Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Forgiveness: A Key to Anger Management

Forgiving does not mean that you forget the offense
You may never forget (and probably shouldn't) what happened to you, but after forgiveness you can remember it without the emotional pain connected to it.

Forgiving does not mean that you are saying what they did was O.K.
Quite the opposite. We can forgive but still see what happened to you as horrific or unjust.

You don't need to even tell people that you forgive them.
The forgiveness occurs in your heart - not in conversation with them, although in some circumstances you may want to have a dialogue about it. It often backfires if you go up to someone (especially a relative) and say "I forgive you."

This occurs because the offending person often doesn't see himself or herself as the problem. Better to do the forgiveness in your own mind and heart. One exception to this is if you are the victim of a violent crime. Some studies show that it helps your healing if you forgive your assailant face to face.

Forgiving doesn't mean you will automatically trust them again. Forgiveness and trust are two separate issues. Even after forgiveness, it may take a long time to re-build trust, if ever. To instantly trust someone again after they have violated you in some way is not a sign of good mental health or strong self-esteem.

Forgiving doesn't necessary mean you like or love the offender, or even want to be in future relationship with them.
Absence of angry feelings doesn't necessarily create warm, positive, or loving feelings in you for the offender. At best, forgiving may bring you up to neutral in your feelings toward them. It I possible to say to yourself, for instance, "OK. I forgive her but I don' want to have anything further to do with her...ever."

You don't need to forgive all at once.
This is a concept that especially applies to forgiving an unfaithful partner. Dr. Abrams-Spring suggests, "To start, maybe you can only forgive 10%," just open the door and then see how your unfaithful partner behaves.

After a period of time, you might want to open the door a little wider and forgive maybe another 20%, and so on.

Ari Novick, Ph.D., LMFT
AJ Novick Group- Anger Management Classes and training
Anger Class Online- Online Anger Management Classes

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