Are You Stuck and Can’t Get Unstuck? Try Practicing Courage!

“These five approaches to courage may help you to move forward.”

It is so easy to get stuck and so hard to get unstuck when life is a burden. When this happens, anxiety can rise along with discouragement and even anger with the self.  Some try relaxation or behavior modification. Others try the less productive route of diversion: games, entertainment, anything to distract and avoid the goal…and even distraction from thinking about the goal. Still others try the self-destructive route of self-medication or dropping out of life in the hope that the challenge ends. Yet, as life moves forward, so do new challenges. We need an effective response so that we can meet the next challenge, and the next, and the next.

To meet those challenges in a positive way, you might want to begin adding the practice of courage to the way you live. Courage is the thought that you will go ahead despite discomfort, the feeling that you can and will overcome, and the behavior that you are willing to fight for what is good. 

Here are five suggestions on using courage to get unstuck, not only in the current challenge, but in the rest of the challenges you will face in life.

First, stand up. Sitting, staying, satisfying, and safety are not your answer right now. Stand. Stand up to the pain of inactivity. Stand up to the anxiety. Stand up to the fear that you may not succeed. As you stand, feel the strength that you have as you bear the pain of the challenge. You are stronger than you realize.
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Second, stay standing. Don’t give in.  Persevere in the thought that you will go ahead despite the discomfort. Persevere in the feeling that you can and will overcome. Persevere in the behavior to fight for what you know is good for you.

Third, move forward. In the standing, you have shown yourself that you can take pain. Now show yourself that you can move forward with the pain and not give up. Be forward-looking. Be ready to act even in the pain. Make a small move today toward your overall goal. Do not necessarily expect to achieve everything related to the goal. The point today is to take a small step, to show yourself that you are forward-looking. Now. And tomorrow.

Fourth, do not accept unjust treatment against you. You sometimes have to clear a path when others are treating you unfairly if you are to achieve your goals. In your pain, as you stand, as you remain standing, please consider moving forward to undo others’ unjust treatment against you, but please do so with justice, with fairness. Courage and justice need to grow up together.

Fifth, do all of this with a forgiving heart. Forgiveness is being good, as best you can today, to those who are not good to you. Forgiveness reduces your anger, loosens those tight muscles, refreshes you, and gives you more energy and enthusiasm to stand, remain standing, move forward, and to right injustices with gentleness, respect, and even love.

Courage, justice, and forgiveness are three of the most important virtues that you can begin deliberately incorporating into your life now. They are a team to get you unstuck and to realize your important goals, and perhaps even to find joy. The alternative, being stuck, is not who you really are.  Move forward with courage and see what happens.

Posted in Psychology Today June 07, 2017


 

When we confront our anger, does this imply that we go ahead and confront the wrongdoers regarding their injustices?

Actually, no, this is not implied.  It is best to work on your anger before approaching people who offend so that your communication is as reasonable, fair, and civil as possible.  You can work on your anger and not interact with those who offend if their actions could be harmful to you.  If you seek reconciliation, then, yes, you can first work on your anger and then approach the person.

The “F Word” for Sexual Abuse Survivors: Is Forgiveness Possible?

Dr. Suzanne Freedman

A Guest Blog by Dr. Suzanne Freedman

Editor’s Note: Forgiveness for sexual abuse survivors is a sensitive and controversial subject that is being addressed by Suzanne Freedman, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Dr. Freedman has studied and conducted forgiveness research with Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. Her dissertation was a landmark study that was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology on Forgiveness with Incest Survivors. This is a summary of a blog Dr. Freedman wrote that was posted earlier this month on the website “And He Restoreth My Soul.”
To view the complete blog,
click here.                                                      


The idea of forgiveness for sexual abuse survivors is often met with surprise, skepticism, and even horror. However, past research with forgiveness illustrates that forgiveness education and/or forgiveness counseling can be healing for those who have experienced past sexual abuse.

