Why Resentment Lasts—and How to Defeat It

robert-enright 3Editor’s Note: As a regular blog contributor to the online version of Psychology Today, Dr. Robert Enright (founder of the International Forgiveness Institute) has repeatedly received special recognition for his posts. Yesterday, his latest blog was given “Essential Topic” status meaning that it receives prominent placement on their website along with being featured on the first page of blog topics like“Education” and “Therapy.” Here is that blog:
Posted March 25, 2017 – Psychology Today

“I resent that!”  Philosophers have made the case that such statements are good (MacLachlan, 2010).  It shows that you respect yourself and will not let others take advantage of you.  Resentment shows that you are a person of moral character who knows right from wrong and therefore knows when wrong is done against you.  In contrast, psychologists can get worried about resentment because they mean something different.
Kmiragaya/Dreamstime.com and Jacqueline Song
Source: Kmiragaya/Dreamstime.com and Jacqueline Song
 To psychologists, resentment over a long period of time can be an unhealthy response to injustice, sometimes an injustice that won’t quit such as continual demeaning comments from a partner or the unreasonable demands of a boss who just doesn’t “get it.”  Resentment in cases like these represents a development in one’s anger from mild to deeper…….and it lingers. This kind of resentment can lead to unhappiness, continual irritability, and psychological compromise including excessive anxiety and depression (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015).

Let us keep the philosopher’s resentment and let us banish the other.

Yet, the psychologist’s kind of resentment all too often is not a polite guest.  It seems to never know when to leave.  In fact, if left unchecked it can take over the psychological house within you.  Why is this?  Consider three reasons.

First, we have all felt the initial euphoria created by a response of courage after another’s offense.  We will stand up for ourselves.  We will resist.  Resentment can give you a feeling not only of euphoria but also of strength.  Nurturing such a rewarding feeling can become a habit.  I know of one person who, upon having his morning cup of coffee, would replay the injustice and feel the inner strength as a way of getting ready for the day.  He did this until he realized that over the long-term, such a routine was leaving him drained before he even left for work.  His temporary adrenaline rush was turning on him.  This is a case of positive reinforcement for something that shows itself in the long run not to be so positive.

Second, once we realize that our short-term euphoria is turning against us, we just don’t know how to get the resentment to leave.  How do I turn off the resentment?  What path do I take to have some inner quiet?  Taking up jogging might do it……but once you have recovered your energy from the run, the anger returns.  How about relaxation training?  Same issue: once the muscle relaxation is over, there is the resentment with its perverse smile looking back at you.  “I just don’t know how to rid myself of the resentment!” is a cry I hear too often.


“Resentment could linger for the rest of your life unless you confront it.”


Third, and this is the most sinister of all, resentment can become a part of your identity, a part of who you are as a person.  You move from showing resentful behavior to being a resentful person and there is a large difference between the two. Once you start saying that you are a particular kind of person, it sometimes is threatening to change the identity.  So often people will live with an identity—a sense of self, a sense of who one is—that is compromising for them because they are afraid of change.  The familiar is better than the alternative even if the familiar includes pain and unnecessary suffering.

Source: Mimagephotography/Dreamstime.com

So then, what to do about the unwanted guest?  Try these 5 approaches:

  • Try to see the inner world of the one causing the disturbance.  Might he be carrying an extra burden of resentment, perhaps from times past?  Might she be living with bitterness that is spreading to others, including you?  Can you see the woundedness within the person who is wounding you?
  • Commit to doing no harm to the one who is harming you.  This allows for a new kind of inner strength to develop.
  • Stand in the pain so that you do not pass that pain to innocent others.  This, too, can strengthen you.
  • Science has shown on many occasions that there is a resentment-buster in the name of forgiveness (Enright, 2012).  To forgive is a way of offering goodness to the one who gave you the unwanted present of resentment.  Rather than the strength of the clinched fist and jaw, the strength from forgiveness shows that you can soften your heart toward the one who infected your heart. This can bring you inner relief.
  • Finally, be open to your new identity:  I am someone who can stand in the pain.  I am someone who can forgive. I am even someone who can ask resentment to leave……and it leaves.

Which is the better identity: a life lived with an unwanted inner guest or a life free to be a conduit of good toward others and yourself?


Posted March 25, 2017 – Psychology Today
References:
Enright, R.D. (2012).  The Forgiving Life.  Washington, D.C.: APA Books.
Enright, R.D. & Fitzgibbons, R. (2015). Forgiveness Therapy. Washington, DC: APA Books.
MacLachlan, A. (2010).  Unreasonable resentments.  Journal of Social Philosophy, 41. 422-441.

