My partner has a temper.  It is easier for me to just give in and pretend that everything is ok.  Is this ultimately not healthy for me?

Going along with injustices that you clearly see as disruptive to your relationship and to you personally is not healthy. The resentment can lead to anxiety, psychological depression, and low self-esteem.  I suggest that you forgive first and then from that position, ask something of your partner.  If you point out your inner pain, then the partner may see the necessity for change.  Of course, not everyone takes this cue that they have to change, but it is a good starting point to see if it works in your case.

How can I stay motivated to forgive someone who continually keeps doing the same annoying thing?  I forgive and then here it comes again!

The key motivation may be this: Do you want to live with the annoyance inside of you and possibly growing inside of you for a long time? Forgiveness under this circumstance certainly is challenging, but all the more necessary to get rid of the annoyance.

It has come into my mind lately that I have anger issues with a person from my childhood who treated me badly.  I also notice that I have been pushing away the memories and when I do that, I am fine, at least for a while.  Do you think I need to forgive or is it ok to just push the memories away and not think about the person?

It seems to me that you may need, at some point, to do the important work of forgiving. I say that because you say you can push the memories away only “for a while.” In other words, they keep coming back. If you forgive, you likely will remember what happened to you, but you will remember in new ways, without so much anger.

I have been forgiving my ex and all of a sudden I am finding that I have bigger problems with my father.  What do I do now?  Do I continue with my ex or turn to forgiving my father?

Who has caused you more hurt, your ex or your father? I would recommend dealing with the one who is causing you less pain because it is easier to forgive those with whom you are less angry. This will give you a chance to learn the forgiveness process well. You then can turn to the more challenging situation.

Is temporary denial healthy?

Humans characteristically use psychological defenses to keep them from pain for which they are not ready. Thus, temporary denial can be a protection for people before they are ready to confront an unpleasant or threatening situation. If the denial goes on too long, say, for years, then this may prevent the person from working on healthy ways of dealing with one’s own weaknesses or the injustices from others.

I have been thinking about people who have acted very badly in this world.  Do you think most of them have backgrounds that include trauma from others?  I am wondering if being treated badly leads many to behave badly, even to break the law.

Yes, there is a large literature, for example, with people in prison that shows many have suffered trauma from other people prior to their crimes and imprisonment.

Here are some references (click on the highlighted text to read the abstract and/or the complete report:

  • Brinded, P., Alexander, M. J., Simpson, I. F., Laidlaw, T. M., Farley, N., & Fiona, M. (2001). Prevalence of psychiatric disorders in New Zealand prisons: A national study. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 35, 166-173.
  • Collins, J. J., & Bailey, S. L. (1990). Traumatic stress disorder and violent behavior. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 3(2), 203-220.
  • Enright, R.D. Erzar, T.,  Gambaro, M., Komoski, M.C., O’Boyle, J., Reed, G., Song, J.,Teslik, M., Wollner, B., Yao, Z., & Yu, L. (2016).  Proposing forgiveness therapy for those in prison: An intervention strategy for reducing anger and promoting psychological health.  Journal of Forensic Psychology, 1:116.
  • Masuda, M., Cutler, D. L., Hein, L., & Holmes, T. H. (1978). Life events and prisoners. Archives of General Psychiatry, 35(2), 197-203.

How would I go about telling someone that they may be using the defense mechanism of displacement without upsetting them?  Whenever this person is having a bad day, I get the brunt of the anger.  I do not want the person to feel as if I am making a false accusation.

The defense mechanism of displacement occurs, for example, when a person gets angry at someone who is not the cause of the anger. If someone is displacing anger onto you, then this is unjust and therefore you could start by trying to forgive the person for this. From a position of forgiveness, you then could try pointing out the reality of the pattern. When the person is annoyed at something or someone, you become the recipient of that anger. The person should not get too upset if: 1) you wait until the person is not in an angry state and 2) you bring up the pattern of displacement without accusing.  If the person nonetheless gets upset, then I would drop the issue and only bring it up again when the pattern of displacement emerges again (but I would not bring it up immediately in this new context). Eventually, if you can be non-threatening and only point out the pattern without using an accusatory tone, then the person may “get it” and stop the displacement.