Tagged: “Anger”

The “F Word” for Sexual Abuse Survivors: Is Forgiveness Possible?

Dr. Suzanne Freedman

A Guest Blog by Dr. Suzanne Freedman

Editor’s Note: Forgiveness for sexual abuse survivors is a sensitive and controversial subject that is being addressed by Suzanne Freedman, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Dr. Freedman has studied and conducted forgiveness research with Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. Her dissertation was a landmark study that was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology on Forgiveness with Incest Survivors. This is a summary of a blog Dr. Freedman wrote that was posted earlier this month on the website “And He Restoreth My Soul.”
To view the complete blog,
click here.                                                      


The idea of forgiveness for sexual abuse survivors is often met with surprise, skepticism, and even horror. However, past research with forgiveness illustrates that forgiveness education and/or forgiveness counseling can be healing for those who have experienced past sexual abuse.

Freedman & Enright (1996) conducted an individual educational intervention using forgiveness as the goal with 12 incest survivors. Results illustrated that post intervention individuals were more forgiving toward their abusers, had decreased anxiety and depression and increased hope for the future as well as greater self-esteem compared to those who had not experienced the forgiveness education and themselves preintervention (see Freedman & Enright, 1996). Research with other populations who have experienced deep hurt also illustrates increased forgiveness as well as greater psychological well-being post intervention.

When discussing the topic of forgiveness for survivors of sexual abuse, it is important to be clear about what exactly is meant by forgiveness, specifically what forgiveness is and is not. . .  According to Enright (2001) and North (1987), forgiveness can be defined as “a willingness to abandon one’s right to resentment, negative judgment, and negative behavior toward one who unjustly injured us, while fostering the undeserved qualities of compassion, generosity and sometimes even love toward him or her”.

Notice in the definition that one has a “right” to feel resentment because of the way she or he was injured and that the offender does not “deserve” our compassion and generosity based on his or her actions. Forgiveness can also be more simply defined as a decrease in negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors toward an offender and perhaps, over time, a gradual increase in more positive thoughts, feelings and sometimes even behaviors toward an offender can occur.

Why Forgive? Many survivors of sexual abuse often ask, “Why do I need to forgive? Why do I need to do all the work? I didn’t do anything wrong.” Of course, this is true but when one forgives, they are personally benefiting by freeing themselves of anger, bitterness, and resentment. . . . Forgiveness allows one to free themselves of negative feelings as well as find meaning in the worst of life’s event. It is also a selfless and compassionate act as one who forgives is helping to stop the cycle of revenge and hatred. Using a compassionate and generous heart to meet deep pain and hurt is one of the most difficult things to do. However, by doing so you are freeing yourself from the prison of anger and power the abuser has over you.

The points below illustrate how forgiveness is not the same as accepting or pardoning the sexual abuse, reconciliation, being weak, denying one’s anger or giving up, nor does it mean that justice cannot occur:

  • Forgiveness does not mean that you deny or excuse the offender of the wrongdoing. . . .
  • Forgiveness takes time. . . .
  • Forgiveness is a choice one makes for her or himself. . . .
  • Forgiveness does not mean Reconciliation. . . .
  • Forgiveness can occur in the absence of an apology. . . .
  • Forgiveness and justice are not mutually exclusive. . . .
  • Forgiveness does not mean Forgetting. . . .

Research supports forgiveness education and therapy as an effective form of treatment for those who have endured deep hurts such as sexual abuse and incest. Forgiveness leads to decreases in stress, anger, anxiety and depression (Enright, 2001). People who are able to forgive also are more hopeful, optimistic, and compassionate towards others. Forgiveness has physical heath benefits as well. Research illustrates decreased blood pressure, muscle tension and headaches in those who have forgiven.

I wrote this blog to describe how forgiveness can be healing for individuals who have been deeply, personally and unfairly hurt by acts of sexual abuse and incest. Forgiveness is an individual choice, and as such, we need to offer that choice to survivors of sexual abuse by accurately informing them about what it means to forgive, including what forgiveness is and is not, as well as respecting and supporting them when they choose to forgive.