Dr. Enright’s Blog Post on Psychology Today Raised to “Essential Topic” Status

Editor’s Note: Just a few weeks ago (Dec. 21, 2016), we announced on this website that Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the IFI, had been selected by two of the nation’s premier blog sites (Psychology Today and Thrive Global) to add his forgiveness expertise as a regular robert-enright 3contributor.
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In January, Psychology Today’s editorial staff promoted Dr. Enright’s blog “Why We Need Forgiveness Education” to “Essential Topic” status meaning that it receives prominent placement on their website along with being featured on the first page of blog topics like“Education” and “Therapy.”
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This week, another of Dr. Enright’s essays was selected as essential reading by Psychology Today. Here is the link to that blog: “Forgiveness: 3 Misconceptions.”

Want to Live Longer? Learn to Forgive.

Monitor on Psychology, January 2017 – Forgiveness can improve mental and physical health. Period.

There is no longer any question, at least in the scientific community, that forgiveness can be and is good for you. Whether you’ve suffered a minor Broken Heart Rehab3slight or a major grievance, researchers say, learning to forgive those who hurt you can significantly improve both psychological well-being and physical health.

“Forgiveness is a topic that’s psychological, social and biological,” according to Loren Toussaint, PhD, a professor of psychology at Luther College, in Decorah, Iowa. “It’s the true mind-body connection.”

An article in the January issue of Monitor on Psychology, a grudgepublication of the American Psychological Association, summarizes the current state of forgiveness research like this:

Research has shown that forgiveness is linked to mental health outcomes such as reduced anxiety, depression and major psychiatric disorders, as well as with fewer physical health symptoms and lower mortality rates.

Despite the proven benefits it provides, forgiveness can still be a difficult concept for some people to embrace. It can feel unfair to have to put in the effort to forgive when the other person was the one in the wrong.

Dr. Robert Enright, whom Time magazine called “the forgiveness trailblazer“ because of his 30+ years of forgiveness research, agrees that life can be unfair.

“Without our deserving it, we can experience thunderous injustices. The today-i-will-forgiveinjury was unfair, the person who created it was unfair,” Enright says. “But now we have a place for healing in forgiveness.”

Read the full article and learn more about the science of forgiveness, including Dr. Enright’s Process Model of Interpersonal Forgiving which is now being used around the world, at these links:

Forgiveness can improve mental and physical health. Research shows how to get there. Monitor on Psychology, January 2017, Vol 48, No. 1

Dr. Enright’s research on forgiveness and forgiveness education; International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) website.

How to Forgive; Dr. Enright’s Process Model of Interpersonal Forgiveness, IFI website.

Why Forgive; The mental and physical benefits of forgiveness, IFI website.

Why We Need Forgiveness Education

Editor’s Note: Just a few weeks ago (Dec. 21, 2016), we announced on this website that Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the IFI, had been selected by two of the nation’s premier blog sites (Psychology Today and Thrive Global) to add his forgiveness expertise as a regular contributor. This week, Psychology Today’s editorial staff promoted Dr. Enright’s most recent blog to “Essential Topic” status meaning that it receives prominent placement on their website along with being featured on the first page of blog topics like “Education” and “Therapy.” Here is that blog:


Why We Need Forgiveness Education

“I was too busy trying to survive. I did not have room to bring forgiveness into my world.”

These two sentences together, spoken by someone who lived with an abusive partner for decades, is one of the strongest rationales I have ever read for forgiveness education, starting with 4-year-olds or 5-year-olds.

Star Media website
Source: Star Media website

Do you see that the person, as an adult, did not have the energy and focus to add something new to her arsenal of survival?

What if forgiveness was a natural part of her survival arsenal starting at an early age?

We do this all the time in education as we help students learn how to speak and write coherent sentences.

We do this all the time in education as we help students learn how to add so that a budget can be maintained.

We do this all the time in education as we help students learn how to be just or fair. Teacher corrections and punishments are swift to come once students enter the school door and then misbehave in the school setting.

I think it is unfortunate that educational institutions and societies fail to make forgiveness a natural part of life through early education. Isn’t a central point about education to help people make their way in society?  And isn’t a central point of making one’s way in society having the capacity to confront grave injustices and not be defeated by them? And isn’t a central point of confronting grave injustices the knowledge of how to forgive? And isn’t a central point of knowing how to forgive the International Forgiveness Institute, Inc.thinking about forgiveness and the practice of it in safety, before the storms of insensitivity and abuse hit? And isn’t a central point of knowing forgiveness and practicing forgiveness to aid in the survival of people who could be crushed by others’ cruelty?

Why do we spend time helping children learn to speak and write, learn essential mathematics skills, and be just, but completely neglect teaching them how to overcome grave injustices?

