Over the holidays, the Los Angeles Times printed an article by Melissa Healy in its Health Section entitled “You’re not sorry? That’s OK” (December 31 2007). According to Ms. Healy, there is a growing body of research that indicates that the act of forgiving may be medicine for the body. That is,
““Forgiveness interventions” – often just a couple of short sessions in which the wounded are guided toward positive feelings for an offender – can improve cardiovascular function, diminish chronic pain, relieve depression and boost quality of life among the very ill.” (Id.)
Consequently, “those more inclined to pardon the transgressions of others have been found to have lower blood pressure, fewer depressive symptoms and once they hit late middle age, better overall mental and physical health than those who do not forgive easily.” (Id.) Conversely, those who are not inclined to forgive, may suffer an increased risk for heart disease, mental illness and other maladies. (Id.)
So. . . is this why mediation works? Because it leads to better health? By helping people get rid of their anger, resentment, bitterness and perhaps have them empathize with the offender and her situation, mediation makes people “feel better.” Because of this “feel better” outcome, people will tend to use mediation again and again. (Pavlovian principle?)
One of the first principles I learned as a mediator is that people need to get their anger out; they need to vent and to be heard before they are willing to settle. Only after someone has really listened to them and their story are they willing to move forward, and put the dispute behind them. While I have always recognized the psychological benefits to venting, I had never thought about the physical or medicinal benefits until I read this article. But the article makes perfect sense because at its core, the issue is one of stress; if we are angry, we are stressed out. And, we have all learned about the multiple disastrous effects that stress produces on our health and bodies. So, by getting rid of the stress, we improve our health and according to this article, we can do this through the act of forgiving which often occurs during a mediation.
In conclusion, I guess we should think of mediation as an alternative medicinal remedy, since it leads to better health.