Webmaster note: I have posted several articles on jealousy and envy. These were written from a soulish (or carnal) perspective. Good for discernment, but NOT complete freedom. If you have a serious issue with jealousy, envy, pathological obsessions,etc SEEK DELIVERANCE!
KJV Num 5:14 And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled:
Webmaster note: I have posted several articles on jealousy and envy. These were written from a soulish (or carnal) perspective. Good for discernment, but NOT complete freedom. If you have a serious issue with jealousy, envy, pathological obsessions,etc SEEK DELIVERANCE!
“Comparing is a trap that permeates our lives, especially if we’re high-need-for-achievement professionals.” Thomas DeLong, Harvard Business Review
Working with emotional intelligence in the workplace since the late’90’s, I’ve found there are three emotions that many people don’t like to admit to feeling – envy, jealousy and resentment. This is understandable. Owning our human experience of envy, jealousy and resentment isn’t attractive – but it’s vitally important to do.
“Envy, says author Bruna Martinuzzi, the “unmentionable” emotion, is perhaps one of the most pervasive and powerful of all the disruptive emotions that affect our corporate environments.”
Often used synonymously, envy and jealousy have different meanings.
Envy, starts with the desire for something that someone else has. Unchecked it can escalate to harboring ill will or acting out against the object of our envy. Envy says – I want what you have. When we envy, we are acting on a belief that having this thing we want will provide us with greater stature or happiness – and that not having this thing diminishes us in some way. The thing can be anything: looks, money, position, relationship, even time.
Jealousy, envy’s cousin, usually carries more suspicion. We believe in some way that the thing we want and do not have rightly belongs to us. Typically, jealousy is associated with another person.
Resentment is usually a companion emotion to envy and jealousy. Why don’t we have this thing – and why do they? Resentment gnaws away at us and can be a springboard to anger, hatred and even depression.
All three have one important factor in common – they are fueled by making comparisons. From the time we are young children, we begin to measure ourselves by what others do – and what they have. It’s a natural human impulse that can only be tempered by what we as adults learn and implement in our thinking management.
There’s a direct line between what we think, how we feel and how we behave – and when we comparewe trigger a feeling.
Where Does Envy, Jealousy and Resentment Come From?
We all arrive in adulthood with a load of emotional baggage. Our nature which takes the form of our personality, style and psychological makeup plays a major role. So does nurture – how we are raised and conditioned shapes our inherent state. But culture is a huge factor in how we define and measure our self-worth, self-image and self-esteem. The early messages we introjected about success, achievement, accomplishment, competition, status, power, fairness and justice all laid the foundation for the values and beliefs that fuel our feelings of envy, jealousy and resentment.
Understanding how we are neurally hard-wired for these emotions can also give us important insights into how they function.
Our judging mind is a critical enabler in generating envy, jealousy and resentment. One part of our brain, the neo-cortex (the so-called rational mind) brilliantly sifts through information, draws on information and past experiences and makes assessments. The other part of our brain (the ancient Reptilian brain) is also busy trolling the environment and making judgments. But this part of our brain doesn’t mitigate information with reason. Its job is survival. Its unconscious reactivity plays a key role in the fight or flight response. Will it eat me or will I eat it is the still the primary domain of the so-called Lizard Brain.
In recent years, research has found that the same area of the brain that controls envy and jealousy is the same part that detects physical pain. “It’s interesting that the part of the brain which detects physical pain is also associated with mental pain,” said Hidehiko Takahashi, who led the research.
The Workplace is an Emotional Cauldron
It is easy to see why envy, jealousy and resentment are routinely triggered in most workplaces. Position, power arrangements, lack of trust and transparency, miscommunication, time pressures and real or perceived scarcity of resources can pit people against colleagues and the “competition.”
In fact, unbalanced competitiveness can set the stage for envy, jealousy, resentment and greed. Because competition is the primary ethos that drives Western business, competing with others is an expected and even desirable function of the business model. Often the language of competition is filled with war and sports metaphors, further increasing the chance that emotions like envy and jealousy will become triggered, even habituated responses.
In his Harvard Business Review article, The Comparing Trap, Thomas DeLong points out, “No matter how successful we are and how many goals we achieve, this trap causes us to recalibrate our accomplishments and reset the bar for how we define success. What we’ve done in the past doesn’t matter; real success or achievement requires something more – a title we’ve never held, a task we’ve never done, a company we’ve never worked for. The process of comparing requires us to keep making our target more difficult to hit. And if we manage to hit this difficult target, we simply create an even more difficult one at which to aim.”
The Drivers for Envy, Jealousy and Resentment
At the core of our motivation are needs. We’re not talking about “business” needs here, but about our fundamental universal core needs – for physical well-being, connection to others, peace of mind and meaning in our lives. Most of us aren’t well-versed in identifying what needs are driving us (they underlie every value and belief we have) but everything we do is in satisfaction of a need.
From a needs perspective, being in a state of envy, jealousy and resentment is the polar opposite of feeling safety, tranquility and equanimity. These emotions enable a state of expansiveness. On the other hand, when we are experiencing envy, jealousy and resentment, we feel a state of contraction – physically, emotionally and mentally. When we experience these emotions, our needs are not being met. Even when we are aware of our needs deficit, we rationalize our state as temporary – on our way to satisfaction. Too many people stay in this “stuck state,” trying to function from this unsatisfying place, chasing the next goal.
Are there any positives to experiencing the emotions of envy, jealousy and resentment? Yes – every emotion holds potentially valuable information about our needs – albeit sometimes challenging. Your emotions provide you with a continuous barometer of whether you are meeting your needs – or not. Feeling calm or confident or enthusiastic – needs met. Feeling envious, jealous or resentful – good chance your needs aren’t met.