Freedman & Enright (1996) conducted an individual educational intervention using forgiveness as the goal with 12 incest survivors. Results illustrated that post intervention individuals were more forgiving toward their abusers, had decreased anxiety and depression and increased hope for the future as well as greater self-esteem compared to those who had not experienced the forgiveness education and themselves preintervention (see Freedman & Enright, 1996). Research with other populations who have experienced deep hurt also illustrates increased forgiveness as well as greater psychological well-being post intervention.

When discussing the topic of forgiveness for survivors of sexual abuse, it is important to be clear about what exactly is meant by forgiveness, specifically what forgiveness is and is not. . .  According to Enright (2001) and North (1987), forgiveness can be defined as “a willingness to abandon one’s right to resentment, negative judgment, and negative behavior toward one who unjustly injured us, while fostering the undeserved qualities of compassion, generosity and sometimes even love toward him or her”.

Notice in the definition that one has a “right” to feel resentment because of the way she or he was injured and that the offender does not “deserve” our compassion and generosity based on his or her actions. Forgiveness can also be more simply defined as a decrease in negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors toward an offender and perhaps, over time, a gradual increase in more positive thoughts, feelings and sometimes even behaviors toward an offender can occur.

Why Forgive? Many survivors of sexual abuse often ask, “Why do I need to forgive? Why do I need to do all the work? I didn’t do anything wrong.” Of course, this is true but when one forgives, they are personally benefiting by freeing themselves of anger, bitterness, and resentment. . . . Forgiveness allows one to free themselves of negative feelings as well as find meaning in the worst of life’s event. It is also a selfless and compassionate act as one who forgives is helping to stop the cycle of revenge and hatred. Using a compassionate and generous heart to meet deep pain and hurt is one of the most difficult things to do. However, by doing so you are freeing yourself from the prison of anger and power the abuser has over you.

The points below illustrate how forgiveness is not the same as accepting or pardoning the sexual abuse, reconciliation, being weak, denying one’s anger or giving up, nor does it mean that justice cannot occur:

  • Forgiveness does not mean that you deny or excuse the offender of the wrongdoing. . . .
  • Forgiveness takes time. . . .
  • Forgiveness is a choice one makes for her or himself. . . .
  • Forgiveness does not mean Reconciliation. . . .
  • Forgiveness can occur in the absence of an apology. . . .
  • Forgiveness and justice are not mutually exclusive. . . .
  • Forgiveness does not mean Forgetting. . . .

Research supports forgiveness education and therapy as an effective form of treatment for those who have endured deep hurts such as sexual abuse and incest. Forgiveness leads to decreases in stress, anger, anxiety and depression (Enright, 2001). People who are able to forgive also are more hopeful, optimistic, and compassionate towards others. Forgiveness has physical heath benefits as well. Research illustrates decreased blood pressure, muscle tension and headaches in those who have forgiven.

I wrote this blog to describe how forgiveness can be healing for individuals who have been deeply, personally and unfairly hurt by acts of sexual abuse and incest. Forgiveness is an individual choice, and as such, we need to offer that choice to survivors of sexual abuse by accurately informing them about what it means to forgive, including what forgiveness is and is not, as well as respecting and supporting them when they choose to forgive.

This is a summary of a blog by Dr. Suzanne Freedman that was posted earlier this month on the website “And He Restoreth My Soul.” To view the complete blog, click here.


For more information on how to go about forgiving and the benefits of forgiveness please check out the following resources:

Enright, R.D. (2001). Forgiveness Is a Choice. Washington, D.C. APA Life Tools.

Enright, R. D. & Fitzgibbons, R. (2000). Helping Clients Forgive: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope. Washington D.C., American Psychological Association.

Freedman, S. & Enright, R. D. (1996). Forgiveness as an Intervention Goal With Incest Survivors. Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology, 64, 983-992.

Smedes, L. B. (1996). The Art of Forgiving. Nashville, TN: Moorings.

Malcom, W., DeCourville, N., & Belicki, K. (2007). Women’s reflections on the complexities of forgiveness. New York, New York: Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group.


 

There is a psychological defense called “identification with the aggressor.”  If Person A swears and demeans, then Person B who is the object of these, begins to swear and to demean others.  If Person B begins to forgive, do you think that would break the pattern of “identification with the aggressor”?