Education in its essence will be fundamentally incomplete until educators fold into it the basic strategies for overcoming grave injustice and cruelty so that students, once they are adults, never have to say, “I was too busy trying to survive. I did not have room to bring forgiveness into my world.”

And the educational challenge of this incompleteness is this: We now know scientifically-supported pathways to forgive (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015; Wade, Hoyt, Kidwell, & Worthington, 2014). We have scientifically-tested forgiveness curricula for children and adolescents download(Enright, Knutson, Holter, Baskin, & Knutson, 2007; Enright, Rhody, Litts, & Klatt, 2014). Without forgiveness education, a person who wants to forgive may not be able to do so. Without forgiveness education, another person may too easily equate forgiving and reconciling, thus staying in an abusive relationship. With forgiveness education, a person can forgive, not necessarily reconcile, and heal emotionally.

It is time to make “room to bring forgiveness into my world.”

Robert

Posted Jan 15, 2017 – Psychology Today.com

Dr. Enright Joins Two New Digital Media Ventures

Dr. Robert Enright, world-renowned forgiveness researcher and educator, has been selected by two of the nation’s premier blog sites to add his forgiveness expertise as a regular contributor.

Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute
Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute

1. Psychology Today is a New York City-based print magazine that will celebrate its 50th year of continuous publication in 2017. Its new blog site, according to the publication, is  “devoted exclusively to everybody’s favorite subject: Ourselves.”

To make and keep their new blog site relevant, Psychology Today has gathered a group of renowned psychologists, academics, psychiatrists and writers to contribute their thoughts and ideas on what makes us tick. According to the website,  “We’re a live stream of what’s happening in Psychology Today.”

The forgiveness blog section on Psychology Today’s website is called “The Forgiving Life”–which is also the title of one of the eight books Dr. Enright has written. Here are links to the first four blogs Dr. Enright has produced for the new site this month:
Dec. 7 – Forgiveness Saved My Life: Reflections from Prison
Dec. 16 – Afraid of Mingling with the Relatives This Holiday Season?
Dec. 17 A New Approach to School Bullying: Eliminate Their Anger
Dec. 20 Is It True That Forgiveness Is “Ridiculous“?

Arianna Huffington’s New Venture

2. You’ve probably heard of Arianna Huffington, the 66-year-old digital media pioneer, bestselling author, and founder of The Huffington Post–the online news powerhouse that has spread its influence around the world in dramatic fashion. Oh, yes, and she is one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People.”

Huffington stepped down in August as editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post (affectionately called HuffPost), which she founded in 2005 andthrive-global-arianna-huffington sold to AOL six years later for $315 million, to concentrate full time on her new venture–Thrive Global. The new entity is partly based on her runaway bestselling 2014 book, Thrivewhich defines a new math for success based on the variables of well-being, wisdom, wonder and generosity.

One of the entities under the Thrive Global umbrella is The Thrive Journal–an online blog site that the company says goes “beyond informing and entertaining to action. Our goal is to help you bring about changes in your life by giving you concrete, actionable tips laid out in five pathways: Calm, Joy, Purpose, thrive-logoWell-Being, and Productivity. These microsteps and tips are embedded in every piece of content we produce.”

Similar to the new blog site developed by Psychology Today, the Thrive Global blog site will feature a wide array of international wellness experts, psychologists, medical doctors and other professionals. Here are links to the first five blogs Dr. Enright has produced for Thrive Global:
Nov. 25Forgiveness and the Presidential Election of 2016: 7 Tips
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ov. 30 Reflections from Prison: “Forgiveness Saved My Life” 
Dec. 4 Forgiveness, the Marathon, and the Inspired Work of Art
Dec. 8 – How Evil Works
Dec. 17 
Afraid of Mingling with the Relatives This Holiday Season? 4 Tips from Forgiveness Therapy

Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Lebanon. . . . . . . . Can It Lead to Peace?

Lebanon native Ramy Taleb, his wife Roula, and a handful of like-minded individuals are confident they have the solution to the sectarian violence that is plaguing their homeland–peace through forgiveness education.

Roula and Ramy Taleb with their children JD and Deborah (in front of Ramy).
Roula and Ramy Taleb with their children JD and Deborah (in front of Ramy).education.

Although Ramy has been working with Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, for several years, he has now broadened his focus by forming a government-registered NGO (non-governmental organization)–The Foundation for Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Lebanon (FFRL).

“FFRL believes in identifying all people through a common humanity, seeking to break down dehumanizing perceptions resulting from sectarian division and establishing a path towards social reconciliation through the lens of forgiveness,” according to Ramy, Director of the FFRL.

A group of Lebanese and Palestinian students proudly displays its Forgiveness Journey graduation certificates.
A group of Lebanese and Palestinian students proudly display their Forgiveness Journey graduation certificates.