This is a summary of a blog by Dr. Suzanne Freedman that was posted earlier this month on the website “And He Restoreth My Soul.” To view the complete blog, click here.


For more information on how to go about forgiving and the benefits of forgiveness please check out the following resources:

Enright, R.D. (2001). Forgiveness Is a Choice. Washington, D.C. APA Life Tools.

Enright, R. D. & Fitzgibbons, R. (2000). Helping Clients Forgive: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope. Washington D.C., American Psychological Association.

Freedman, S. & Enright, R. D. (1996). Forgiveness as an Intervention Goal With Incest Survivors. Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology, 64, 983-992.

Smedes, L. B. (1996). The Art of Forgiving. Nashville, TN: Moorings.

Malcom, W., DeCourville, N., & Belicki, K. (2007). Women’s reflections on the complexities of forgiveness. New York, New York: Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group.


 

Please follow and like us:

A New Approach to Reducing Depression

“Forgiveness therapy targets and reduces unhealthy anger.”

Jose Antonio Sánchez Reyes | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Psychological depression occurs in at least 25% of all primary care patients in the United States and yet only about one-third of these are diagnosed as depressed.  Mental illness is not an isolated issue but is associated with such physical compromise as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer (American Psychological Association, 2017).  It is estimated that over 14 million people in the United States suffer from major depressive disorder (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, 2017).

The good news is that depression is a highly treatable disorder with medication and with such psychological approaches as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (recognizing and stopping maladaptive thinking and replacing this with more adaptive thoughts and behaviors),  Mindfulness Therapy (being present to the symptoms and not letting troublesome thoughts drift to the past or future), and Behavioral Therapy (engaging in rewarding behaviors).

A new approach, Forgiveness Therapy, focuses on a sequence that is not a common practice in contemporary psychotherapies:

  • Examine whether or not you have been treated unfairly, even cruelly, in the past.  Recognize this as unjust.
  • Realize that emotional pain is a natural next step when reacting to such unfair treatment by others.  After all, you have a right to be treated with respect, even if this does not occur.
  • If you do not find a solution to this emotional pain, eventually you may become angry at the situation and at the persisting pain.
  • If you do not find a solution to the growing anger or the emotional pain, then you might develop what we call unhealthy anger, the kind that is so deep that it starts to affect sleep, energy levels, thoughts, and behaviors (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015).
  • If the unhealthy anger persists, this can develop more deeply into symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The takeaway message from the above sequence is this: For some people, depression is not the only issue to be treated. Instead there are three other, central issues too often missed with traditional therapies: injustice(s) that happen but are not confronted; the emotional pain that ensues; and most importantly for Forgiveness Therapy, the unhealthy anger that fuels the depression in some people.

If you only focus on current medication or current thoughts or current symptoms, you may miss the actual cause of the depression, which could be a build-up of the unhealthy anger caused by emotional pain caused by injustice.

Forgiveness Therapy starts by examining the injustices in your life that may be compromising that life now.  Some people are surprised to learn that they still carry the emotional wounds, for example, from being bullied on the school playground, or being belittled by a parent years ago, or not being given a chance in the workplace when just starting out.  It is this kind of injustice that has to be uncovered and identified as hurtful in the present.

Next comes the challenge of admitting the depth of one’s anger. The norms of contemporary society, that good people do not get deeply angry, can get in the way of this identification, but it is vital to go more deeply than these norms to see if, in fact, the anger is deep, lingering, and harmful.  When unresolved anger from the past mixes with contemporary challenges, then the anger can intensify, compromising one’s well-being and thus leading to depressive symptoms.

