Defined as a voluntary internal process where an individual lets go of negative thoughts like anger, resentment, bitterness, or seeking the act of revenge upon the person they’ve person, they’ve been wronged by.

According to Evolutionary science, both forgiveness and tendency for revenge are a part of natural selection, they are social instincts and forgiveness can be initiated by changes in cognition, behaviour, decision making and emotional expression and experience, and can be defined by personality traits of a person.

Decision Making and Forgiveness

It can be defined as the act of letting go of resentment and seeking vengeance, and of bitterness, it acts as a will, or choice or letting go, but doesn’t take in account personal feelings like that of hurt or sadness, which often persists in such individuals.

Cognitive Forgiveness

A cognitive approach to forgiveness employs interventions to change their attitudes, and cognitive therapy and psychodynamic theory, it is also a process of transgression from negative to neutrality to positive.
Emotional Forgiveness.

Replacing negative: Replacing of negative emotions like resentment, anger to positive emotions of empathy, sympathy and humanitarian love is known as complete emotional forgiveness, it also shows changes in behaviour, thoughts and motivations.

Process of Forgiving

It requires change in the following three aspects –
• Cognitive
• Affective
• Behavioural

The process requires a readiness to forgive, being accepting and showing empathy while trying to be understanding and taking their perspective into consideration, while also considering the benefits of forgiving
Forgiveness doesn’t entail condoning an offense or forgetting about it, it is also not the same as reconciliation, tolerating, suppression, denial, these are not forms of healthy forgiveness, they are not forms of good coping skills, hence increase the chances of shifting the blame and self-victimisation or deception.
Psychological Aspect

State and Trait Forgiveness
In the Big Five Personality traits, agreeableness and Neuroticism are related to forgiveness.

– Grudge Holding disposition
People wish to harm the offender, and are expressive in forms of aggression, passive resistance and bitterness, and don’t easily confront or actively retaliate to the offender
They experience a lot of negative emotions, which is associated with built up anger, which can lead to mental health issues like depression since they are unable to retaliate or escape from the overflowing emotions that come with it
– Vengeful Disposition
Too much hostility and anger lead to vengeful motives, this is an environmental based disposition leading to narcissistic behaviour
– Forgiving Disposition
Replacement of negative emotions with positive and other- oriented emotions
– Adult attachment model of Self
Depends on an individual’s attachment style

  • Intrapersonal process of letting go of resentment, recognizing that it can be conditional, and that is not real forgiveness
    • Approach forgiveness with benefit- finding, not empathy- finding, or relationship- commitment
    Three elements that were used in interventions-
    • Using multiple methods to reduce unforgiveness
    • Committing to forgiveness
    • Empathizing with positive others- oriented emotions
    Increased mindfulness can be considered as a coping mechanism

    Forgiveness and Positive Psychology

    Positive Psychology portrays strong character and shows a human’s desire for wellbeing, it helps explore the most satisfying and fulfilling way of living.
    Reasons why we can’t forgive easily –
    • Feels unjust
    • You show love to the offender but it doesn’t show any love to the victim
    • Revenge maybe a natural emotion to many, which gets blocked by forgiveness

    Forgiveness Therapy

    Can play a pivotal role in treating patients with Anxiety or Depression, helping in restoring their peace of mind, difference between therapy and interventions is that while practising this therapy, therapist needs to be ready to deal with moral issues, and have to help the client understand the wrong, unfair behaviour.

    Cognitive Interventions-

    Restructuring cognitive aspects, leading clients to change thoughts, further helping in changing of emotions and behaviours

    Worthington’s REACH Forgiveness Model

    R- Recalling the event
    E- Empathizing with the Offender
    A. Giving an Altruistic gift of Forgiveness
    C – Commit to Emotional Forgiveness
    H- Hold onto Forgiveness in case of Doubt

    Naikan Therapy-

    Focusses on the act of forgiveness, and acts a good way of self-reflection, this form of therapy is very individual oriented and works on one’s own perspective comparison, therefore giving new insight to the issue, it focusses on the reflection by asking the following questions, as to why the client is having problems forgiving –
    • What have I received?
    • What have I given?
    • What troubles have I caused
    Positive Emotion Refocusing Technique
    Helps you to restore a state of calm and helps in staying in control, follow the steps to practise PERT
    • Sit in a comfortable position and focus on your inhalation and exhalation
    • On every third breath, focus on a person you like
    • Gently breathe, focus and feel the emotions deeply, that you do after thinking of someone you like
    • Question yourself on how you can overcome this difficulty

    Benefits of Forgiving

    • Reduces symptoms of depression and negative thinking
    • Helps in increasing positive thinking
    • Helps in maintaining relationships
    • Reduction in symptoms of anxiety
    • Strengthens mental strength and spirituality especially when practising mindfulness
    • Raises the value of self, self-awareness and self esteem
    • Makes a person more empathetic and provides hope
    • Helps in conflict management
    • Gives greater strength (mentally) to deal and cope with stress and finding solutions for the same
    • Finally, we can say that benefit of practising forgiveness includes wellbeing in the domains of physical health, mental health and life satisfaction and a positive feeling towards events that might occur in one’s life

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