“We work with youth and young adults from various communities in Lebanon, providing education in nonviolent conflict resolution through our Forgiveness Journey curriculum,” he added. “This involves developing an understanding of the spectrum of forgiveness, from a space of basic coexistence all the way to complete reconciliation.”

During the past couple years, the group’s “projects have included people from Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian and Iraqi communities of various religious backgrounds,” according to FFRL’s website. “Intergroup engagement is core to our work, bringing opposed groups together in order to nurture the aspects of reconciliation they have learned from the Forgiveness Journey in a real world setting.”

Renewing Communities Through Forgiveness Education: A Prospect For Peace

Dr. Enright and his International Forgiveness Institute first pioneered this concept in 1985 and created the first scientifically proven forgiveness program in the US. Since 2002, Dr. Enright has focused almost exclusively on the development of forgiveness education curricula for children in war-torn, impoverished, and/or oppressed areas of the globe. The Foundation for Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Lebanon is one expression of this forgiveness education that now reaches to more than 30 countries around the world.


“Together with the IFI, we believe that forgiveness is a path to peace,” Ramy says. “With Dr. Enright’s help we are mentoring a generation of future peacemakers in the Middle-East.” 


Independence, Civil War and Turmoil

On Nov. 22, Lebanon celebrated 73 years of independence from France. Those years have been marked, however, with continued sectarian violence and conflicts including an Israeli invasion, Syrian occupancy, and a Lebanese Civil War.

In addition to all that, the recent and ongoing influx of Syrian refugeeslebanon-logo-ramy has only added to the nation’s instability, with an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees now seeking refuge in Lebanon. Furthermore, Palestinian refugees still make up another 450,000–this equates to a ratio of one in four being a refugee in Lebanon, the highest anywhere in the world.

Learn More:
1) Visit The Foundation for Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Lebanon website.
2) Watch a short 3:16 video about the FFRL.
3) Review the complete curriculum compendium for the
Lebanese Forgiveness Education Program.
4) Donate to help FFRL mentor a
 generation of future Middle-East peacemakers in Lebanon.

Forgiveness: why it’s important

Editor’s Note: Forgiveness has matured into a world-wide movement, including in India. This article is excerpted from a more lengthy news story in one of India’s largest business publications.

LiveMint.com, New Delhi, India – In his 2015 book, 8 Keys To Forgiveness, psychologist Robert Enright cites research to demonstrate the power of forgiveness. In a study conducted with fellow psychologist Suzanne Freedman, he found that incest survivors who underwent a 14-month programme to forgive their perpetrators were free of depression one year after the programme ended. The study was published in the Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology in 1996.

In another study, published in the Psychology & Health journal in 2009, Enright and his colleagues worked with men who were admitted to the hospital with cardiac problems. After undergoing forgiveness therapy, which involved 10 weekly sessions of identifying and forgiving those who had wronged them, the men not only exhibited reduced levels of anger but also had healthier hearts.

Students in Phaltan, India, work together on a Microsoft Work Wonders Project.
Students in Phaltan, India, work together on Microsoft’s Work Wonders Project.

Intriguingly, Enright has even found that students who were unable to concentrate in school owing to anger issues benefited from forgiveness counselling, so much so that they actually raised their grades from D to C, were able to focus better and had more amiable relationships with others. This study was published in the Journal Of Research In Education in 2008. Thus, forgiveness can have a positive ripple effect, wherein mercy extended to one person radiates to others.

If forgiveness, then, can have such a positive impact, how can we practise it more often? As Enright says, forgiveness goes beyond saying “I throbbing-heartforgive you”. In fact, the words do not even have to be uttered; rather, they have to be felt. In its essence, forgiveness entails “extending goodness towards those who have hurt you”. It involves acknowledging the inherent worth of every human being. And, as we all know, this can be hard even at the best of times, and can become a Herculean task when we have been wronged grievously.

Enright, however, says that we can become “forgivingly-fit” with practice. By first forgiving people whom we love for minor misdemeanours, we can gradually graduate to forgiving those who have injured us in more heinous ways.

Finally, forgiveness should not be mistaken for weakness. As Mahatma Gandhi aptly put it, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”


Aruna Sankaranarayanan, the author of this article, is the founder and director of Prayatna, a centre for children with learning difficulties in Andheri, a suburb of Mumbai, India. She completed her undergraduate studies at Mount Holyoke College and acquired her doctorate in developmental psychology at Harvard University. Both schools are in Massachusetts, USA.

Mint is one of India’s premium business news publications and the clear No.2 among business papers in terms of readership. LiveMint.com is Mint’s online portal and is among the fastest growing news websites in India.

To explore more of Dr. Enright’s compendium of peer-reviewed forgiveness research from the past 30+ years, visit the Research Section of this website.