Forgiveness Therapy is not a substitute for medication or for the implementation of other psychotherapies such as CBT.  Forgiveness Therapy can come alongside these well-tested approaches and give you added strength to deal with the depression and to reduce it to manageable levels.  Forgiveness Therapy is not for everyone.  Some just do not want to consider the paradox of offering kindness toward the unkind.  This form of therapy needs to be willingly chosen by the client.  It is new but tested both scientifically and clinically, and it works.

Do you have injustices, even from your distant past, that are getting in the way of your happiness?  If you start the process of forgiving those who have been cruel to you, perhaps the depression not only will be managed but reduced to a degree that may surprise you.

Posted in Psychology Today April 6, 2017


References:

Please follow and like us:

Forgiveness: 3 Misconceptions

When I began 30 years ago to apply social scientific methods to the ancient moral virtue of forgiveness, my students and I ran into a rather large problem.  People were afraid to forgive.  When we probed this fear, we began to realize a common theme across the fearful.  They equated forgiving with automatically and dutifully going back into abusive situations.  “My spouse denigrates me.  If I forgive, then I go back for more……but I do not want to go back for more.  Thus, I will not forgive.”

It took us a while, but eventually we saw that to forgive is not the same as to reconcile.  Forgiveness, as with justice and patience and kindness, is a virtue, originating inside people as an insight (I can be good to those who are not good to me) and as a feeling of  empathy and compassion for the offending other, not because of the offense but in spite of it.  Forgiving behaviors flow from the insight and compassion.

Reconciliation, on the other hand, is a behavioral negotiation strategy in which two or more people come together again in mutual trust.  You can forgive and not trust a person in their weak areas (you do not lend money to the compulsive gambler even though you can try to be good to the person in other ways as a sign of forgiving).  You can forgive and not reconcile at all if the other remains abusive.

Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation.  This insight opened the door for social scientific work on forgiveness for us because to forgive is not to create unsafe situations for the forgiver.

We now turn to two, what I call, Modern Misconceptions, the latest critiques of forgiveness, particularly Forgiveness Therapy, a new form of psychotherapy which emerged from the research journey begun three decades ago (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015).  These Modern Misconceptions are quite different from the early misconception because they target forgiveness itself—not fear—and are highly critical of this potentially life-changing virtue, even if practiced well and with patience.

Modern Misconception 1 goes something like this:  You who advocate for Forgiveness Therapy or Forgiveness Education with students (Enright, Rhody, Litts, & Klatt, 2014) ask way too much of forgivers.  You ask them to bear the burden of their own healing and that is not fair.  They already have been hurt so why ask them now to struggle after forgiveness?

Two burdens are theirs: the original offense and now Forgiveness Therapy.  Yet, as with the equating of forgiveness with reconciliation, this Modern Misconception has an error embedded within it.  It is not at all an added and unnecessary burden to help a person, whose heart is broken, to forgive.

Take a physical analogy to make the point clear.  Suppose James pushes Jeremy to the ground, dislocating his shoulder.  Is it unwise now to ask Jeremy to enter into a rehabilitation process to repair the shoulder?  Is it an added burden we should never ask because he is hurting?  It would seem that the unfairness lies, not in the encouraging of medical treatment, but the reverse—discouraging it because it will be rigorous and painful.

Is it not the same with Forgiveness Therapy for those who choose it?  The heart is broken, yes, because of the original unfairness.  If the person chooses rehab of the heart—Forgiveness Therapy—isn’t this repair good even though rigorous and painful?  The Modern Misconception might keep people from rehab of the heart and so it needs to be challenged.

 Worldwide Land Disputesfrom" from Enterprise Land Surveying website

Modern Misconception 2 has emerged from my giving 13 invited forgiveness talks in an area of the world plagued by a land dispute that is disrupting individual, family, community, and political peace.  The misconception unfolds this way:  You say that forgiveness is good, but how will it get my land back?  It will not get my land back.  Therefore, forgiveness is weak and ineffective.  I will have nothing to do with it.

