A Forgiveness Intervention for Older Adults
The following pages are supplementary material for online publication
Adapted Core Components (Wade & Worthington, 2005) of the Forgiveness Intervention in Old AgeComponent / Content / Goal
1. Define forgiveness / Discuss similarities and differences with related words such as reconciliation or forgetting / To avoid confusion and further victimization
To clarify what forgiveness is (and what it is not)
2. Recall the hurt / Assist the participants in remembering the transgression within a supportive environment / To reduce the pain of the offense through catharsis
To clarify the transgression situation
3. Build empathy / Take the perspective of the offender, and experience what she/he feels / To decrease negative thoughts and feelings
To clarify the transgressors’ perspective
4. Acknowledge own offenses / Remember and recall events when the participants have been an offender him-/herself / To remember how it feels to desire and receive forgiveness from another
5. Commit to forgiveness / Encourage the participants to forgive and to stick on the forgiveness process / To keep forgiveness as a goal
6. Overcome unforgiveness / Learn strategies to cope with anger, avoidance, rumination – not necessarily promotion of forgiveness / To reduce negative feelings and cognitions such as anger, bitterness
Additional Components of the Forgiveness Intervention in Old AgeComponent / Content / Goal
1a. Recall forgiveness-relevant childhood memories / Remember forgiveness-relevant events in childhood, reflecting which reaction patterns have been learned, and compare them to actual forgiveness behavior / To know one’s own life story, to understand and clarify one’s own perspective and behavior
1b. Reanalysis of the transgression / Recall the transgression from an observer perspective and a protagonist perspective; separating facts from reactions / To understand and clarify one’s own perspective and behavior
2. Analysis of the role of emotions and one’s own emotional reactions / Identify and accept (negative) emotions, understanding individual emotion patterns / To understand and clarify one’s own emotions
Activities for the Two Sessions of the Forgiveness Intervention
Session 1Steps / Content/description / Intent/goal / Modality
1. / Introduction, ground rules for the group and overview of the intervention
2. / Discussion of inter- and intraindividual differences in reactions to interpersonal transgressions
- How do people react to a transgression?
- How do you typically (or in a specific situation) react to a transgression?
- To understand different reactions to interpersonal transgression and to clarify one’s own perspective and behavior
3. / Discussion of the role of childhood experiences with interpersonal transgressions and forgiveness
- How did your family (members) react in transgression situations?
- Did you ever see or hear that your mother or father said “sorry” to you or another person?
- Did you have to say “sorry” when you hurt someone or made a mistake?
- Were you forgiven then?
- Do you see parallels from what you experienced in childhood to your actual forgiveness behavior?
- Which strategies that you used in childhood were successful, which not?
- To understand one’s own past and actual behavior in and after interpersonal transgression
- To understand the role of interpersonal transgressions in one’s own life story
4. / Clarification of what forgiveness is and what it is not by comparing forgiveness with related concepts such as forgetting and reconciliation /
- To clarify what forgiveness is (and what it is not)
- To avoid confusion and further victimization due to misunderstanding of concepts
5. / Theoretical input about psychological models of forgiveness and forgiveness research
- Which model fits best to your behavior?
- Is it always the same model or is it situation-, person- or relation-specific?
- Which factors do have an influence on your forgiveness?
- To get to know possible factors that influence forgiveness, reasons and benefits to forgive
- To reflect one’s own forgiveness behavior
6. / Clarification of benefits and costs of forgiveness
- Which are the benefits of forgiving the transgressor?
- Which are the costs of forgiving the transgressor?
- To think about positive and negative consequences of forgiveness
- To think about benefits of forgiveness for well-being
7. / Acknowledgment of one’s own offenses (nobody is perfect)
- Did you offend or hurt someone and regret it?
- How did you feel?
- Did you wish to be forgiven?
- Can you describe the feeling of being forgiven (or not being forgiven)?
- To remember how it feels to wish and receive forgiveness from another person
Session 2Steps / Content/description / Intent/goal / Modality
1. / Introduction and overview of the second session
- How did you feel the last few days?
2. / Recall the hurt
- What exactly happened?
- Which emotions, thoughts and behavior did this transgression evoke/produce?
- How intense was the transgression when it happened (and how intense is it actually)?
- To clarify the transgression situation
- To reduce the pain of the offense through catharsis
3. / Perception and acceptance of emotions
- Which emotion(s) did you have regarding the transgression?
- Persons differ in their typical emotion patterns: Do you know and accept your typical emotion patterns?
- To understand and clarify one’s own emotions and emotional patterns
4. / Attribution patterns and typical reactions
- Exercise: Tell the other group members a story about a personal success and a personal failure. In the next step, think (and then tell) the reason of this successful and failed event. (Afterwards presentation of the different attribution patterns and their consequences).
- To enhance the understanding of the own attribution patterns and thoughts
5. / Broadening the view of the transgressor: Change of perspective and building empathy with a fictive transgression situation (according to Linden, Rotter, Baumann, & Lieberei, 2008)
- Please put yourself into the place of the hurt person:
- How would you feel?
- What would you think and do?
- To change the perspective and to build empathy for the transgressor
6. / Contextualism and long-term perspective of a transgression (according to Linden et al., 2008)
- What could be a typical approach to this transgression for a grandmother, a manager, or a psychologist?
- Imagine that in some years, the hurt person will write a biography. How will she/he describe the situation then?
- Painting a lifeline, for example with valleys, peaks and all the important events: do you count more positive or more negative events? Are there other transgressions that were intense when they occurred but are painless now?
- To reduce negative feelings and cognitions such as anger, bitterness by creating distance and thinking of different and even positive perspectives
7. / Encouraging a commitment to forgive the transgressor
- Remember the benefits of forgiveness. Imagine how you would feel.
- To keep forgiveness as a goal
8. / Integration and take-home-message