The Religious, Cultural, Moral and Philosophical Considerations of Forgiveness and Self-Forgiveness

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THE DIALOGAL GROUP’S REFLECTIVE DISCUSSIONS AND OBSERVATIONS OF THE EXPERIENCE OF SELF-FORGIVENESS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY

Group dialogue on the phenomenon took place with three psychologists (including this researcher), during six two-hourly audio-taped sessions over a period of six months. Initially, these open-ended general discussions focused on reading and discussing the literature on forgiveness and self forgiveness and sharing our own descriptions and experiences of the phenomenon. These discussions then progressed to informally discussing, clarifying and elaboration of the data/scripts. Similar to Leifer’s (1986) analysis of the dialogal research of the group at Seattle University (cited in Rowe & Halling , 1998), audio recordings of dialoguing within our group meetings confirmed that the context in which the research happens is constituted by three levels of dialogue. These levels are preliminary; transitional; and fundamental. The movement is from preliminary to fundamental dialogue; being the movement from abstract, disjointed, generalized discussion, to a more focused experientially grounded one. It is from this dialogue that a collective understanding emerged (Rowe, et al., 1989). All three levels of dialogue were present in each of our collaborative group discussions and did not happen sequentially.
In addition, the dialogue was not merely between ourselves ‘about’ the data but more dialogue ‘with’ the phenomenon (ibid, 1989). We were all personally touched by the phenomenon being studied, which had a direct impact on the group. During one session, discussions of the experience of self-forgiveness in psychotherapy, brought to mind the psychologists’ own subjective experiences which were personal and painful and, at times, threatening to ‘one’s sense of the world’, which left one feeling vulnerable (Bauer, 1992, p.153). This self-revelatory session reflected the experiential reality of self-forgiveness in our own lives. Themes relating to the phenomenon which were also based on our personal experiences emanated in these discussions. Gradually a broader general understanding of the phenomenon emerged, as well as an understanding of the role of self-forgiveness in psychotherapy and the value of understanding, both forgiveness and self-forgiveness as therapeutic tools in helping clients deal with these issues in psychotherapy.
The dialoguing investigative process helped the group differentiate between experiential description and theoretical generalization. Ultimately, it got us back to the core essence of the phenomenon itself. The dialogue ‘made the phenomenon come alive for us, within us and before us’ (Halling & Leifer, 1991, p.10). Dialoguing not only assisted with the group discussion, but resulted in a group cohesion and bonding. Each person’s personal account and observations pointed to a larger whole rather than a statement about an individual life. This helped us understand the phenomenon in a broader sense i.e. the notion of ‘the general is a positive phenomenon and that structures are lived or implicit, rather than readily apparent’ (Merleau-Ponty, 1962 cited in Halling & Leifer, 1991, p.2).

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE DIALOGAL GROUP RESEARCH METHOD AT SEATTLE UNIVERSITY AND THE DIALOGAL GROUP DISCUSSIONS REGARDING THE RESEARCH OF THE EXPERIENCE OF SELF-FORGIVENESS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY

The main difference with the dialogal group discussions used in this study and the dialogal group research carried out at Seattle University, was that I, being the primary researcher, formulated the research questions on my own. I then collected the descriptions by carrying out the interviews and follow-up interviews with the six participating clients, and informally presented the transcribed scripts (from the audio-tapes) to the group for discussion, clarification and elaboration of themes which I had identified within the scripts.
I read and re-read the scripts on my own whilst listening to the audio-tapes. This was done in order to extrapolate and experience pertinent themes relevant to the individual’s experience of self-forgiveness as it occurs in his/her world, which may have been missed in earlier readings. Writing and critiquing the interpretation of the data involved not only continued re-reading of the narratives and transcripts, but returning to the literature and previous research. Unlike the Seattle group, this did not take place in dialogue with fellow colleagues.
Another difference compared to the dialogal research group at Seattle University, was that our dialogal group consisted of four practising psychologists (including this researcher) and besides me, none of the psychologists were directly involved in the research. The groups at Seattle University consisted primarily of students on the Masters’ programme who were directly involved in the research. Only one of the groups had more than one faculty person among its members ( Halling & Leifer, 1991).