In describing envy, New York Times author Natalie Angier writes, “Envy may help keep us in line, making us so desperate to look good that we take the high road and start to act good, too. We struggle with our private envy, our longing for more esteem than we command, and the struggle only sharpens the painful contrast between the imagined perfection of the envied adversary that we have enshrined on an imaginary throne, and the defective merchandise that is ourselves. If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon,” Bertrand Russell said. “But Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander, and Alexander, I daresay, envied Hercules, who never existed.” If envy is a tax levied by civilization, it is one that everyone must pay.”
The area of the brain which controls jealousy has been found, scientists have announced.
It is the same part which detects real physical pain – perhaps explaining why feeling envious of your lover’s philandering ways hurts so much.
‘It’s interesting the part of the brain which detects physical pain is also associated with mental pain,’ said Hidehiko Takahashi, who led the research.
‘Assessing these feelings of jealousy will possibly be helpful in mental care such as counselling.’
The spot which makes people delight in others’ misfortune – called schadenfreude – was also located by the team.
In the experiments, 19 students were asked to talk of a more successful rival while having MRI scans, which monitor brain activity.
A part of their frontal lobe became more active when the students felt jealous of their rivals, the Japanese study showed.
They then read a story in which the subject of their envy suffered a series of misfortunes, including food poisoning.
Their scan data showed the mishaps sparked greater activity in the ‘reward reaction’ part of the brain, which normally lights up when receiving social and financial fortune. ‘We now have a better understanding of the mechanism at work when people take pleasure in another’s misfortune,’ added Mr Takahashi.
Read more: http://metro.co.uk/2009/02/16/jealousy-spot-on-the-brain-identified-by-scientists-460744/#ixzz4HhqE9oOJ
BY ALIA HOYT
Of all the emotions humans show, jealousy is one of the most common and unsettling. It tends to bring out the worst in us, even though most of us know better. It's an age-old problem, having been recorded since biblical times, and no doubt experienced even before that. And it's not limited to humans, either. Even wild animals like chimpanzees and elephantsexhibit jealous tendencies.
Long-surviving tales of jealousy include David, the second king of Israel, who until he triumphed against the Philistines and the legendary Goliath, was well liked by King Saul. Following these substantial successes, however, Saul forced him out of the country, due to a ripe case of jealousy. David had the last laugh, though -- he eventually became king of Israel and built quite an empire for himself.
The Greek goddess Hera, wife to the philandering Zeus, may not have been jealous without cause, but she certainly expressed her displeasure in unflattering ways, choosing to harass her husband's lovers and children, rather than dealing with his infidelity directly.
If jealousy impacts humans negatively, then why do we continue to behave this way? Cultural psychologists tend to believe that humans are inherently jealous, simply because our jobs, relationships and material goods mean a lot to us, and we don't want to lose them.
A popular misconception about jealousy is that it is the same as envy. In fact, the feeling of envy refers to wanting something that someone else has, such as a fast car or a house in the Hamptons. Jealousy, however, is more aptly described as the fear of losing something (a lover, promotion, friend, etc.) to someone else. "Jealousy is an anticipatory emotion. It seeks to prevent loss," said Ralph Hupka, Professor of Psychology, Emeritus at California State University at Long Beach. "Jealousy causes us to take precautionary measures. Should those fail and the partner has an affair, the new situation arouses anger, depression, disappointment, and so on."
In this article we'll delve further into the nitty-gritty of jealousy, when it begins and how it can quickly get out of control. You will also learn about the different types of jealousy and how experts say it can be controlled. We'll start with the people most likely to be jealous. Who are they? You'll see on the next page.
Jealousy in Relationships: The Gender Factor
There's no doubt that everyone experiences some level of jealousy at some time or another. Many people wonder whether or not jealousy is influenced by age, gender, ethnicity or other factors. These questions, while very interesting, are also exceedingly difficult to study in a controlled, scientific setting. According to Dr. Hupka, many psychologists believe that women are inclined to be jealous more often, simply because they tend to be more honest and in touch with their emotions than their male counterparts.
The triggers to male and female jealousy also tend to be the same. Both genders become jealousy when they fear losing something or someone valuable to them. One study, however, revealed that women would be more likely to aim jealous behavior at a rival, rather than their partner. Maybe Hera was ahead of her time after all.
One study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior found that taller men tend to be less jealous than shorter men. The researchers attribute this to male height being associated with reproductive success, attractiveness and dominance. Similarly, women of average height tend to be less jealous than taller or shorter counterparts, perhaps because they are also believed to be healthier and more reproductively successful.
At this time, there does not appear to be a difference in jealousy levels between ethnic and age groups. It is difficult to study age groups because it would require the scientists to interview the exact same people one age, then revisit them decades later. Dr. Hupka argues that even if that was accomplished, the results would be outdated, because people raised in the 1950s experienced entirely different cultural variations than people raised just a couple of decades later. Similarly, cultural variations from country to country would make studies on different ethnic groups difficult to generalize across the board.
Preteen and Teenage Jealousy
Although the demographics of jealousy are difficult to study, researchers do have special concern about child and adolescent jealousy. According to legendary child entertainer Fred Rogers (commonly known as Mr. Rogers), competition can be tricky for very young children, likely causing jealousy to rear its ugly head when it becomes evident that parental love and attention must be shared with others.
Sibling rivalry is also very common in multi-child households, causing angst between children and for the parents who have to put up with near constant bickering. Unfortunately for weary parents, this behavior is completely normal. Kidshealth.org recommends that parents refrain from getting involved in sibling arguments unless there's a threat of physical harm. This forces the children to deal with the squabble themselves, rather than relying on the parent(s) to iron it out. It also minimizes the risk that the parent may unconsciously side with one child over another, amping up the fodder for fights.
