Compassionate reappraisal and emotion suppression as alternatives to offense-focused rumination: Implications for forgiveness and psychophysiological well-being

Charlotte van Oyen Witvliet, Nathaniel J. DeYoung, Alicia J. Hofelich, Paul A. DeYoung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations

Abstract

This within subjects experiment (28 females, 26 males) examined three responses to a past interpersonal offender. We contrasted offense-focused rumination with two subsequent, counterbalanced coping strategies: compassionate reappraisal and emotion suppression. Compassionate reappraisal emphasized the offender's human qualities and need for positive change. Emotion suppression inhibited the experience and expression of negative offense-related emotions. Offense rumination was associated with negative emotion, faster heartbeats (i.e., shortened electrocardiogram R-R intervals), and lower heart rate variability (HRV; i.e., the high-frequency component of the R-R power spectrum). By contrast, both compassionate reappraisal and emotion suppression decreased negative emotion in ratings and linguistic analyses, calmed eye muscle tension (orbicularis oculi EMG, electromyography), and maintained HRV at baseline levels. Suppression inhibited negative emotion expression at the brow (corrugator EMG) and slowed cardiac R-R intervals, but without forgiveness effects. Only compassionate reappraisal significantly increased positive emotions, smiling (zygomatic EMG), and social language along with forgiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-299
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Positive Psychology
Volume6
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge the support offered through a grant to the first author from the Fetzer Institute. The work of the second author was supported in part by a grant to Hope College from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Undergraduate Science Education Program. This study is part and product of a project on The Pursuit of Happiness in Interdisciplinary Perspective directed by the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University and supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion or The John Templeton Foundation. We thank Heath Demaree for consultation on the experimental paradigm and HRV; Christopher Barney for consultation on cardiovascular variables; Terry Blumenthal on facial EMG; Al Dueck on LSA; and John Shaughnessy for consultation on analyses.

Copyright:
Copyright 2011 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Compassion
  • Facial EMG
  • Forbear
  • Forgiveness
  • Heart rate variability
  • Reappraisal
  • Rumination
  • Spectral analysis
  • Suppression

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