Yes, I do think that forgiving can break the pattern of identifying with the aggressor.  Why?  It is because as people forgive, then they see more clearly that what the other did was unfair, is unfair, and always will be unfair. Seeing this, those who forgive will not want to imitate those behaviors that now clearly are seen as unjust.

I recently have decided to forgive someone.  What do I do first?

A first key is knowing what forgiveness is and what it is not.  You can find information about this on our website or in one of my books such as Forgiveness Is a Choice or The Forgiving Life.  Another early key is to commit to doing no harm to the one who harmed you.  This, as you might see, does not ask you to offer kindness or love toward the other. Instead, it asks you to refrain from the negative, from harming the person.

“Become My Son”: A South African Mother’s Response to the Man Who Murdered Both Her Son and Her Husband

What we can still learn from the South African experience

A guest blog by R. H. (Rusty) Foerger
Originally posted on his website
 More Enigma Than Dogma on June 20, 2018

Truth and Reconciliation is a profound process that takes longer, costs more, and is messier than one can imagine.  Here is one story from the South African experience:

After Apartheid ended in South Africa, a white police officer named Mr. Van der Boek was put on trial. The court found that he had come to a woman’s home, shot her son at point-blank range, and then burned the young man’s body on a fire while he and his officers partied nearby. The woman’s husband was killed by the same men, and his body also was burned.

Unfathomable Cruelty and Indignity

I can’t fathom the source or the energy needed to fuel such cruelty. But more unfathomable is the surviving woman’s response (the mother of the son and wife to the husband murdered and burned). What must she have thought and felt as she sat in the court room being burdened and re-traumatized by evidence?

A member of the South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission turned to her and asked, “So, what do you want? How should justice be done for this man?”

How is Justice to be done?

That’s the right question, isn’t it? What is justice; how can it be achieved; how does it look different from mere retribution and punishment? But the judge asked “how should justice be done for this man?” – not – “for this surviving woman.”

What would this wife & mother say in the face of such murderous cruelty that further caused indignity to her husband’s and son’s remains?

“I want three things,” the woman said confidently:

“I want first to be taken to the place where my husband’s body was burned so that I can gather up the dust and give his remains a decent burial. My husband and son were my only family.”

Become My Son!?

 “I want, secondly, for Mr. Van der Boek to become my son. I would like for him to come twice a month to the ghetto and spend a day with me so that I can pour out on him whatever love I still have.”

This is truly a breathtaking request. We can finish her sentence starting with “I would like for him to come twice a month to the ghetto and spend a day with me so that I . . .” – fill in the blank!

  • So I can get him to feel the crushing poverty I live with.
  • So I can have him feel the full void of my loss with no husband or son.
  • So I can have him feel every distrusting eye scrutinize him as the minority in our community.

But no; she finishes her request with “so that I can pour out on him whatever love I still have.” How much love does she still have?

And I could not find if Mr. Van der Boek could possibly receive such love. Did he come out, as she asked, twice a month to spend the day with her for the sole purpose of receiving what ever love she may still possess?

Finally, Forgiveness

“And finally, I would like Mr. Van der Boek to know that I offer him my forgiveness because Jesus Christ died to forgive. This was also the wish of my husband. And so, I would kindly ask someone to come to my side and lead me across the courtroom so that I can take Mr. Van der Boek in my arms, embrace him, and let him know that he is truly forgiven.”

From Michael Wakely, Can It Be True? A Personal Pilgrimage through Faith and Doubt.

Forgiveness cannot be demanded

I am not naive enough to think that it’s all good in South Africa, or that forgiveness should be given because it is expected, or that forgiveness should be given because it does as much to release the forgiver as it does the forgiven (for a contrasting view, readYou may free apartheid killers but you can’t force victims to forgive). But as the woman in the above noted story alluded, forgiveness is possible when we recognize our own status as forgiven people.


This blog is reposted with permission from R.H. (Rusty) Foerger.
Visit his website: More Enigma Than Dogma

Related blogs by Rusty Foerger:


 

I am in a community group that encourages forgiveness.  I wonder: Does such a norm encouraging forgiveness help or hurt the individual who might consider forgiving?  Does such a norm encouraging forgiveness help or hurt the community?