Experts also encourage parents to keep the peace by proactively spending one-on-one time with each child and reminding them regularly that true parental love does not have limits, among other things.
As if adolescence is not challenging enough, a recent study in the journal Developmental Psychology found that adolescents who experience low self-esteem and extreme loneliness tend to worry that friendships are threatened by others, causing jealousy that can lead to aggressive behavior. The researchers found that intimacy (in this case through friendship) begets vulnerability, resulting in jealousy and aggression.
Five hundred fifth through ninth grade students were evaluated to assess these vulnerabilities. For example, the questions were designed to find out what level of jealousy resulted in hypothetical situations, such as if their best friend went shopping with someone else. The researchers also surveyed peers about their perceived opinions of jealous behavior in others. The study determined that adolescents with lower levels of self worth were more likely to become jealous. In addition, jealous adolescents studied were more inclined to become either physically or passively aggressive -- ignoring people with whom they were angry.
The study also reinforced current beliefs about females being more jealous than males. This group of researchers attributes this to the idea that girls have higher standards of loyalty, kindness, empathy and commitment than boys, so they become more jealous when these standards are not met. The underlying factor in this negative behavior is the same as it is for everyone -- adolescents fear losing friendships, so they behave in a jealous manner to "protect" them, even if their behavior is actually destructive.
Types of Jealousy
Jealousy can be best divided into two main categories: normal and abnormal. As already mentioned, everyone experiences jealousy at some point, no matter how saintly they are. Dr. Hupka notes that labels can be attached to every type of situation that causes jealousy. Some of these include:
Paranoia and schizophrenia can cause delusions of unfaithfulness, causing a jealous reaction. Extreme sensitivity can also contribute to jealousy in instances where a person perceives a threat to the relationship when there's no threat present. "It is not easy to determine when it changes into neurotic jealousy," says Dr. Hupka.
"The latter is usually associated with the exercise of excessive control over the mate, who has unrealistic concerns about the mate’s faithfulness." He goes on to note that sufferers of this form of abnormal jealousy often exhibit behaviors such as calling the mate repeatedly to "check in" and going through the mate’s telephone and address books.
While it may never be possible to completely avoid having jealous feelings, experts do believe it is possible to control jealous behavior. For example, experts recommend that friends and lovers alike avoid the pitfalls of jealousy by being honest with each other to avoid a build-up of unspoken emotions. Negative feelings tend to ferment over time and present themselves in an unflatteringly jealous way. Keeping and maintaining trust is also a key ingredient to avoiding jealous situations. Lastly, sensitivity is vital to recognizing the cues that upset and worry other people.
The negative aspects of jealousy are obvious, but can it ever yield positive results? Thomas Jefferson, for one, believed that a truly free government must be founded in jealousy to protect it and help it thrive. Dr. Hupka notes that normal jealousy is a sign that one partner cares about the other and values the relationship. In short, when jealousy is kept in the bounds of normal behavior it can be a good thing. The minute someone’s pet bunny is threatened, however, take it as a sign that the green-eyed monster has gone too far.
If you’re a human who interacts with other humans, the odds are good that you know what it feels like to be jealous.
Jealousy is an angry, agitated, anxious state in which we feel threatened. It can occur when we worry that we are inferior (by comparing ourselves to others, for instance) or when we fear that we will lose someone or something we value, such as a partner.12 Jealousy can crop up in all types of relationships, including between siblings, friends, coworkers, and romantic partners.3 It can be similar to envy, which stems from resenting others who have something you desire but don’t currently have, but ultimately, it has a different cocktail of symptoms.
Psychologists believe jealousy may have evolved as a mechanism to motivate us to maintain the relationships that contribute to our lives and, by extension, our very survival.4 Small doses of jealousy can also clue us in to how much we value and appreciate the people in our lives.5 But while jealousy may be motivated by a positive outcome – like sustaining a valued relationship – it can very easily lead to negative consequences. Thanks to technological connectivity, it’s easier than ever to come up with reasons to feel jealous these days.6
The good news is that you don’t have to be a magician to cope with jealousy. Instead, you can free yourself from the green-eyed monster’s grasp with simple, do-anywhere techniques. Here’s how to recognize when jealousy has reared its ugly head – and how to deal with it before it harms your health and relationships.
This Is Your Body on Jealousy
Jealousy often manifests as feelings of anger, agitation, or intense worry. Jealous feelings activate several regions of the brain. One is the same region involved in processing physical pain; another also handles emotions such as shame.78 These emotional and physiological reactions can cause a jealous person to become oversensitive, possessive, or excessively vigilant.
Jealousy can also trigger the body’s stress response, leading to spikes in heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone; it can also lead to sleeping problems or a poor appetite.9 In this way, jealousy’s effects are similar to those of chronic anxiety; it can even provoke depression.10 When left unchecked, these jealous feelings can also turn into jealous behaviors, such as leveling accusations, moping, seeking reassurance, and lashing out.11
Just as jealousy can have negative consequences on your personal wellbeing, it can also harm your relationships. Jealous behaviors can cause anyone, including siblings, coworkers, and friends, to distance themselves from the person acting out of jealousy. For example, partners accused of wrongdoing may feel hurt, anxious, frustrated, or exhausted from having to defend themselves.12
Often, it’s not the person we’re jealous of that creates trouble in our relationships – our own jealousy leads to inner pain, relationship conflicts, misunderstandings, and, in the worst cases, permanent rifts.13
How to Cope with Jealousy
We’ve established what jealousy is and how it can affect your body, mind, health, and relationships. We’ve also recognized that when left to its own devices, jealousy can be a toxic emotion that harms you and destroys intimate relationships.
