ERP 123: Forgive For Love With Dr. Fred Luskin
GUEST: DR. FRED LUSKIN Dr. Luskin founded and currently serves as Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects. He is also Senior Consultant in Health Promotion/Wellness at the Stanford University Health Center and Department Chair in Clinical Psychology at Sofia University. At Stanford, Dr. Luskin teaches classes on Positive Psychology, The Art and Science of Meditation, Forgiveness, Wellness, Flourishing and The Psychology of Storytelling to undergraduate and graduate students. To many different organizations all over, Dr. Luskin conducts numerous workshops and trainings in relationship enhancement, stress management, emotional intelligence and positive psychology. Dr. Luskin is the author of the best-selling books “Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness” and “Forgive for Love: The Missing Ingredient for a Healthy and Happy Relationship.” (Please listen to the podcast episode or read the transcript to hear explanations, stories and examples.) EXCERPTS FROM DR. FRED LUSKIN WHAT IS FORGIVENESS? “Forgiveness is making peace with the word no.” Dr. Fred Luskin Forgiveness is the antidote to a hissy fit, when a desire is thwarted. Forgiveness is the process of resolving the upset and being back at peace. Forgiveness is an internal cognitive, affective, storytelling process. WHAT ABOUT UNFORGIVABLE ACTS? The number of ways that people are horrific to each other is pretty much endless. When it comes to one person’s experience, nobody wants anyone in their life harmed. It is unimaginably painful to sit in a group of people who have had family members killed. It is almost shocking to recognize how much this happens in this world. There is a level of compassion and understanding as an overlay. When you look at one person’s experience, whether it is someone cut me off in traffic or someone murdered my child, it is still the same basic problem that I couldn’t get what I wanted. This issue haunts human beings all the time. The question is not “Is that good or pleasant?” It was awful. The question is “How long does it take for our brain and soul to recover?” “If that is too big for you, which it might be, forgive everything else.” Don’t use that as an excuse not to forgive anything. Instead, say “this mountain is too big for me to climb, but I will climb another mountain.” Even though the thing that happened is mind boggling horrific, the truth is there are many, many people who have actually had that direct experience and moving ahead with successful lives. And there are people who have had worse experiences happen to them in other parts of the world. And we can’t allow all of these atrocities to form a foundation of “We are never going to get over this.” If we were too say, “Yes, this is too bad to let go of.” There would be no room left. We would simply weave a web of endless pain and hatred, which is not sustainable for a world. “Without forgiveness there is no future.” Desmond Tutu Without forgiving, we don’t have the same amount of future. We are still living in the past. FORGIVENESS IN RELATIONSHIP Imagine two people romantically interested in each other and they both have 12 pieces of luggage with them.They are both looking out behind their luggage. Between them and the 24 pieces of luggage they can barely see each other. That is the damage. If you hide behind your wounds. People can’t see you and you can’t see them. Not forgiving leads to bitterness. As an example, when working with someone who has experienced divorce, been left or cheated on, he will ask some questions of personal responsibility: What were you doing with that person? What were the signs that you ignored? How did you think even the simplest thing… if 50% of relationships end in divorce…and you live in a culture that doesn’t do relationship well, so how can you be that shocked when it happens to you? WHEN SOMEONE STUCK? In the case of modest, normal trauma, if someone is still very, angry 6 months after the experience happens that it a bad prognosticator. Anger is meant to be a short-term defense against both seeing your complicity or starting to work on your own reactivity. Proximity to the experience matters: If after 6 month, and someone is still angry, it is not very adaptive. If someone is angry 3 months after the incident, I tend to not challenge because that is normal grief. If someone is angry 18 months later, I tend to challenge that a lot. VULNERABILITY The whole issue of forgiveness is about vulnerability. We are all so frightened to admit how frighten we are. There is a deep vulnerability that we are all struggling to cope with. We are all vulnerable to so many things and we want to keep that awareness from our consciousness. One of the ways we keep that awareness from our consciousness is we ignore it. Secondly, we have all these cognitive distortions. Like inventing rules for other people or fantasies about how life is suppose to be because we do not want to face our lack of control and influence over things. What we do with this vulnerability is we react, as we should, with grief, outrage, and fear. But if we are not careful, we identify the whole problem in the person or event that hurt us rather than seeing that we are always vulnerable. The problem with forgiveness comes when we are unwilling to sit with our vulnerability and hold the specific pain of the experience. Instead, we spend all of our energy making whatever happened to us wrong. When the whole focus is projected outward, we can’t actually address the problem. The problem is to develop resilience and depth inside ourselves to handle how many times life will confront us with these type of issues. TWO CENTRAL MISTAKES In terms of relationships, human beings make two central mistakes. People forget to acknowledge that: When they commit to somebody, they are committing to their good point and their bad points. Every single human being is deeply flawed. ACCEPTANCE AND FORGIVENESS BEFOREHAND The deeper preparation in a long-term relationship is to see that “I am joining with a flawed, wounded, imperfect person.” That is the absolute bottom line in relationship. The other piece is “I am flawed, wounded, and imperfect, so I am not going to see them clearly.” A basic implicit compassion-forgiveness that starts at the beginning this is crucial in relationship. While it is hard, the challenge then becomes being gentle towards us both. Older couples understand the nature of their partner’s flaws implicitly and love them anyway. Marriage should provide training for us to grow as people who can love, with self-control, compassion, forgiveness, gentle and kindness. Marriage and relationship can be used as spiritual practice for us to grow in our own dealing with reactivity. PRACTICE: Can you believe that somebody can actually put up with you? How is that possible? Look at all the ways you are selfish, annoying, and disrespectful. Interesting…someone will willing to come home to you. A flip in orientation from self-absorbed, narcissism to seeing the relationship from a forgiving point of view. Forgiveness is a decision. Commitment is essential for a long-term relationship, and the commitment requires some degree of forgiveness. These show notes are comprised of excerpts from Dr. Fred Luskin’s interview. To learn more about forgiveness, see the resources below. Check out the Connected Couple program to develop happy, lasting love: For a limited time only, you can use this coupon code for a 20% discount: fall2017 MENTIONED: Forgive for Good, by Dr. Fred Luskin Forgive for Love, by Dr. Fred Luskin Youtube videos of Dr. Fred Luskin Robert Sternberg’s Triangular Theory Of Love (Wikipedia) ERP 026: How To Repair a Resolve Hurt In Relationship (podcast) TRANSCRIPT: Click on this link to access the transcript for this episode: ERP 123: Forgive For Love With Dr. Fred Luskin [Transcript] If you have a topic you would like me to discuss, please contact me by clicking on the “Ask Dr. Jessica Higgins” button here. Thank you so much for your interest in improving your relationship. Also, I would so appreciate your honest rating and review. Please leave a review by clicking here. Thank you! If you are interested in developing new skills to overcome relationship challenges, please consider taking the Empowered Relationship Course or doing relationship coaching work with me.