I think it depends heavily on how this norm of forgiveness is concretely expressed within the community.  For example, if people feel pressured to forgive, then forgiveness could become a grim obligation that is rejected.  If forgiveness is held up as a choice—a true choice that is up to the wronged person—-then this issue of pressure is lessened or even eliminated.  If people truly understand what forgiveness is, then they may be drawn to forgiving.  All may benefit when people truly understand what forgiveness is and is not, are drawn to forgiveness rather than forced into it, and then practice it for the good of others.

Five Reasons Why Your Romantic Relationships Do Not Last

“Past hurts can lead to a lack of trust which can block intimacy.”

Sometimes there is a pattern that one begins to see in oneself: A relationship starts and is filled with hope, only to end all too soon. If this happens to you, may I suggest 5 reasons why this might be the case and make some suggestions for breaking the pattern?

The first reason why relationships may fail is that we all bring in what we might call “excess baggage” from our family of origin.  This includes both your partner and you. It may be a good idea, when the time is right, to gain insight into any hurtful patterns that either your partner or you have brought into the current relationship. For example, was it a norm to show a hot temper in the family? If so, this could be spilling over into your current relationship in that your partner (or you) never had such a norm which is offensive to the other. Solution: Try to see the norms that have formed early in your life, discuss those that are stressful to your partner or you, and make the necessary adjustments. Second, try practicing forgiveness toward family-of-origin members who have created some less-than-healthy norms for you (see Enright, 2012 for an approach to forgiving).

A second reason is that we can bring in this “excess baggage” from past relationships that have failed. The particularly hazardous issue is damaged trust. If you have had a harsh breakup, or even a divorce, there is a tendency not to trust a new partner even if this person is good to you. On a 1-to-10 scale, what is your trust level in general toward any potential partner? If the scores are below 5, you may need to work on trust. Here is what you can do:

  • First, try to forgive the past partner(s) for damaging your trust. 
  • Second, let trust now build up inch-by-inch in you as you forgive others from your past. Try to see the goodness in the new partner.
  • Third, bring out into the open your challenge with trust so that the new person can help you work this through. You may have to do all of this for your partner if there is a trust issue from the past.

A third aspect of “excess baggage” is low self-esteem or believing the lie that you are not worthy of a lasting relationship. This kind of low self-esteem can creep up on you until you are not even aware that your self-worth is low. On the 1-to-10 scale, how worthy do you think you are to have a happy, lasting relationship? Solution: Cognitively resist the big lie that you are not worthy. Second, forgive yourself if you have played a part in hurting past relationships because of either a lack of trust or low self-esteem.

A fourth point is this: Do not let yourself fall into the trap of defining yourself exclusively by the past. Solution: Be aware of who you really are as a person.  As you bear the pains of the past through forgiving, then ask yourself: Who am I as I forgive? Am I stronger than I thought I was prior to forgiving? Am I more compassionate than I had realized? As you do these kinds of reflections, it is my hope that you realize this: I have a lot to offer a good partner who can benefit from my presence and support.

A fifth and final point is this: Try not to let your new partner fall into the trap of defining the self exclusively by the past. This person, too, may need the strength of forgiveness with the renewed view that “I, too, am a person of worth who has good things to offer you.”

Perhaps it is time for a new start in relationships. Some of the 5 points above may help move you in the right direction.

Posted in Psychology Today January 17, 2018


References:

Enright, R.D. (2012). The Forgiving Life. Washington, DC: APA Books.


 

A friend has been diagnosed with bi-polar personality disorder.  I now am wondering if it will be more difficult for her to forgive.

The bi-polar diagnosis occurs when the person presents with some symptoms of psychosis (or a break with rationality).  Of course, there are other symptoms, but we will not discuss them here.  When the person is in a psychotic episode, it would be best not to discuss forgiveness.  When the person is showing more rationality, when the person can think concretely in terms of causes and consequences, then it may be appropriate to explore forgiving those at whom your friend is very angry.  The diminishing of the anger may reduce some of the symptoms of the diagnosed condition.