Now for the good news – while jealousy may feel overwhelming, you are never at its mercy. It’s possible to identify and cope with jealousy in healthy ways that leave your body, mind, and relationships intact. Here’s how to identify and manage jealousy.
Allow yourself to feel jealous
Denial never helped anyone work through emotional challenges. Give yourself time to really feel whatever you’re feeling without acting on it.14 When feelings of jealousy arise, excuse yourself to a quiet room or a peaceful setting outdoors. Breathe deeply and notice the emotions and tensions arising in your body. Allow yourself to feel jealousy without doing anything about it, and you’ll likely notice the feeling starting to dissipate.
Examine what you hope to gain from your jealousy
Once you realize that you feel jealous and allow yourself to feel that way for a bit, it’s time to start working with that emotion to respond to it in a constructive way. A good place to start is by asking yourself, “What is my jealousy attempting to accomplish?”15
For example, perhaps your jealousy is a projection of guilt for having flirted with someone other than your partner, or maybe your jealousy is alerting you to the fact that you don’t really trust your partner to be faithful and you need to have a conversation with them. It may be signaling an emotional need that’s not being met, for instance, needing more quality time with your friend. Perhaps it’s just showing you how deeply you care about a given relationship and that it’s time you expressed your feelings to the person involved.
After you identify what you hope to gain from your jealousy, take a moment to recognize what that tells you about yourself.16 Maybe your jealousy is teaching you that you want to be in a monogamous relationship or that you value honesty and sincerity in relationships with your coworkers. In any case, jealousy can teach you a lot about your values, wants, and needs.17 Once you’ve observed these factors, write down a game plan to address those needs in a constructive way, with no lashing out allowed.
Identify and challenge the inner critic
As mentioned, jealousy often comes with feelings of shame, inferiority, or low self-worth. For this reason, when you feel jealous, you may find that the “inner critic” inside your head becomes particularly active.18 Perhaps it’s telling you that your friend likes all your other friends better than you or that no one could ever love you enough to be faithful to you.
It’s important to notice this voice because that’s the only way to combat it. Once you identify the negative thoughts running through your head, you can choose to counteract them by telling yourself that you are worthy of love, that your friends really do care for you, and so on. Remind yourself that just because you can imagine a horrible scenario, that doesn’t mean it’s actually true.19
Often, the inner critic can cause us more emotional pain than whatever sparked the inner critic’s opinions in the first place. By recognizing and talking back to this voice, you can start to reprogram your mental state toward more positive perceptions of yourself and the situation.
Because jealousy often leads to feelings of shame, it’s all too easy to keep these feelings to yourself. But one of the best ways to handle jealous thoughts is to share them openly and honestly with the relevant party.20 Just make sure you do it without getting upset or making accusations, and frame it as something you’d like some help working through as opposed to something that someone has done to you. If you don’t feel comfortable communicating directly with the person at the center of your jealousy, consider talking through your feelings with a therapist or trusted friend.
When you feel insecure or less-than, it’s easy to lash out at loved ones. But the real antidote to the shame, anxiety, and anger that arises from jealousy isn’t more shame, anxiety, and anger; it’s compassion – and that begins with yourself.
Whenever jealousy arises, take that as your cue to dial up the self-care.21 Take a bubble bath, write down a list of your positive traits, practice meditation or yoga, go for a long walk in the woods, or do anything else that helps you feel good.22 Make sure to make a point of talking back to any thoughts that compare you to others; comparison is a surefire happiness killer. Shifting your focus away from jealousy and toward positive, loving actions can help you feel positive and loving.
If you’ve tried all of the strategies on this list and nothing seems to help or if jealousy regularly affects your health and relationships, it may be time to seek professional assistance.23
A therapist can help you process past experiences that may underlie your jealousy, help you better understand your attachment style, and provide you with additional tools to feel more secure in close relationships.
Jealousy is a human emotion. There’s no shame in feeling jealous, but there is an art to coping with jealousy in a healthy way. Human relationships are inherently messy and uncertain. Sometimes your worst fears may be nothing but fiction; sometimes they may come true. You can’t control what other people do or how they treat you, but you can manage your own emotions so you treat others with integrity, honesty, and respect. And who wouldn’t want to maintain a relationship based on that?
By Angela Haupt for U.S. News Health
The deepest wounds feel like they’ll last a lifetime: The absent mother who robbed you of the mother-daughter bond you craved and deserved. The eighth-grade bully who turned the classroom into a living nightmare. The boyfriend who broke his promises and chose her instead.
You feel bitter. You still hold a grudge. But clinging to those betrayals and disappointments, that hurt, is bad for the body and mind. “It’s inevitable that we’ll all be hurt by others, and that it will happen often,” says clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, who’s based in Pasadena, Calif. “People have accidents, make mistakes, behave selfishly and even intentionally try to hurt one another. We can’t escape it. Forgiveness is a vulnerable act that can feel like it opens us up to more pain. But we need to have a way to process and let go of the effects of injury, or we risk serious physical and emotional consequences.”
Indeed, experts say that forgiving those who have wronged us helps lower blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate. One study found that forgiveness is associated with improved sleep quality, which has a strong effect on health. And Duke University researchers report a strong correlation between forgiveness and strengthened immunity among HIV-positive patients. The benefits aren’t just limited to the physical, either: Letting go of old grudges reduces levels of depression, anxiety and anger. People who forgive tend to have better relationships, feel happier and more optimistic and overall, enjoy better psychological well-being.
Anecdotes support the research. Psychologist Robert Enright, author of The Forgiving Life, has taught forgiveness in a variety of settings, and next year he’ll do so in Liberia in the wake of a 14-year civil war. “Every human being on the planet has been injured by another’s injustice, and how we respond to that can make all the difference,” he says. Dwelling on negative emotions makes it more likely to displace pent-up anger, lashing out on a friend or family member. “Forgiveness helps quiet anger so it doesn’t spill over onto innocent others,” Enright says.