My response is to give a multiple choice question to the skeptic.  Which of these two would you rather have:

  1. You live for the rest of your life without getting your land back and you also live with a deep anger that disrupts your inner life and the life of those around you; or,
  2. You live for the rest of your life without getting your land back and you are free of the deep anger that disrupts you, your loved ones, and your community?

Which do you choose?  In every case across the 13 lectures, the skeptic ends up choosing answer (B), living without the debilitating  resentment.  It is at that point that the person is willing to explore the subtleties of forgiveness without dismissing it.  Such exploration could, in the long run, save lives from psychological devastation.  The error in Modern Misconception 2 occurs when the person focuses exclusively on the original problem (land dispute) without even realizing that a second, just as serious, problem has emerged because of the land dispute—resentment entrenched in the heart.  Forgiveness can cure this second problem while not being able to solve the original problem.  Without seeing this, the person rejects forgiveness as weak.

Misconceptions…..they can drive a person away from forgiveness or become a stimulus for more thoroughly exploring what forgiveness has to offer.  Left unexplored, the Modern Misconceptions could leave some people without a path of healing that could have been theirs……if only they had explored more deeply.

Posted in Psychology Today February 18, 2017


References:

  • Enright, R.D. & Fitzgibbons, R. (2015).  Forgiveness therapy.  Washington, DC: APA Books.
  • Enright, R.D. , Rhody, M., Litts, B., & Klatt. J.S. (2014). Piloting forgiveness education in a divided community: Comparing electronic pen-pal and journaling activities across two groups of youth. Journal of Moral Education, 43, 1-17.

Please follow and like us:

Self-Care for Your Mental Health

Editor’s Note: The significant benefits of forgiveness are of little use to you if you aren’t around to embrace them. That’s where self-care comes in. Here are some basic tips from Brad Krause–self-care guru, writer and life coach–on taking better care of yourself. 

Self-care encompasses all the actions you do every day to keep yourself in good health, such as exercise, eating well, and brushing your teeth. However, it also includes the smaller, overlooked things you can do to help with your mental health. These are not always obvious to us, so it is useful to reevaluate our habits and routines to gear them toward a happier, less stressful life.

Take Time to Relax
This is perhaps the most important act of self-care you can do for your mental well-being. Set some time aside every day for unwinding but be mindful of what you choose to do. For many people, relaxing means binging a TV show, playing a video game, or browsing the web, which does not allow us to truly unwind.

This is why taking just 15-20 minutes to sit in absolute silence and focus on your breathing can be extremely beneficial for your well-being. If you can, create a dedicated space in your home for this, away from distractions and other people. Make it as comfortable and soothing as possible and make sure no one can interrupt you during your mindfulness practice. More information at: How to Design the Perfect Meditation Room.

Get Enough Sleep
For years, doctors have seen insomnia as a symptom of many mental health disorders, but according to Harvard Health, it could be the other way around. A lack of sleep can lead to mental health issues, and yet many of us continue to neglect our sleep habits.

Take the time you need to wake up and subtract eight hours. That is the time you should be getting into bed. From that point, all electronics should be banned because they can make sleeping difficult. For an extra touch, use a relaxing pillow mist or aromatherapy oil to lull you to sleep.

Learn to Say “No”
If you are a classic people-pleaser, consider whether your eagerness to help others is affecting your mental health. Being generous, helpful, and unselfish is a wonderful thing, but not to the detriment of your well-being.

Before saying “yes” to any request, consider the following:

  • Do I want to do this?
  • Do I have the time and energy to do this?
  • Is this person taking advantage of me by asking this?
  • Could this person easily solve the problem themselves?
  • Is this a one-off favor?

Depending on your answers, you may have to say “no.” Be firm but polite and do not let other people guilt you into changing your mind. A friend who tries to do this is not a good friend.

Let Go of Emotional Baggage
If you are holding onto past grudges, let them go. Leading thinkers throughout history have espoused the value of forgiveness in their lives, and for good reason, as Dr. Peter Breggin outlines in “How Forgiveness Can Change Your Life.” Studies have shown that forgiveness can have a positive impact on our physical and emotional health (see “Why Forgive?”), as well as helping us get into a more positive mind space.

