from the Liberty University School of Nursing (Lynchburg, VA) under the direction of Jichan J. Kim, Associate Professor of Psychology at Liberty. Dr. Kim has been the lead investigator on more than a dozen forgiveness-related studies over the past several years.
This latest study, The Efficacy of a Forgiveness Bibliotherapy: A Randomized Controlled Trial with Nursing Students, was published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing (JHN) on Jan. 10, 2022. JHN is a peer-reviewed quarterly journal with a focus on advancing the science and practice of holistic nursing and healthcare.
“The need for forgiveness education for nursing students has risen dramatically as responsibilities have broadened for nursing professionals,” according to Dr. Kim. “Our study positively demonstrated that the use of bibliotherapy can be a cost-effective way to promote the virtue of forgiveness for nursing students who are likely to be in need of exercising self-care and would have opportunities to facilitate forgiveness for their patients.”
Bibliotherapy, Dr. Kim explained, is a therapeutic approach that uses literature (in this case Dr. Enright’s 8 Keys to Forgiveness) to support good mental health. This study, he added, demonstrated not only the effects of forgiveness, as numerous studies have done in the past, but also the feasibility of using a forgiveness bibliotherapy that can be easily adopted into the existing nursing curriculum.
That same approach has been used by Dr. Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) and the man Time magazine calls “the forgiveness trailblazer,” in a slightly different format over the past two years. Dr. Enright has worked with Dr. Chontay Taylor Glenn, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC, to enroll a total of eight University of Michigan-Flint nursing students in the IFI’s Forgiveness Therapy training course.
Dr. Glenn is Assistant Professor & Project Director of the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Residency Program at UM-Flint. In addition to incorporating the IFI’s forgiveness training into the curricula for her nursing students, she also developed a program through which nine Flint-area community counselors completed the Forgiveness Therapy online continuing education course. Dr. Kim provided three hour-long training sessions by Zoom as part of that collaborative effort between Dr. Glenn, Dr. Enright, and himself.
The newly trained counselors in Flint are also undertaking an expanded role in their community, according to Dr. Glenn–providing forgiveness education classes and case coordination to Flint-area adolescents who have experienced adverse childhood experiences. The project is funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, MI.
About Dr. Kim
Jichan J. Kim is an Associate Professor of Psychology and the Director of the M.A. in Applied Psychology program at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA. His research interests include the effects of interpersonal and intrapersonal forgiveness as well as the integration of psychology and Christianity.
Dr. Kim has degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (M.S. & Ph.D.), Harvard University (Ed.M.), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div. & M.A.), and City College of New York (B.A.). He also has extensive ministry experience in New York City, Boston, and Madison (WI), serving various age groups in Korean immigrant congregations.
- Nursing Students Research Report Abstract
- Bibliotherapy Defined
- Overview of the IFI’s Forgiveness Therapy Course