If you’re bent on holding grudges, you may become so wrapped up in past wrongs that you can’t enjoy the present. You may feel helpless, or like life is meaningless. You could jeopardize future relationships. “If you don’t get past some of the wounds of the past, you tend to bring them into everything else you pursue,” says psychotherapist Frank Luskin, director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project and author of Forgive for Good. He’s spent more than 20 years studying forgiveness. “If you’ve been dumped or treated badly, and you don’t really heal, you’re going to be less trusting, more defensive, and more quarrelsome with the next guy — or even the next five — because you still carry visceral pain. When we can’t move past that, we stay a prisoner of our worst experiences.” And feeling that way, constantly on edge, resentful, and maybe even frightened, certainly isn’t healthy.
Still, no one ever said forgiveness was easy. It’s a difficult process, Enright says, one that “takes serious hard work over months” or even a year. The first step is understanding what forgiveness is: a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge, and perhaps even reaching a place of understanding, empathy and compassion. It’s not reconciling. And it’s not forgetting — in fact, “it’s important to remember what hurt you so you can avoid it in the future,” Howes says. Forgiveness also doesn’t justify or excuse what the other person did. Rather, it helps achieve a sense of peace.
There’s no single manual for forgiveness, though several experts tout their own methods. Howes suggests focusing on four elements:
When you feel upset, try a stress-management technique, like deep breaths or a yoga session, adds Luskin.
No matter how you go about it, choosing to forgive will likely prove a worthwhile endeavor. About a decade ago, Luskin did a research project with a group of mothers whose sons had been murdered in northern Ireland. One woman had been searching for her son’s body since 1987. Luskin spent a week teaching the women how to forgive the person who had murdered their child. A year later, he reunited with the entire group. “The daughter of one of the women came up and hugged us, and thanked us for giving her her mother back,” Luskin says. “The mother had been so consumed with anger that she was never able to be there for her other children. But she finally learned to forgive, and her daughter said, ‘We have a mother again.’”
By Lecia Bushak
Research has shown time and time again that our minds and bodies are linked: stress and depression can breed fatigue, while a positive outlook on life can provide us with an increased amount of energy. Willpower and determination can make us run faster and longer.
A new study expounds upon the link between mind and body; it shows that holding a grudge may not weigh only on your mind but also upon your physical person. Published in Social Psychological & Personality Science, the research states that the act of forgiveness — pardoning someone who has done you wrong — can not only metaphorically lift a burden off your shoulders, but it can do so physically, as well.
The authors of the study, from Erasmus University’s Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands, had 46 undergraduate students participate in two experiments. The first involved half of the students writing about “a time when they were seriously offended by another person, and ultimately forgave them.” The other half of students were asked to write about a similar incident, but one in which they never forgave the person and continued to view them negatively.
After each writing exercise, the students in both groups walked to a certain point in a nearby hill and were asked to estimate its slant. Interestingly, those who had written about their experience of forgiving someone estimated the hill to be less steep than those who were still thinking about their negative feelings towards someone they hadn’t forgiven.
WEIGHED DOWN BY GRUDGESIn the second experiment, 160 undergraduate students from Erasmus University and National University of Singapore were divided into three groups. The first wrote about an experience in which they were harmed by another person but forgave them; the second wrote about a similar situation but one in which they didn’t forgive the person; and the third wrote about a “recent interpersonal interaction” that didn’t necessarily involve harming or forgiveness. They were then tested in an “ostensible physical fitness task,” in which they were measured by the height of their jumps. The researchers found that the students who had written about forgiveness jumped higher on average than those who focused on the negative feelings involved with not forgiving someone. However, the jumping difference between those who forgave and those who simply wrote about a neutral interpersonal interaction was minimal: proving that it was the act of holding a grudge that was “weighing” people down.
“The benefits of forgiveness may go beyond the constructive consequences that have been established in the psychological and health domains,” the researchers write. “Our research shows that forgivers perceive a less daunting world, and perform better on challenging physical tasks.”
More research will need to be completed before researchers fully understand what causes lack of forgiveness to be a burden of sorts, or a limitation holding someone back. But it might have something to do with power, the authors point out: “Victims who are unable to reconcile with their offenders often feel a sense of powerlessness,” they write. Forgiving, on the other hand, provides a person with a greater sense of self-worth and power, which is often manifested into enhanced physical ability. Another possibility is that holding a grudge “can increase rumination, which may decrease the availability of cognitive resources such as glucose that can otherwise be used to cope with physical challenges such as jumping or climbing a hill.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, forgiveness brings with it plenty of health benefits, including improved relationships, decreased anxiety and stress, lower blood pressure, a lowered risk of depression, and stronger immune and heart health. Letting go of negative emotions can often have a remarkable impact on the body.
“A state of unforgiveness is like carrying a heavy burden — a burden that victims bring with them when they navigate the physical world,” the authors write. “Forgiveness can lighten this burden.”
Source: Zheng X, Fehr R, Tai K, Narayanan J, Gelfand M. “The Unburdening Effects of Forgiveness Effects on Slant Perception and Jumping Height.” Social Psychological & Personality Science, 2014.
By Everett L. Worthington Jr. | September 1, 2004 Everett L. Worthington, Jr. has dedicated his career to the study of forgiveness. He has found that it carries tremendous health and social benefits—and he's taken his research to heart.
When Chris Carrier was 10 years old, he was abducted near his Florida home, taken into the swamps, stabbed repeatedly in the chest and abdomen with an ice pick, and then shot through the temple with a handgun. Remarkably, hours after being shot, he awoke with a headache, unable to see out of one eye. He stumbled to the highway and stopped a car, which took him to the hospital.