Get Offline
According to Time Health, negativity bias is a phenomenon in which we tend to be drawn to news that will upset us. When you combine it with the decline of print media, it’s no wonder our Twitter and Facebook feeds seem overrun with terrible, anxiety-inducing news. At the same time, we tend to compare ourselves to the highly curated lives we see on sites like Instagram, which leaves us feeling terrible.

In this day and age, it can seem impossible to fully get offline, so just aim to consciously reduce your consumption of news and social media. When you catch yourself scrolling mindlessly through a feed, force yourself to stop and go do anything else.

Many of these bad habits have become ingrained in our daily lives and in the way we interact with the world. It takes some introspection to identify these negative patterns, and a lot of hard work to change them. However, the effort is well worth it.

Commit to taking better care of your mental and emotional well-being, work on forgiving anyone who has ever harmed you, and you will find yourself happier and more open to exciting new opportunities. 


More self-care articles from Brad Krause:


About Brad Krause:
After four years in the corporate world working 15-hour days, 6 days a week, Brad Krause demonstrated the ultimate act of self-care by leaving his draining, unfulfilling job behind. He now spends full-time helping others as a self-care guru, writer and life coach (SelfCare.info). He sums up his vision by saying, “We all have the potential to be the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be, but it comes down to prioritizing our own wellness through self-care. And that’s what I’m here to help people discover!”

You can contact Brad at Brad@selfcaring.info.


 

Please follow and like us:

Admired by Millions of People Around the World, Billy Graham was Ardent Forgiveness Advocate

The Washington Post, Montreat, NC – Just months away from his 100th birthday, William Franklin Graham Jr. (Billy Graham) died on Feb. 21 at his home in Montreat, NC.  An American evangelist known to millions around the world, Graham was buried beside his wife Ruth who died in 2007. His casket was made by inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary where Graham often ministered to death-row inmates.

As a preacher, Graham consistently espoused a message of patience, love, respect, and forgiveness of others. He hosted large indoor and outdoor rallies for more than 60 years that he called “crusades.”  Because of those crusades, Graham preached his message to more people in person than anyone in the history of Christianity.   According to his website, Graham preached to live audiences of 210 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. 


“In these days of guilt complexes, perhaps the most glorious word in the English language is FORGIVENESS.”   

 


Including radio and television broadcasts, Graham’s estimated lifetime audience tops 2.2 billion people world-wide. Graham was on Gallup’s list of most admired men 61 times, more than any man or woman in history. According to the book Billy Graham: American Pilgrim, “Billy Graham stands among the most influential Christian leaders of the twentieth century. He belongs on the Mount Rushmore of greatness in American religion.”

For Graham, an important and often repeated part of his message was that “we need to have patience with others and their shortcomings.  Don’t hold on to your bitterness and anger any longer — for they’ll become a poison to your soul.”

Here are some other forgiveness quotes made famous by Graham:

  • “Forgiveness does not come easily to us, especially when someone we have trusted betrays our trust. And yet if we do not learn to forgive, we will discover that we can never really rebuild trust.”
  • “Hot heads and cold hearts never solved anything.”
  • “Every human being is under construction from conception to death.”
  • “Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.”

Read more:

The New York Times – Billy Graham, 99, Dies; Pastor Filled Stadiums and Counseled Presidents; Feb. 21, 2018

The Washington Post – How an aging Billy Graham approached his own death; Feb. 21, 2018

The Washington PostHere are details for Billy Graham’s funeral: A viewing at the U.S. Capitol and a private service in N.C.; Feb. 22, 2018

NBC News – Billy Graham, evangelist pastor and counselor to presidents, dead at age 99; Feb. 21, 2018

Wikipedia – Billy Graham 

Please follow and like us:

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR RESEARCH PROJECT

x