Psychological Self-Help

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fact, Spring (2004) refers to “cheap forgiveness” or “make-believe mercy” when
the person who was deeply hurt quickly and glibly pardons the person who hurt
him/her as a way to avoid the stress of conflict and the pain of dealing with
unpleasant emotions. If serious hurts remain, e.g. if your spouse had a serious affair
or a series of affairs, your trust and deep affection may not return for years, if ever.
The above authors admit they are in many cases “throwing a cold blanket over the
trendy forgiveness fad.” Also several of these writers express some concern that far
more attention is given by psychologists to reducing the negative feelings of the
victim than is given to fixing the serious problems of the wrong-doer. Near the end
of this chapter (Ch 7) there is brief attention given to society’s constructive non-
punitive efforts to improve the behavior of the anti-social, hostile, self-centered
people who hurt and drive others crazy. We can’t count on Dr. Gobodo-Madikizela’s
methods used with Eugene de Kock to arouse lasting profound remorse in all cruel or
evil people.
There is also another con by the offender, called “pretend reform,” which we have
seen in the Domestic Violence section above. The spouse-beater or the philandering
mate often begs for forgiveness as he/she says they are very sorry and promises
never to do it again. Time often proves that these promises are untrue. Perhaps
because there often are no consequences to the offender for telling such lies. Maybe,
just as we discuss later with prisoners, there need to be clearer and very demanding
rules spelling out the consequences for keeping and for breaking promises. Example
rules for a victim: if you have another affair, max out our credit card, drive under the
influence, etc. these are the consequences that will happen immediately: 1. 2. 3…
AND if you are completely devoted to me and stop flirting, if we are able to totally
pay off our credit card in two years, or if you stop drinking and smoking within a
month, this is what I expect our relationship will be like IN FIVE YEARS… Of course,
the consequences need to be clear, doable, serious, and fully intended to happen.
So, the answer to the earlier question, “Is forgiveness a one-person or a two-person
task?” is that different methods and approaches are needed for both one and two
people. If both people are willing to work on it and if they can help each other make
amends, it might be best for both to be involved, as in South Africa. But sometimes
the two parties can not work on these strong but delicate and intimate feelings
together. In that case, self-help methods and psychotherapy procedures are needed.
Or the two people may need to go their own ways.
Some writers believe that achieving justice, not forgiveness in the victim’s heart, but
a legally and morally fair resolution of conflicts, so that the wrongful action can be
put aside and will reduce the stress in both parties. But how can this be done?  Is the
Nuremburg or the South African models (charges of wrong-doing, hearings and trial
courts, and findings of guilt, punishment, and restitution) of seeking justice useful
with modern nations, with unfairness in the corporate world, with your boss on the
job, with your unhappy spouse? Would most people accept a decision by others
acting as judges, such as a group of your good friends, as being just? Will a finding
of such an ad hoc court settle the conflict and reduce negative emotions?
The most important and emotionally sensitive relationship many of us have is with
our lovers, our partners, our spouses. Thus, it is not uncommon for hurts, betrayal,
unfairness, and deceptions to happen in that relationship. It is well documented that
the two genders take a different view of values, with women especially valuing
caring relationships and males valuing justice (see
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