The Psychology of Forgiving and Forgetting

#truelove #allowing #dating

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
The Psychology of Forgiving and Forgetting
Nicholas Kristoff’s latest New York Times column was sad and moving. It was a tribute to Marina Keegan, an honors student and recent graduate of Yale University who turned her back on a lucrative Wall Street career — and eloquently urged other college graduates to do the same. In an essay that was viewed a million times online, she bemoaned the squandering of young talent for the mindless accumulation of wealth. Days after her graduation, she died in a car crash. Her boyfriend, the driver, fell asleep at the wheel.

Such losses are always tragic, and far too common, but that’s not what got my attention. I was stopped by this sentence: “After the crash, Marina’s parents immediately forgave and comforted her boyfriend, who faced criminal charges in her death.” Really, wow. I am a parent, and I cannot imagine a worse nightmare than losing one of my children. I honestly don’t know if I would be capable of such graciousness. Would I be able, in such awful circumstances, to overcome all my negative emotion and haunting thoughts, even vengeful impulses, and be magnanimous of spirit?

Psychological scientists have been puzzling over these questions as well. Forgiving and forgetting are tightly entwined in human culture, but it’s only in the past decade or so that researchers have begun to systematically disentangle the two. Why is it that some of us find it easier to forgive and forget than others? Does forgiving help us to put aside disturbing thoughts — to forget — or does forgetting empower us to forgive? Or both?

A team of psychological scientists at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, have been exploring these intertwined ideas. Saima Noreen suspected that the link between forgiving and forgetting might be the mind’s executive control system, specifically the ability to keep upsetting memories out of consciousness. Here’s how she and colleagues Malcolm MacLeod and Raynette Bierman tested this connection in the laboratory.

They recruited volunteers and measured their general tendency to forgive others’ transgressions. But they didn’t just take their word for it. They also created various scenarios depicting hypothetical wrongdoings — slander, infidelity, theft, and so forth. In some cases, the transgressor was a friend, other times a partner or parent or colleague. The scenarios always had consequences — and there was always an attempt at making amends. So for example, a scenario might go like this: Your professor doesn’t believe you when you say you didn’t plagiarize your work. You are expelled from the university, but later your professor realizes you were telling the truth and tries to get you reinstated. The volunteers reacted to each of these hypothetical scenarios in various ways: How serious was the offense? How hurtful? How sympathetic were you toward the transgressor? And finally — yes or no? — do you forgive or not?

Afterward, the volunteers all took part in a memory test, in which they actively tried to forget words associated with the incident. In some cases they had forgiven the transgressor involved in the incident, and in other cases not. The idea was to see if the act of forgiving increased the victims’ ability to put the misfortunes out of awareness.

And it did, clearly. When victims had forgiven their transgressor, they were much better at suppressing — intentionally forgetting — words linked to the transgressions. But when the victims had not found it in themselves to forgive, they were much less successful at suppressing the unwanted memories. What’s more, the ability to forget unpleasantness is linked to actual acts of forgiving, not just a propensity to be gracious. The scientists report their findings in an article to appear in the journal Psychological Science.

Marina Keegan’s parents may be a rarity. Not everyone has it in their heart to forgive so readily. But it’s possible, the scientists conclude, that forgiving and forgetting reinforce one another in the human mind. Even if forgiveness is effortful at first, people who manage it may be better at setting bitter thoughts aside, and this forgetting may in turn provide an effective coping strategy, enabling people to move on — and ultimately to forgive in their hearts.

Let This 8-Year-Old Boy With Autism Show You The Beauty Of The World Through His Ears
Tyler Doi isn’t your average 8-year-old — he has a special gift for sound.

Growing up, Tyler, who has autism, was passionate about stars and bird feeders, his dad says in the video above. A few years ago, he was driving with his grandparents looking for bird feeders but was having trouble finding them. That’s when they spotted a wind chime, and the rest is history.

The Doi family, from Toronto, reached out to Woodstock Chimes and drove eight hours to their headquarters in Shokan, N.Y., according to the Nexus blog.

While he was there, he impressed everyone by being able to identify the product exclusively by the sound.

To show off Tyler’s gift, he played a game called “Name-That-Chime Challenge” against Garry Kvistad, Grammy award-winning musician and founder of Woodstock Chimes. And boy did Tyler blow everyone away — he got every single chime correct.