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CHAPTER 1
1. Introduction to the Study of the Retrospective Experience of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy.
1.1 Motivation of the Study.
1.2 The Aim of the Study.
1.3 Overview of the Study.
1.4 The Phenomena of Self-Forgiveness and Forgiving Another.
1.5 The Structure of the Study.
1.6 Conclusion.
CHAPTER 2
2. Forgiveness and Self-Forgiveness
2.1 Introduction.
2.2 The Existential-Phenomenological Description of the Phenomena of Forgiveness and Self-Forgiveness.
2.3 Similarities between the Experiences of Forgiveness and Self-Forgiveness.
2.4 The Difference between the Experience of Forgiveness and Self-Forgiveness.
2.5 Implications of the Existential-Phenomenological View for Psychotherapy.
2.6 Conclusion.
CHAPTER 3
3. The Religious, Cultural, Moral and Philosophical Considerations of Forgiveness and Self-Forgiveness.
3.1 Introduction.
3.2 Religious Considerations Regarding Forgiveness.
3.3 Cultural Considerations Regarding Forgiveness.
3.4 Moral and Philosophical Considerations Regarding Forgiveness and Self- Forgiveness.
3.5 Conclusion.
CHAPTER 4
4. Theory and Literature Survey of the Phenomena of Forgiveness and Self- Forgiveness.
4.1 Introduction.
4.2 Historical Development of Selected Psychological Literature and the Research Approaches to Forgiveness and Self-Forgiveness.
4.3 Conclusion.
CHAPTER 5
5. Research Methodology.
5.1 Aim of the Research.
5.2 Method.
5.3 Sources of Data
5.4 The Data Collection.
5.5 Procedure.
5.6 Data Analysis.
CHAPTER 6
6. Investigation and Results.
6.1. Introduction.
6.2 The Descriptive Data of the Six Participants, Based on the Three Research Questions. (Represented Verbatim In Natural Meaning Units: Subject A, in 6.3.2 and Subjects B,C,D,E, & F in Appendix F).
6.3 Analysis of the Data.
6.4 Presentation of Results.
6.5 The General Psychological Description of the Experience of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy.
6.6 Illustrative Vignettes of the Constituents of the General Description of the Experience of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy as Extrapolated from the Specific Descriptions of the Situated Structures of each of the Six Participants.
6.7 The Elaborated Structural Description of the Experience of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy.
6.8 Themes Identified from the Edited Dialogue of the Psychologists’ Group regarding the Phenomenon of Self-Forgiveness.
6.9 General Description of the Identified Themes of the Psychologists’ Dialogal Group regarding the Phenomenon of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy.
6.10 The Comparison of the Constituents of the General Description of the Experience of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy of the Six Participating Clients and the Identified Themes in the Psychologists’ Group Reflective Discussions regarding the Phenomenon of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy.
6.11 Conclusion.
CHAPTER 7 
7. Discussion.
7.1 The Experience of Self-Forgiveness and Forgiveness of Others.
7.2 Temporality and the Experience of Self-Forgiveness.
7.3 Educative Insight and the Experience of Self-Forgiveness in the Psychotherapy Relationship.
7.4. The Experience of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy is an Ongoing, Continuous Process.
7.5 Responsibility and the Experience of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy.
7.6 Moral, Philosophical and Religious Issues relating to the Experience of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy.
7.7 A Phenomenological Approach regarding the Experience of Being Emotional in Relation to the Experience of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy.
7.8 The Significance of Memory in Relation to the Experience of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy.
7.9 The Self of the Client in Relation to the Experience of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy.
7.10 The Self of the Therapist in Relation to the Experience of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy.
7.11 The Implications of the Psychologists’ Group Discussions for the Experience of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy.
7.12 Cultural and Social Implications of the Experience of Self-Forgiveness in Psychotherapy.
7.13 The Implications of the Experience of Self-Forgiveness for Psychotherapy.
7.14 Critical Review of Methodology.
7.15 Limitations of the Research.
7.16 Differences between the Experience of Self-Forgiveness and Other Significant Experiences in Psychotherapy.
7.17 Conclusion.

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