A Change of Heart: Internal Narratives, Forgiveness & Health
A Graduate Master’s Thesis on Forgiveness by Dominican University Scholar Keiko Ehret
In this thesis I investigate the interconnectedness of forgiveness as a narrative, as a philosophical, religious and cultural phenomenon, and the ways in which forgiveness is increasingly being used as a vehicle for improving health and psychological well-being. By threading together how scholars in a variety of fields have approached these areas of study, we can better understand the way the interdisciplinary nature of forgiveness grants access to heal not merely relationships with others, but also our bodies, our minds, and our relationship with ourselves.
Important to my investigation is understanding that the life circumstances that prompt forgiveness consist of both the lived experiences, as well as the stories that we tell ourselves internally about these experiences. I emphasize that forgiveness is an essential healing process with both intrapersonal (internal) and interpersonal (external) moral relations. With a greater focus on the intrapersonal aspects of forgiveness, I explore the ways in which humans are storytelling beings, revealing the interconnectivity we experience with our shared histories, and the role of forgiveness in our ability to heal. Personal stories and narratives will come to be seen as vital ways for all to be able to forgive, which result in greater physical and mental health. By applying the following four elements to our internal narratives around traumas—Element 1: Speak your truth; Element 2: Let go of the alternative ending to the story; Element 3: Develop a compassionate story of the other; and Element 4: Share your forgiveness story as appropriate—I suggest that these intentional internal narratives play a key role in accessing the health benefits of forgiveness. Interdisciplinary in nature, my thesis includes research in narrative medicine, religion, philosophy, psychology, sociology, as well as health and healing.