“He knows more about my company than anyone does,” Kvistad said in the video.

To honor Tyler and to support others living with autism, the company decided to create “Woodstock Chimes for Autism,” and to donate 100 percent of the net profits from the sales of those chimes to research and treatment. The chimes feature colorful puzzle pieces to symbolize the many unanswered questions about autism.

“It’s really something for me that my son’s legacy will somehow live on because of that chime,” Tyler’s dad said in the video above.

h/t GodVine

Board Your Own Ship
To bring our lives closer to what we imagine they can become, let’s consider the origins of the word “discipline.” Discipline is derived from the word disciple, or “follower.” In our modern society, which places such a high value on individualism, this word has taken on some very negative connotations. When you think of a disciple, what image comes to mind? Do you think of a follower of another person’s vision or principles? Does the word evoke images of people blindly following the decrees of megalomaniacal leaders all the way to their own demise, such as the more than nine hundred people who followed the orders of Jim Jones and drank cyanide in Guyana, or those who followed David Koresh in Waco, Texas?

How about the word discipline itself? Does this word dredge up negative memories of teachers, parents or coaches who were constantly “disciplining” you when you were growing up? You may have been conditioned to think of discipline as something imposed on you from the outside. Like anything else that obstructs your freedom, you might perceive discipline as something you want to rebel against.

When you were a child, you may have had a teacher who didn’t care about you or have your best interests at heart. Your acts of rebellion may have actually been acts of conformity — to your higher vision for what you knew was possible for your life. Your survive-and-thrive instincts may have told you to disrupt a damaging power relationship in order to pursue your own agenda.

Alternatively, you may have been a “rebel without a cause.” You may have intuitively realized that you needed to destroy a power relationship that wasn’t working without considering what you wanted to replace it with, like a revolutionary who hasn’t yet learned how to govern.

To reconstruct your relationship with discipline, ask yourself this question: What if the teacher, head honcho, or boss-man were your higher self? Would you still want to rebel against discipline if the person imposing it were none other than the you that you know you can be?

Why is it important to understand your early encounters with discipline? Because you have rightfully taken issue with the form it has taken in your life. Yet when you blindly rebel against it, you deny yourself the considerable benefits of its function. Your rite of passage to moving forward in your own growth just may be to stop equating rebellion with progress. It may be to realize that your rebellious instinct when others try to control you and your willingness not to rebel against your higher values are both acts of aligning your life vision with your everyday actions.

Here’s the secret ingredient for becoming a fully formed human being: Replace the discipline others used to get you to do what they wanted you to do with your own discipline to get yourself to do what you want you to do. To achieve self-discipline, you do have to get with the program — your program! You have to walk the path that you yourself have laid.

Take this leap of the imagination. Feel the presence of two powerful forces within you. You are the visionary and also the “actionary.” The visionary develops a vision for what you want to accomplish in your life and how you will act toward others. The actionary takes these lofty ideals — this higher “code of ethics” — and transforms them into daily actions. While the visionary chooses how you want to live, the actionary lives by what you choose.

You are both the director writing your life scripts and the actor reading from them. You are the one making the decisions and the one acting them out. You are the one who makes commitments and the one called upon to deliver. In every single moment of your life in which you become the actionary and make your vision happen — especially the moments that test your resolve because you would rather be doing something else — you exercise discipline.

Let’s also consider the origins of the word “leadership.” “To lead” comes from “to guide” or “to travel.” You are the only one fit to guide your journey, to be the visionary or leader of yourself. You are the captain of your ship as it sets out to sea. Yet you are also the passenger on the dock searching for the right ship to board. Here’s the key question I urge you to answer: Will you choose yourself as your captain or will you board another ship?

No one else fully shares your vision for what you want to achieve in your life. Everyone else has another agenda. They, like you, have their own values that guide their lives. Some care about you immensely and truly desire for your happiness. Nonetheless, they have their own agenda. They have a unique vision for how they — and you — should go about this thing called life. Without discipline you are unable to follow your leader within, the designer of your own agenda. Instead, you give up on it and follow the agendas of others. You board another ship.

Make a commitment this week to come up with a few new strategies to align your everyday actions with your deepest values and life vision.

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