Forgiveness Therapy and Empathy in Cases of Sexual Abuse

Abstract

This paper explores my results from the questionnaires I selected from the University of Pennsylvania’s Authentic Happiness website developed by their Positive Psychology Center. Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania as well as the Director of the Positive Psychology Center. I will be sharing results from the CES-D questionnaire, Transgression Motivations questionnaire, and Compassionate Love scale as well as an analysis of how the measure of these topics contributes to the study and application of positive psychology.

Each set of results was accompanied by a graph. The graph compared my results against other results broken into subsections: Web users; Gender; Age group; Occupation group; Education level; And zip code, and only indicated where I scored as high as or higher than others within those subsections.

I found my results for the CES-D and Compassionate love to be mostly accurate though I was surprised by my results regarding the Transgression Motivations questionnaire particularly the Revenge Motivation results.

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subtitle The CES-D questionnaire (University of Pennsylvania-Positive Psychology Center, CES-D Questionnaire, Retrieved from https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/questionnaires/ces-d-questionnaire, 2019) measures symptoms of depression for comparison to the various happiness measures. The score range was 0 to 60. The 60 points divided into several ranges: 0 -9-Nondepressed; 10 to 15-Mildly depressed; 16 to 24-Moderately depressed; Scores above 24 -Severely depressed.

The questions for this survey were well-rounded though I found it surprising that they did not include a question asking whether the person had experienced a traumatic event with a gauge of when the possible event took place.

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This questionnaire measures depressive symptoms which could potentially be counteracted by methods of positive psychology. I would have liked the results of the CES-D questionnaire to be delivered with more detail. I found the CES-D results delivery in graph form to be restrictive. I would have like to see a summary of how the researchers came to the conclusions they did and a brief overview of what the results “meant” by the standard of their survey. I also would have liked to know how many submissions I was being compared against so that I could understand my results better. I found it peculiar that the severely depressed range was thought to be so vast (35 points), while the nondepressed range was a very small window of only 9 points.

The Transgression Motivations questionnaire  measures a persons relationship to forgiveness. These results are divided into two sections: Avoidance Motivation and Revenge Motivation. Delivery of results were broken down into graphs with the same subsections as CESD. As indicated on the results page, subsection Avoidance Motivation: “The mean score of American adults is around 12.6. If you scored 17.6 or more, you are in the most avoidant third, and if you scored 22.8 or more, you are in the most avoidant 10 percent.” The score range for Avoidance Motivation was 7-35. I scored 34. I can confirm the accuracy of this high score as I know I struggle with forgiveness and tend to sever ties permanently when I have been hurt to a degree that I fail to understand or feel that I cannot cope with. The 2nd section measures Revenge Motivation, with a score range of 5 to 25. As indicated on the results page: “If you scored around 7.7, you are average. If you scored 11 or above, you are in the most vengeful third, and above 13.2, you are in the most vengeful tenth. revenge motivation results indicated that I am considered to be in the most vengeful tenth. The score range for Revenge Motivation is 5 to 25. I scored 14. While this is on the lower end of the most vengeful tenth, I do not see myself as a vengeful person. I think the initial question may be too broad to capture an accurate result as it asks to assess your current thoughts or feelings about a person who has hurt.

The questions that I thought to be geared toward revenge; I usually selected neutral which I am certain contributed to my high score because I did not emphatically disagree. One of the questions states: “I wish that something bad would happen to him/her.” I do not wish something bad would happen to anyone, but I have worked very hard to distance myself from this person who has done irreparable damage to me, and therefore care much less what happens to him than I would an average person, because frankly it hurts too much to care. It might be beneficial to give examples of the kind of hurt they are trying to measure, or to specify the kind of relationship to the subject. While I am thinking of a parent, who sexually abused me, another subject might be thinking of a good friend who talked badly of them to their peer group or betrayed them in some other fashion.

Robert Enright authored an article entitled “Forgiveness Therapy and Empathy in Cases of Sexual Abuse” in which he shares elements of Forgiveness Therapy exploring the contribution of empathy within Forgiveness Therapy. Cultivating empathy “toward those who act unjustly”. Forgiveness therapy begins and ends with the assumption that the decision to forgive must come authentically form the client, starting with a period of acknowledging pain, anger, and sadness and never dismisses what happened to the client. “Forgiving does not alter reality. Sexual assault is wrong.” (Robert Enright Ph.D., 2017) He asks the question “Does Forgiveness Therapy work for sexual abuse?” In a report (Freedman and Enright, 1996) on “randomized experimental-and-control group study with adult women who were victims of incest. It took, on average about 14 months for each client to forgive. Even upon forgiving, their forgiveness rose from the expected very low level, not to a high level but to an average level of forgiving the one who abused.” This study also yielded palliative benefits of forgiveness such as levels of psychological depression, anxiety, and hope for the future. I found this article soothing in wake of my results. I have often equated forgiveness with permission or condoning the actions against me.

I am blessed with extreme empathy, even toward my father with consideration to how much he has lost as a result of his abhorrent actions. In the past it has been literally sickening to have true empathy when trying to understand his actions. Empathy is often defined as the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and truth be told, I would prefer not to put those shoes on at all, much less take a walk in them. Lastly, I was compelled to take the Compassionate Love Scale questionnaire  which measures the subjects “tendency to support, help and understand other people, especially when you see them to be suffering or in need.” The score range is 1 to 7. The results page for the Compassionate Love Scale questionnaire states the following ranges. If you scored: 6-7 you are extremely compassionate about other people, 5-6 you are highly compassionate about other people, 4-5 you are compassionate about other people, 3-4 you are somewhat compassionate about other people, 2-3 you are a bit compassionate about other people, 1-2 you are not compassionate about other people. My score was 5.52. I identify with being a highly compassionate person and I expected to be in the highest range.

One of the reasons my score may have been lower than I had expected could be that I have terrible social anxiety and have trouble reaching out, even when I really want to. Conclusions What did you learn about yourself and the topic of positive psychology from taking these questionnaires? Would you recommend any of the questionnaires to others? Each of the quizzes I took seemed to measure parts of the human experience that have significant potential to be improved through positive psychology or speaks to the validity of positive psychology as a science. I would recommend taking these questionnaires for anyone who is interested in self-reflection. Even if the results are not what you expect or believe to be true, I think any measurement of how we show up in the world helps us to become more certain of who we are, how we would like to improve and starts a conversation within us of how to heal the not-so-savory parts of our psyche.

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Forgiveness Therapy and Empathy in Cases of Sexual Abuse. (2021, Sep 08). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/forgiveness-therapy-and-empathy-in-cases-of-sexual-abuse-essay

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