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Saturday, 14 May 2016

The psychological cost of reconciliation

Sometimes you see something and you immediately feel: "Bingo!" This feeling struck me when I got my weekly email from Science Magazine announcing their latest articles. One of these new Science articles is: The psychological cost of reconciliation. The article is about the "Post-conflict reconciliation [that] led to societal healing, but worsened psychological health" (Phys).

Phys: "Results, published today, revealed that reconciliation had both positive and negative consequences. On the one hand, it promoted societal healing: forgiveness [] increased substantially []. Trust [] also increased []. In addition, social network strength increased [], as individuals formed more friendships and relied more on one another for advice and help. [] On the other hand, these gains came at the cost of reduced psychological health: the program worsened depression, anxiety and trauma".

Today, I am inclined to think, feel and believe that every kind of reconciliation comes at a cost. During the past several months I have been reconciling with a former friend. Nevertheless, this new Science article confirms what I have been feeling ever since: an increasing feeling of sadness. After reading this article, I am now even wondering whether the benefits of a reconciliation outweigh the drawbacks. Is it better to leave the past in the past?

Some things could indeed stay in the past. Others cannot. I still aim for a (post-divorce) reconciliation with my daughter. I cannot but assume that she will still be part of my future. Hence, a reconciliation is a must-have rather than a nice-to-have, at least in my view. Unfortunately, a recent breakthrough failed as a 3rd party tried to get involved. That 3rd party is also the one who is largely responsible for the parental alienation in the first place.

In retrospect, I am not sure if the reconciliation with my former friend was wise as it's doubtful that we will meet again. Initially, I believed that we would both benefit from a reconciliation. Apparently, I was too optimistic - or perhaps naive - as people deal quite differently with their memories. The consequence may well be that we both experience the cost of reduced psychological health rather than the gains of reconciliation. 

Is is possible that reconciliation is overrated and - even worse - plain selfish? And I am not even alone in that consideration: Rihanna vs Chris Brown.

This week another former friend contacted me out of the blue. I was a little skeptic about the alleged intention: "just to say hello". After questioning that intention, it appeared that a reconciliation could be part of the agenda. When we revisited our past, our memories were rather different and especially the "action, reaction" part. And again there was a clear difference in view: retrospective versus prospective. To some extent, this reconciliation ended in a blame game which reminded me of our mutual past and why this friendship had ended in the first place.

I am inclined to believe that this new study has far-reaching consequences. The need or wish for reconciliation may well be of a selfish and short-term nature and rooted in feelings of regret and remorse, while the cost of a reconciliation may include long-term feelings of mental pain rooted in guilt and shame.

Paul Weller - The cost of loving (1987) - artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1Wiki-2, Wiki-3

The cost of loving's on the line again
Honey, that just won't do
As we turn another blind eye
Oh, they steal it from you.
But the feelings coming back
Guess it always will
And no matter how hurt you've been


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