Forgiveness and emotional processing


“He really got up my nose”

“That was way out of order”

“What they did was unforgivable”

“She did it on purpose”

“No-one does that to me and gets away with it”

Click below to link to:

bullet  Forgiveness as an emotion focused coping strategy; special review by Professor Everett Worthington
bullet  Rumination, emotion processing and holding a grudge
bullet  The life history of forgiving a wrong
bullet  Catharsis and forgiveness
bullet  Forgiveness and health
bullet  References

All these comments represent a class of input event or trigger (EP Model) in which the perpetrator (“them”) does something to offend or hurt the victim (“me”).  This may be real such as someone stealing your wallet or perceived – “why are they always so horrid to me?”.  It may be minor, such as someone swearing at you or major, such as a mugging or rape.

The anger, hurt or distress caused by the events needs to be processed or decay to the extent that the person can get on with their daily tasks without excessive intrusion of memories of the offence.  This is where forgiveness can be a significant mechanism for allowing emotional processing to proceed.

Professor Everett Worthington, in a special review article on this website, proposes that aggrievement can be viewed as a stressor and forgiveness as an emotion-focused coping response for reducing the stress.  He considers the psychological mechanisms by which forgiveness might reduce stress and how it might operate to improve health at the cellular, immunological and CNS level.

There has been much written on the positive benefits of forgiveness on health and on the question of whether holding grudges is a danger to health.  In emotional processing terms, there is an important dynamic between the need to experience and express aggrievement, the beneficial role of rumination (replaying the hurt in imagination) in processing the hurt, and the point at which over-rumination becomes problematic.  Does forgiveness assist the emotional processing of hurt?  Could premature forgiveness ever be a health hazard?

Handbook of forgiveness
‘Handbook of forgiveness’ by Everett L. Worthington Jr.
forgiveness book‘Forgiveness: Theory, Research & Practice’
by Michael E McCullough, Kenneth I Parqament & Karl E Thoresen