Professor Fred Luskin is the Director of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects and he wrote the eye-opening book Forgive For Good which I highly recommend. In this interview with me, Dr. Luskin explains why rewriting your story is an important part of your forgiveness process.
#ForgivenessFriday aims to unleash forgiveness in your heart. (Click HERE to read the beginning of this series.)
Dr. Luskin, one of the reasons I carried a grudge for three years is because I was convinced that people didn’t appreciate how badly I was hurt. However, you write that all hurt has a “personal” and “impersonal” aspect. How does making this distinction help me forgive?
Personal describes the story we tell to cement the fact we are wounded. Impersonal understands everyone gets hurt and many people have suffered as we have. Both points of view are true. When we are stuck in one point of view too often we suffer. First from victim hood….second a lack of empathy and connection to others pain.
I was guilty of blaming my offender for my feelings and for things that went wrong years after the original hurt. You write that blaming our offender prevents forgiveness. Why is that? Is blaming our offender different from holding them accountable?
They are not accountable for how we feel. That is up to us. They can be punished for what they did….but they are not the ones who currently create our experience of the event and how our bodies and minds react in the present.
You write, “The kind of story you tell determines how it affects your life.” How does simply telling our story a certain way impact our ability to forgive?
The story is our reality. There is nothing apart from the story. A change in story is a change in the reality of the experience. Forgiveness is a changing of the story…..generally from victim to a kind of heroic overcoming of adversity.
So how do we learn to tell our stories in a healthy way?
Practice and a desire to heal.
You share research which shows that forgiveness is literally good for our health. In what ways is unforgiveness bad for our health?
Leads to increased stress which has numerous and global health implications. Leads to helplessness which has immune impact. Leads to lowered efficacy which can impact healthy eating and exercise patterns.
For the person reading this who’s been stuck in unforgiveness for years, what encouragement/hope would you offer them?
Simple practice of relaxation and changes in story will change your experience of the wound and improve your health and well being.
If you’re looking for a practical process to help you rewrite and retell your story, I recommend Forgive for Good. It helped me rewrite my story accurately but in a healthy and healing way.
Fred Luskin’s bio:
Ph.D., Counseling and Health Psychology, Stanford, 1999
M.S., School Psychology, San Jose State University
B.S. Psychology, State University of New York
Fred is a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Sofia University. He is the Director of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects – a series of research projects affirming his forgiveness training methodology. He has taught and lectured on forgiveness worldwide and has been featured for his forgiveness work in many major media outlets. Fred is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. He also holds a California License as an Educational Psychologist.
Fred is the author of Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Healing and co-author with Ken Pelletier, Ph.D. of Stress Free for Good : 10 Scientifically Proven Life Skills for Health and Happiness.