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If someone hurt your feelings this year, forgiving them may improve your health

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During the end-of-year holidays, families often come together to exchange gifts and, sometimes, to confront long-held grudges. What better gift than a peace offering?

Conflict is rarely pleasant and arguments in families can be particularly upsetting. We all know that knot in the pit of the stomach, the flushed face and sweaty hands.

Illustration: Jim Pavlidis

This is a primal stress response to when we feel personally or socially threatened. Our natural reaction is to fight or avoid the person. Revenge might feel instinctive but that can lead to a ongoing cycle of unpleasantness.

Trying to forget or rationalise a hurtful incident, usually to avoid further confrontation, seldom works. Even if the unpleasant feelings start to fade, they generally linger in our subconscious and any reminder can reignite them. A constructive way of getting rid of them is to forgive.

But how do we do this and what helps us in the process? We’ve been asking these questions........

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