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The Psychology of Forgiveness

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-addiction-connection/201409/the-psychology-forgiveness

psychologytoday.com

The Psychology of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a loaded word. It's been tossed around self-help circles for years, but little has been made of what the science behind forgiveness can teach us about our own lives. Let's start with what forgiveness is not. Much of the self-help world has suggested that forgiveness does not mean you become best friends with the person who wronged you.

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Forgiveness

  • Forgiveness is choosing to accept what happened as it happened rather than what could or should have happened. 
  • Forgiveness can mean that you let go. 
  • Forgiveness can mean you step into your present rather than anchoring in the past.

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Forgiveness is a process

Forgiveness takes time for most. Shock and anger often come before forgiveness. Deal with the hurt feelings before moving into forgiveness.

The act of forgiving is one of realizing that holding onto the anger and resentment no longer carries the same weight on us.

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Forgiveness ≠ weakness

One roadblock people face with forgiveness is the idea of being seen as "weak" and saying that what the offender did is excusable.

It requires more strength to forgive. Staying angry, resentful, and vengeful can have a detrimental impact on your physical and emotional health as well as your relationships.

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Begin the process of forgiveness

Forgiveness can involve drawing boundaries for yourself.

The biggest aspect will involve going through the impact the betrayal had on your life. Understanding the factors that contributed to the betrayal can help to get to a place of acceptance. Letter writing is often a powerful tool in doing this work.

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What forgiveness is

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or minimising the pain we feel; nor is it about excusing others. 

Forgiveness means making a conscious and deliberate decision to let go of our fe...

A proper apology

One thing that often helps people to forgive is receiving an apology.

A good apology ideally has three parts: an admission of responsibility, a demonstration of sorrow, and doing something to remedy the offence, or prevent a repetition of it. 

Apologies and understanding

An apology is not telling others we feel sorry they are angry it is telling them we understand why they are angry with us, regret making them feel that way, and wanting to take their anger away. 

An effective apology is showing the person we understand why they are hurting.

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Social ambiguity

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The victimhood mindset

Researchers found the tendency for interpersonal victimhood consists of four main dimensions:

  • Always seeking recognition for one's victimhood: Those who score high on this dimension have a constant need to have their suffering acknowledged. It is also normal for victims to want the perpetrators to take responsibility for their wrongdoing.
  • Moral elitism: Those who score high on this dimension perceive themselves as having perfect morality while viewing everyone else as immoral. They view themselves as persecuted, vulnerable and morally superior.
  • Lack of empathy for the pain and suffering of others: People who score high on this dimension are so preoccupied with their own victimhood that they are unaware of the pain and suffering of others.
  • Frequently thinking of past victimization: Those scoring high on this dimension continuously think about their interpersonal offences and their causes and consequences rather than about possible solutions.

Mindset and self-image in interpersonal conflicts

In interpersonal conflict, all parties are motivated to maintain a positive moral self-image. However, different parties are likely to create very different subjective realities. Offenders tend to downplay the severity of the transgression, and victims tend to perceive the offenders' motivations as immoral.

The mindset one develops - as a victim or a perpetrator - affects the way the situation is perceived and remembered.

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever be able to forget a serious wrong committed against you. But it’s a mistake to assume that because your mind is drawn to a specific thought or memor...

Forgiveness and anger don’t mix

It’s normal to feel anger towards your offender. But unchecked anger often leads to unhelpful amounts of mental elaboration over the wrongs done to you.

When you notice yourself feeling angry, pause briefly and acknowledge the anger, then ask yourself if your anger will do you any good in the long-term. Just because your anger is justified doesn’t mean it’s helpful.

Forgiveness does not mean endorsement

Acceptance does not mean endorsement or justification.  Acceptance means acknowledging that you don’t have power or control over the past.

Accept the offense against you without excusing it. The key to taking control of your future is choosing to let go of the desire to control the past.