Years later, a police officer told Chris that the man suspected of his abduction lay close to death. “Confront him,” suggested the officer. Chris did more than that. He comforted his attacker during the man’s final weeks of life and ultimately forgave him, bringing peace to them both.
Leigh WellsChris Carrier’s act of forgiveness might seem unfathomable to some, an act of extreme charity or even foolishness. Indeed, our culture seems to perceive forgiveness as a sign of weakness, submission, or both. Often we find it easier to stigmatize or denigrate our enemies than to empathize with or forgive them. And in a society as competitive as ours, people may hesitate to forgive because they don’t want to relinquish the upper hand in a relationship. “It is much more agreeable to offend and later ask forgiveness than to be offended and grant forgiveness,” said the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. I think many people today are inclined to agree with him.
Surely now is a time when the world could use some more forgiveness. Americans resent the Muslim world for September 11. Iraqis and much of the Middle East feel humiliated by the United States. Diplomats in the United Nations bicker and insult each other, igniting or reigniting national rivalries. Still, many people hesitate to ask for or grant forgiveness when they feel they have nothing to gain in return.
But a new line of research suggests something different. This research has shown that Chris Carrier’s story isn’t an anomaly. Forgiveness isn’t just practiced by saints or martyrs, nor does it benefit only its recipients. Instead, studies are finding connections between forgiveness and physical, mental, and spiritual health and evidence that it plays a key role in the health of families, communities, and nations. Though this research is still young, it has already produced some exciting findings—and raised some important questions.
Forgiveness and Health
Perhaps the most basic question to address first is, What is forgiveness? Though most people probably feel they know what forgiveness means, researchers differ about what actually constitutes forgiveness. I’ve come to believe that how we define forgiveness usually depends on context. In cases where we hope to forgive a person with whom we do not want a continuing relationship, we usually define forgiveness as reducing or eliminating resentment and motivations toward revenge. My colleagues Michael McCullough, Kenneth Rachal, and I have defined forgiveness in close relationships to include more than merely getting rid of the negative. The forgiving person becomes less motivated to retaliate against someone who offended him or her and less motivated to remain estranged from that person. Instead, he or she becomes more motivated by feelings of goodwill, despite the offender’s hurtful actions. In a close relationship, we hope, forgiveness will not only move us past negative emotions, but move us toward a net positive feeling. It doesn’t mean forgetting or pardoning an offense.
Unforgiveness, by contrast, seems to be a negative emotional state where an offended person maintains feelings of resentment, hostility, anger, and hatred toward the person who offended him. I began with Chris Carrier’s story because it is such a clear example of forgiveness. Although he never forgot or condoned what his attacker did to him, he did replace his negative emotions and desire for retribution with feelings of care and compassion and a drive toward conciliation.
People can deal with injustices in many ways. They don’t have to decide to forgive, and they don’t necessarily need to change their emotions. But if they don’t change their response in some way, unforgiveness can take its toll on physical, mental, relational, and even spiritual health. By contrast, new research suggests that forgiveness can benefit people’s health.
In one study, Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet, a psychologist at Hope College, asked people to think about someone who had hurt, mistreated, or offended them. While they thought about this person and his or her past offense, she monitored their blood pressure, heart rate, facial muscle tension, and sweat gland activity. To ruminate on an old transgression is to practice unforgiveness. Sure enough, in Witvliet’s research, when people recalled a grudge, their physical arousal soared. Their blood pressure and heart rate increased, and they sweated more. Ruminating about their grudges was stressful, and subjects found the rumination unpleasant. It made them feel angry, sad, anxious, and less in control. Witvliet also asked her subjects to try to empathize with their offenders or imagine forgiving them. When they practiced forgiveness, their physical arousal coasted downward. They showed no more of a stress reaction than normal wakefulness produces.
In my own lab, we wanted to determine whether people’s stress levels are related to their ability to forgive a romantic partner. We measured levels of cortisol in the saliva of 39 people who rated their relationship as either terrific or terrible. Cortisol is a hormone that metabolizes fat for quick response to stress (and after the stress ends, deposits the fat back where it is easily accessible—around the waist). People with poor (or recently failed) relationships tended to have higher baseline levels of cortisol, and they also scored worse on a test that measures their general willingness to forgive. When they were asked to think about their relationship, they had more cortisol reactivity—that is, their stress hormone jumped. Those jumps in stress were highly correlated with their unforgiving attitudes toward their partner. People with very happy relationships were not without stresses and strains between them. But forgiving their partner’s faults seemed to keep their physical stress in the normal range.
The physical benefits of forgiveness seem to increase with age, according to a recent study led byLoren Toussaint, a psychologist at Luther College, in Iowa. Toussaint—along with David Williams, Marc Musick, and Susan Everson—conducted a national survey of nearly 1,500 Americans, asking the degree to which each person practiced and experienced forgiveness (of others, of self, and even if they thought they had experienced forgiveness by God). Participants also reported on their physical and mental health. Toussaint and his colleagues found that older and middle-aged people forgave others more often than did young adults and also felt more forgiven by God. What’s more, they found a significant relationship between forgiving others and positive health among middle-aged and older Americans. People over 45 years of age who had forgiven others reported greater satisfaction with their lives and were less likely to report symptoms of psychological distress, such as feelings of nervousness, restlessness, and sadness.
Why might that relationship between unforgiveness and negative health symptoms exist? Consider that hostility is a central part of unforgiveness. Hostility also has been found to be the part of type A behavior that seems to have the most pernicious health effects, such as a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease. Forsaking a grudge may also free a person from hostility and all its unhealthy consequences.
