Reporter 437, 24 May 1999


"BREAKING THE ADDICTION TO ANGER"

Got a grudge? If you are a recovering substance abuser you can learn how to drop grudges through forgiveness therapy as part of a major new psychotherapy treatment project based in the psychology department at the University of Leeds. Anger and the desire for revenge can hinder a slighted addict's chances of maintaining their abstinence, and researchers believe releasing these negative emotions could help patients stay off the booze and enjoy more contented sobriety.

Dr. Ken Hart, Principal Investigator of the £110,000.00 "FATS" project (Forgiveness for Alcoholics Treatment Study) is part of a world-wide £4.6 m research programme examining whether forgiveness and reconciliation might serve as an antedote for the cancer of bitterness so often found in when people are

harmed in conflicts linked to marital infidelity, sexual abuse, and racial/political animosity. In a three-year patient-matching treatment study that seeks to determine 'what works best for whom', Drs. Hart and Shapiro will investigate two different "grudge therapies". Their psychological approach seeks to facilitate

the growth of empathy amongst clients, and thereby help them appreciate flaws and imperfections in the people they bear grudges against. "Bitterness and seeing red are self-defeating emotions which often block the healing process in substance-abusers who feel victimised," said Dr Hart. "we will encourage clients to let go of their destructive feelings in full knowledge that the offender who harmed them may not deserve their forgiveness." He added, "forgiveness is a gift and like all gifts it does not need to be earned.

"The spiritual arm of the intervention study promises to help clients who have harmed others to make peace with feelings of guilt, shame and worry. Dr. Hart said that "members of Alcoholics Anonymous around the world have been righting wrongs in this fashion for over 60 years, but this is the first time the process has ever been studied scientifically".

The emotional, spiritual and social health of 96 London-based members of AA who receive the grudge therapies will be assessed before and after they participate in the study, which is scheduled to begin 'therapy' in December 1999. "We want to see if the two treatments can help people drop the burden of carrying pain from the past" said Dr Hart, who added, "its about cleaning the slate, and living free in the moment with more joy."

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Editorís note: The FATS project is actively seeking clients and counsellors who live in the London area to

participate in the grudge therapies. Interested persons are encouraged to ring or email Dr. Hart on: (0113) 2335755, email: kenh@psychology.leeds.ac.uk. Further particulars on the FATS project can be found on their website: http://lethe.leeds.ac.uk/research/hlth/fats/