I have a question about what I am calling “angry crying,” or crying every time I am mad at someone. Is “angry crying” something good or to be avoided?
“Angry crying” can be a catharsis and this release of the negative feelings is good, at least to a point. A key issue to consider is the intensity, duration (at any given time), and how long over time you cry. In other words, when you look at your pattern, is it very intense and long lasting? If so, then the cathartic benefits are not necessarily leading to a cure of the anger. Forgiveness has as one of its goals the cure of deep resentment so that it goes away or is reduced to very manageable levels. So, “angry crying” is not necessarily good or bad in and of itself. If it is intense and the release is only temporary, then you need more, such as forgiving those who are making you cry.
I grew up in a household in which my parents got angry quickly and expressed their anger often. I am about to get married. What cautions do you see for me?
I would recommend that you have a discussion with your future marriage partner about the kinds of patterns that occurred in each of your families of origin. Try to see the woundedness that was expressed in each family. This is because both of you might reproduce those patterns of woundedness with each other in the years to come. Your being aware of the wounds in your parents (and siblings), as well as your own woundedness from these, may help both of you from inadvertently passing those wounds onto each other. Each of you forgiving family members for giving you wounds should help in this regard. I wish you the best in your upcoming marriage.
A key here is to first forgive from your heart so that you can approach the person without a lot of anger inside of you. Then try to have a civil conversation with the person so that there is opportunity for insight and change. A key here is for the other to change. Your forgiveness can play a part in that, but even if it does not, you will be free from the inner resentment that can compromise you if you forgive.
It is not possible to forgive someone who has died unless the forgiver believes in an afterlife, right?
One can forgive the deceased regardless of the belief system of the forgiver. For example, the forgiver can say something nice about the person to others, preserving a good name, not because of what happened, but in spite of this. The forgiver might donate some money to a charity in that person’s name, again as a generous act of forgiving. So, one can forgive someone who has died. Otherwise, the one who was treated unjustly could be trapped with an inner resentment that could last the rest of the person’s life.
Do you think people get less out of forgiving if the motive is self-preservation rather than a concern for the other as a person?
We have yet to do a research study in which we examine different outcomes for those who have different initial motives for forgiving. One problem in doing such a research study is this: Often people start Forgiveness Therapy because of their own emotional compromise caused by an injustice from others. Yet, as people go through the forgiveness process, their motive often changes from a focus on the self to a genuine concern for the other. Thus, this issue of motive is a moving target and so is difficult to study. Yet, it is worth more careful thought.