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  • Writer's pictureElfreda Manahan-Vaughan

Trying out Positive Psychology Interventions for Forgiveness

Those you who very kindly keep track of my online activity, and take the time to read my blog posts, will probably have noticed I’ve been posting a lot less lately. The reason being I started a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology or MAPPCP for short. It’s a subject area I am fascinated by, especially now as the focus of PP has turned from simply research, to using Positive Psychology Interventions in real world contexts like coaching. So, what is a PPI?

Positive Psychology Interventions or PPIs for short are exercises and activities used to help get people from 0 to 5 on a scale of flourishing. ‘Psychology as usual’ has for many years focussed on getting people from -5 to 0, which would mean from clinical depression and poor mental health to a functional level. A lot of research prior to the beginnings of Positive Psychology, in 1998, was concerned with abnormal psychology. Certain fields such as Humanism looked at the areas of virtue and flourishing but not to the extent that PP does. When research into PP began the main aim was to develop interventions that would allow someone who was functional to move into what is called flourishing. There are several scales or measures to test out where you are currently, such as, the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule or PANAS and the Scale of Positive and Negative Experience or SPANE which give you a measure of subjective well-being or SWB (you can find these through a Google search). There are also tests for Life Satisfaction and much more. If you have ever heard of the Gallop surveys, you may have come across some of these as they regularly test well-being across the nations of the world. Of course, once you have a measure of well-being the next step is to figure out how to improve it and that’s where Positive Psychology Interventions come into play.

Some of the most widely recognised PPIs are Gratitude exercises, Mindfulness, Forgiveness, Positive Goals and much more. Much of the self-help industry adopt these but the difference with PP is they empirically test them to know if and why they work. As part of my first assignment I have had to engage in two PPIs. Obviously, these are not new to me as I have been practicing Mindfulness and Gratitude for years and many of the other PPIs. Choosing one that was new was a bit of a challenge, but I finally chose to do a Forgiveness PPI as this particular one was not one I had done before. Forgiveness PPIs are not intended to condone anyone’s behaviour or to forgive someone who could cause you danger by forgiving them. They are intended to help you let go of unwanted emotions and to move on from a hurtful situation. So, in the interest of making this blog post brief I am going to share the Forgiveness PPI with you below and you can let me know in the comments if you tried it and how you got on.

Benefit Finding Effect - Forgiveness PPI

For the next 20 minutes, we would like for you to write an essay related to that harmful thing that someone did to you. However, as you write, we would like for you to write about positive aspects of the experience. In which ways did the thing that this person did to you lead to positive consequences for you? Perhaps you became aware of personal strengths that you did not realize you had, perhaps a relationship became better or stronger as a result, or perhaps you grew or became a stronger or wiser person. Explore these issues as you write. In particular, please try to address the following points: (a) In what ways did the hurtful event that happened to you lead to positive outcomes for you? That is, what personal benefits came out of this experience for you? (b) In what ways has your life become better as a result of the harmful thing that occurred to you? In what ways is your life or the kind of person that you have become better today as a result of the harmful thing that occurred to you? (c) Are there any other additional benefits that you envision coming out of this experience for you perhaps some time in the future? As you write, really try to “let go” and think deeply about possible benefits that you have gained from this negative event, and possible benefits you might receive in the future. Try not to hold anything back. Be as honest and candid as possible about this event and its positive effects, or potential effects, on your life.

You can do this once or as I did, which was 3 times over a period of a week. I found it really useful, and a great way to reframe hurt. It also was a useful addition to my regular Loving Kindness practice, which I wrote about in an early blog post.

I look forward to hearing how you got on. You can contact me via PM, email:

I hope our paths cross again in future,


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