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Longevity through forgiveness

posted Mar 30, 2016, 6:53 PM by Ann Lee

From Quantum Health Newsletter:

In a study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, scientists compared participants who did not forgive a prior perceived wrong with those who did. The participants were then asked to walk to the foot of a hill. The forgivers perceived the hill to be considerably less steep than those who held a grudge, suggesting that forgiving can lead to optimism. 

Robert Enright, professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a leader in forgiveness research, and a founding member of the International Forgiveness Institute. In one of his books on the subject, Forgiveness is a Choice, Enright breaks forgiveness into five steps: 

  1. Admit you’ve been treated unfairly. 
  2. Express your anger. 
  3. Recognize the wrongdoer is a person who is more than the offense at hand. 
  4. Accept that your pain may never go away completely. 
  5. Find meaning in the experience and grow from it. 

When forgiving seems too generous but you recognize you must move on, psychologist Janis Abrahms Spring, author of How Can I Forgive You?, suggests taking these steps: 

  • Let go of your preoccupation with the slight. Move on. 
  • If you find yourself ruminating over the painful event, pause and say aloud: "Stop!" Redirect your thoughts to something pleasurable. 
  • Don't make it all about you. "When someone feels wronged, they often feel shame and shattered," Spring says. But sometimes insensitive behavior stems from the other person's own hurt, life challenges or a misunderstanding. 
  • Protect yourself from further hurt. "Decide what level of relationship makes sense with this other person so you are no longer in harm's way," Spring says. Cutting yourself off entirely is rarely the healthiest option. Instead, establish boundaries that will protect you from repeat offenses.