Time magazine has called Dr. Robert Enright “the forgiveness trailblazer” because of his groundbreaking scientific discoveries related to how forgiveness favorably impacts both emotional and physical health. Now the doctor (a Ph.D., not a physcian) is working with medical specialists in Europe to discover if forgiveness can improve the health of patients with multiple myeloma–a cancer of cells in the immune system.
Dr. Enright will provide an update on his latest forgiveness challenge at the 17th Annual Fall Cancer Conference sponsored by the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, at the Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin.
Advances in Multidisciplinary Cancer Care 2018 is the title of the day-long conference that will focus on “Unique Challenges Faced by Young Adults With Cancer.” Dr. Enright’s presentation begins at 2:00 pm and is entitled “Forgiveness as a Strengthening of Emotional Health in Cancer Patients and Their Families.”
While the conference is designed primarily for individuals who are involved in cancer treatment and education of cancer patients and their families, conference organizers are also encouraging patients, caregivers and community members to attend. For registration information, visit the 17th Annual Fall Cancer Conference website.
Forgiveness therapy for cancer patients is not a new endeavor for Dr. Enright. He and his colleagues completed a clinical trial nearly 10 years ago with cancer patients who were receiving end-of-life hospice care. That study found that as the patients’ physical health decreased, measures of emotional health increased if they completed forgiveness therapy.
Next, they completed a clinical trial with patients in cardiac units, where they observed a physical benefit to forgiveness: cardiac health measures, such as blood flow to the heart, increased in the patients on the intervention. Forgiveness therapy, then, has shown both palliative and physical benefits in medical settings.
“So now we’re working with physicians in Europe in regards to multiple myeloma,” Enright says. He explained that multiple myeloma is a cancer of cells in the immune system, that stress is known to compromise the immune system, and that forgiveness therapy has been demonstrated to reduce stress.
Interestingly, case studies in patients with low-grade multiple myeloma have already found disease stabilization if patients complete forgiveness therapy. Could forgiveness – a relatively inexpensive, non-drug-based intervention – become a part of some patients’ treatment plans? Enright and medical colleagues think the answer may be yes, and they are currently developing a clinical trial to understand if forgiveness improves myeloma patient health through measurable biological markers.
“That’s why next we need to do a clinical trial, for cause and effect,” Enright says. “The physicians will measure markers of immune system strength, and then I would bring the hope and anxiety scales to measure the psychological markers.”
Moral love encompasses civility and respect in its response and so is the most complete. Civility is the least demanding and also the least complete. I can be civil and rather detached from a person who has hurt me. I can even be civil without respecting the person. Even respect does not go far enough. I can respect a person who has injured me and, of course, this is a major step in the right direction. Yet, respect can be given from a distance, from a position that does not ask for my sacrifice. When I extend moral love to another, I not only must be civil and respectful, I must be more than that. I must encounter the other with the intent of helping for his or her sake, not my own sake. To morally love another who has hurt me is to enter into that person’s world with an intent to serve, even to suffer to make him or her a better person to the extent that the person will allow that. Moral love asks the most of me in forgiveness.
I am an adult who has hurt my mother a number of times when I was a teenager. I now very much would like to have her forgive me, but I am not sure that she has thought much about forgiveness. She seems to have accepted who I was as a teen—a very immature young person. Yet, I would like to see her truly forgive me. How can I approach her with the idea of forgiveness?
One approach is to take one of the self-help books, such as my The Forgiving Life book published by the American Psychological Association. I recommend that you read it first. If you think it is appropriate for your mother, then share it with her and point out some of the sections in the book that proved helpful to you. Your mother might get interested and, if so, this would give her a chance to work through the forgiveness process.
If by addictive you mean the person falls into a pattern that is hard to break, then the answer is yes. People can fall into behaviors that involve temper, harsh language, and an adrenaline rush. People who have this pattern can be helped by seeing what in the past has led to an original anger. If it is an injustice, then forgiveness is appropriate. Next, the person needs to examine any sense of entitlement or even narcissism that fuels the anger and keeps it going. After that, the person needs to examine courageously who has been hurt by the anger-pattern and seek forgiveness from those who have been hurt by the pattern.
Learn more at Learning to Forgive Others.
My partner has hurt me very deeply. Now he refuses to get help for his drinking and basically is destroying himself. How do you forgive someone under these circumstances?
Actually, the forgiveness process will not differ to a great extent when the person is destroying the self. You might actually forgive for the original offense and then forgive for the situation in which the person now is not working with you to rise above the very challenging situation. In other words, you can forgive twice and the second one may be harder than the first because the person is not working as a team with you.
Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.