Apr 192005
Authors: Jennifer Johnson

Forgiving and forgetting may not be as easy as it sounds, but holding a grudge can cause negative effects and suffering mental health.

"I think that forgetting is not always possible because a negative experience becomes part of who we are," said Elizabeth Sutphin, staff counselor at the University Counseling Center. "Forgiving can be seen as closure or moving on, and I think there are several ways that a person can address this."

Sutphin said gaining closure and moving on are very positive for people's mental state because focusing on negative experiences can lead to lost sleep, stress, anxiety and depression.

Sutphin said there are a variety of ways an individual can achieve closure and let go of negative experiences.

"First, it is important to use one's support system in order to get feedback from your friends and talk to them about your situation," she said. "Second, one should increase self care, social activities and make sure they are getting enough sleep, nourishment and exercise, as these are healthy coping skills."

Sutphin said it is also important to express feelings toward the person and situation the grudge may be held against.

"Healthy relationships are vital for all of us," she said. "That's why I recommend asking yourself what you learned from the experience so that if something similar happens in the future, you might be able to handle it differently."

Learning good communication and conflict-resolution skills are other good ways to address the issue of forgiveness. Sutphin said talking to family, trusted friends or a counselor might help.

"Learning to trust people again can be a big hurdle after a bad situation," she said. "Taking friendships and relationships slowly can help, as well as being more selective about who you trust with information about yourself."

Mark Benn, a psychologist at the University Counseling Center, leads a relationships therapy group that focuses on helping people learn how to deal with their relationship struggles.

"We provide a laboratory in which people can give and receive direct, honest and constructive feedback relating to the ways they come across and impact others," he said.

The relationship therapy group offers people the chance to help resolve conflicts and interpersonal issues they may be dealing with in any type of relationship.

"We do this by helping people relate to other members of the group," Benn said. "We find that the ways in which people are 'outside the room' are not much different from the ways in which they relate 'inside the room.' Generally a person's personality follows them wherever they go."

Although it may be healthier to forgive rather than hold a grudge, Benn said this depends on a many variables.

"On the surface it would be more beneficial to let go of the anger in some way, which doesn't always mean to forgive," he said. "There are some situations that are somewhat 'unforgivable.'"

As a psychologist, Benn said there is a connection between holding a grudge and an individual's mental state.

"Much like stress or anger, holding a grudge will eventually take its toll on your body," he said.

Heather Hoyle, a sophomore business major, said she is more likely to forgive someone than hold a grudge.

"I was brought up and taught to forgive instead of holding things against others," she said.

Hoyle said forgiving someone is much more beneficial and will make people feel better than they would holding a problem in.

"The best way to forgive and forget would be to talk about the problem and come up with positive solutions," Hoyle said.

Benn said the expression "forgive and forget" is a ridiculous over-simplification and that this concept is more difficult than it seems.

"We like simple in our culture and we use these expressions often, and many times they are not useful and make us feel as if there is something wrong with us because we are unable to 'forgive and forget' or we believe things like 'that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger,'" he said. "If difficult things in life were that simple, there'd be no need for a psychologist."

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