It probably isn’t just hostility and stress that link unforgiveness and poor health. According to a recent review of the literature on forgiveness and health that my colleague Michael Scherer and I recently published, unforgiveness might compromise the immune system at many levels. For instance, our review suggests that unforgiveness might throw off the production of important hormones and even disrupt the way our cells fight off infections, bacteria, and other physical insults, such as mild periodontal disease.
Forgiveness and Relationships
Forgiveness has proved beneficial to a range of relationships, whether it’s a family, romantic, or professional relationship. Forgiveness within close relationships is not harder or easier than forgiving absent individuals, such as strangers who rob or assault us or people who have moved away or died since hurting us. In ongoing relationships, forgiveness is simply different. A present partner can make things better or worse. An absent person can’t be confronted, but also can’t reject a confrontation or compound harms with new hurts.
Johan Karremans and Paul Van Lange, in the Netherlands, and Caryl Rusbult, at the University of North Carolina, have, in collaboration and separately, investigated forgiveness in close relationships. People are usually more willing to forgive if they sense trust and a willingness to sacrifice from their partner. The authors predicted that forgiving would be associated with greater well-being, especially in relationships of strong rather than weak commitment. They figured that people in highly committed relationships have more to lose if the relationship fails and so would be willing to make certain sacrifices. They used several methods, such as having people fill out questionnaires, recall past relationships, and assess their present relationships. What they found was that if people were unwilling to sacrifice at times—if they wanted to exact revenge rather than practice forgiveness—they often suffered conflict, negative emotions, and poor abilities to compromise when inevitable differences arose.
The researchers also found that the relationship between forgiveness and well-being in marriages was stronger than in other relationships. Their findings suggest that the more we invest in a relationship, the more we need a repertoire of good strategies to guide it through troubled times—and the more these strategies will prove satisfying and rewarding. Forgiveness is one of those strategies.
Colleagues and I developed a scale to measure forgiveness between people. We asked people to remember a specific offense in which someone harmed them, and then asked about their motives for revenge and for avoiding the perpetrator. People who showed high motivations for revenge and avoidance had lower relationship satisfaction. People who tended to forgive reported greater relationship quality and also greater commitment to relationships.
Frank Fincham and Julie Hall, at the University of Buffalo, and Steven Beach, at the University of Georgia, recently reviewed 17 empirical studies on forgiveness in relationships. By their analysis, the studies suggest that when partners hurt each other, there is often a shift in their goals for their relationship. They might have previously professed undying love and worked hard to cooperate with their partner, but if this partner betrays them, suddenly they become more competitive. They focus on getting even and keeping score instead of enjoying each other. They concentrate on not losing arguments rather than on compromise. They use past transgressions to remind the partner of his or her failings. Forgiveness, assert Fincham and his colleagues, can help restore more benevolent and cooperative goals to relationships.
These findings suggest that forgiveness has benefits such as high self-esteem, better moods, and happier relationships. But skeptical scientists will be quick to ask, “Couldn’t it simply be that when people feel good about themselves, feel happy, and feel satisfied with their relationships, they’ll forgive almost anything? Could it be that happiness drives forgiveness, not the other way around?” Sometimes that might well be the case. But one way to test this idea is to see whether people—cheerful, sad, and everywhere in between—could learn to become more forgiving and, if they do, how that might affect their mental and physical health. This would imply that forgiveness could be possible for almost anyone, not just the perpetually happy and well-adjusted.
Interventions have been designed for partners seeking to make their marriages better, for parents, victims of incest, men offended because their partner aborted a pregnancy, people in recovery for drug and alcohol problems, divorced partners, and love-deprived adolescents.
Through all these interventions, no one has yet found a silver bullet that helps people forgive instantly. But evidence so far suggests that people of various backgrounds and temperaments can learn to forgive. For instance, Robert Enright has developed a specific 20-step intervention that he has tested rigorously, with encouraging results. In one study, men who reported being hurt by their partner’s decision to have an abortion went through 12 90-minute weekly sessions designed to help them forgive. These men showed a significant increase in their levels of forgiveness and significant reductions in their levels of anxiety, anger, and grief when compared with a control group. Enright has reported similar results with other populations, including victims of incest.
Not everyone responds equally to these interventions, and a lot of work still must be done to determine exactly what makes forgiveness interventions most effective. British researchers Peter Woodruff and Tom Farrow are doing some of this important work. Their research suggests that the areas in the brain associated with forgiveness are often deep in the emotional centers, in the region known as the limbic system, rather than in the areas of the cortex usually associated with reasoned judgments. In one study, they asked people to judge the fairness of a transgression and then consider whether to forgive it or empathize with the transgressor. Ten individuals evaluated several social scenarios while the researchers recorded images of their brain activity. Whether people empathized or forgave, similar areas in the emotion centers of the brain lit up. When those same people thought about the fairness of the same transgression, though, the emotion centers stopped being as active. This could be a clue for interventionists. To help people forgive, help them steer clear of dwelling on how fair a transgression was or how just a solution might be. Instead, get people to see things from the other person’s perspective.
There are other clues for encouraging forgiveness. Charlotte Witvliet, Nathaniel Wade, Jack Berry, and I have conducted a set of three studies that show that when people feel positive emotions toward transgressors—such as when they receive apologies or restitution for offenses—they experience changes in physiology, including lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and sweat activity as well as lowered tension in the frown muscles of the face. When they experience positive emotions toward transgressors, they are also more likely to forgive them. Sincere apologies helped people forgive and calm down. Getting fair restitution on top of an apology magnified the effect. Insincere or incomplete apologies actually riled people up more.
It’s important to stress again that forgiveness usually takes time. In fact, in a meta-analysis of all research that measured the impact of forgiveness interventions, Nathaniel Wade and I found that a factor as simple as the amount of time someone spent trying to forgive was highly related to the actual degree of forgiveness experienced.
So, the question I posed at the beginning of this section—does forgiveness drive happiness or vice versa?—seems at least in part answerable by saying that forgiveness is not necessarily something that just comes naturally to people with high self-esteem and stable relationships. Instead, it is something all different kinds of people can learn. With the right kind of practice, its benefits can be available to most of us.
Teaching people to forgive raises some important questions. Are some offenses so heinous that they ought never to be forgiven? Are there times when justice should trump forgiveness? Justice and forgiveness do clash at times. I do not advocate forgiving under all circumstances (unless a person’s religion dictates it). But I know that a sincere apology, restitution, or a punishment imposed by the proper authorities can often make it easier for victims to grant forgiveness. The big transgressions are not necessarily “unforgivable” because they are big. Instead, big transgressions are often the ones that, if they are ever to be surmounted, must be forgiven.
What We Don’t Know
While we have learned a lot over the past few years, we also realize that our knowledge fills only a teacup when there is a giant swimming pool of unknowns awaiting discovery.
We know little about how children forgive or how they can learn to forgive. We know that not everyone responds equally to the interventions to promote forgiveness. Who does and doesn’t benefit by different forgiveness interventions? How long should interventions last?
We still need to discover how forgiveness can be better promoted in society at large. How can schools, parents, and sports coaches work together in communities to foster cooperation and forgiveness instead of violence? Given the role of forgiveness in religious traditions, should youth programs be created to promote forgiveness at churches, mosques, or synagogues? Can the media serve as a tool for effective education, or can forgiveness education work as an adjunct to therapy by mental health professionals?
Conflicts and transgressions seem inevitable as humans rub against each other. The sharp corners of our personalities irritate and scuff against those with whom we interact on a daily basis. But if the new science of forgiveness has proved anything, it’s that these offenses don’t need to condemn us to a life of hurt and aggravation. For years, political and religious figures, such as Nelson Mandela andArchbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa, have demonstrated the beauty and effectiveness of forgiveness in action. Through a harmony of research and practice, I trust that we can continue to foster forgiveness—and continue to study the effects scientifically—to bring health to individuals, relationships, and societies as a whole.
Conflict doesn’t just weigh down the spirit; it can lead to physical health issues. But these steps from a Johns Hopkins expert can help you move toward forgiveness—and better health.
Whether it’s a simple spat with your spouse or long-held resentment toward a family member or friend, unresolved conflict can go deeper than you may realize—it may be affecting your physical health. The good news: Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. And research points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you age.
“There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.
Can You Learn to Be More Forgiving?Forgiveness is not just about saying the words. “It is an active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether the person deserves it or not,” Swartz says. As you release the anger, resentment and hostility, you begin to feel empathy, compassion and sometimes even affection for the person who wronged you.
Studies have found that some people are just naturally more forgiving. Consequently, they tend to be more satisfied with their lives and to have less depression, anxiety, stress, anger and hostility. People who hang on to grudges, however, are more likely to experience severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other health conditions. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t train themselves to act in healthier ways. In fact, 62 percent of American adults say they need more forgiveness in their personal lives, according to a survey by the nonprofit Fetzer Institute.
Making Forgiveness Part of Your Life
Forgiveness is a choice, Swartz says. “You are choosing to offer compassion and empathy to the person who wronged you.” The following steps can help you develop a more forgiving attitude—and benefit from better emotional and physical health.
Reflect and remember.
That includes the events themselves, and also how you reacted, how you felt, and how the anger and hurt have affected you since.
Empathize with the other person.
For instance, if your spouse grew up in an alcoholic family, then anger when you have too many glasses of wine might be more understandable, says Swartz.
Simply forgiving someone because you think you have no other alternative or because you think your religion requires it may be enough to bring some healing. But one study found that people whose forgiveness came in part from understanding that no one is perfect were able to resume a normal relationship with the other person, even if that person never apologized. Those who only forgave in an effort to salvage the relationship wound up with a worse relationship.
Let go of expectations.
An apology may not change your relationship with the other person or elicit an apology from her. If you don’t expect either, you won’t be disappointed.
Decide to forgive.
Once you make that choice, seal it with an action. If you don’t feel you can talk to the person who wronged you, write about your forgiveness in a journal or even talk about it to someone else in your life whom you trust.
The act of forgiving includes forgiving yourself. For instance, if your spouse had an affair, recognize that the affair is not a reflection of your worth, says Swartz.
When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge — or embrace forgiveness and move forward.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another. Perhaps your mother criticized your parenting skills, your colleague sabotaged a project or your partner had an affair. These wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness or even vengeance.
But if you don't practice forgiveness, you might be the one who pays most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy. Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
What is forgiveness?Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, more positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.
Forgiveness doesn't mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn't minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.
What are the benefits of forgiving someone?Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:
What are the effects of holding a grudge?If you're unforgiving, you might:
What happens if I can't forgive someone?Forgiveness can be challenging, especially if the person who's hurt you doesn't admit wrong or doesn't speak of his or her sorrow. If you find yourself stuck:
Reconciliation might be impossible if the offender has died or is unwilling to communicate with you. In other cases, reconciliation might not be appropriate. Still, forgiveness is possible — even if reconciliation isn't.
What if I have to interact with the person who hurt me but I don't want to?If you haven't reached a state of forgiveness, being near the person who hurt you might prompt you to be tense and stressful. To handle these situations:
What if I'm the one who needs forgiveness?The first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you've done and how those wrongs have affected others. At the same time, avoid judging yourself too harshly. You're human, and you'll make mistakes.
If you're truly sorry for something you've said or done, consider admitting it to those you've harmed. Speak of your sincere sorrow or regret, and specifically ask for forgiveness — without making excuses.
Remember, however, you can't force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever the outcome, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.
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