Frederic Luskin, Ph.D., Reverend Byron Bland
In January of 2000 five women from Northern Ireland who had suffered catastrophic losses were invited to Stanford University to participate in the first Stanford-Northern Ireland HOPE Project. The three Protestant and two Catholic women spent a week learning to forgive the person who had murdered the person close to them. Four of the women had lost sons to violence.
The Degree of Hurt Measure asked the women to rate on a scale of 1-10, the amount of hurt they felt over the loss of their sons. When they arrived (Baseline) they rated their hurt on average as 8.6. When they left for Northern Ireland(Post-test) their rating was 3.6 and 6 months later in Northern Ireland (Follow-up) their score had stabilized at 3.4.
The Spielberger Trait Anger scale asked the women to rate from 1-4 how often they generally felt different aspects of anger. The women’s average score changed from 21.6 to 16.6 after the week at Stanford for a decline of 23%. At the follow-up assessment the scores were stable, but not statistically significant at either measurement period suggesting the improvement could have been the result of chance.
On a standard measure of depression the women’s scores decreased from checking 17+ yes choices out of 30 to 7 selections out of 30. Each question asked to check yes or no to a common aspect of depression such as unhappy mood or difficulty sleeping. The positive change was statistically significant at both the post-test and the follow-up.
On a scale signifying how much the women had forgiven the person who killed their son the score on the Rye Forgiveness Scale increased from almost 37 to almost 53 at post-test and then stabilized at 51. The improvement was statistically significant at both post-test and follow-up.
On The Perceived Stress Scale, the women’s level of stress was cut in half from the beginning of the week to the follow-up assessment 6 month later. The results were significant at Post-test and Follow-up.
The Optimism Scale measures how much long term positive expectation these women have. Their average score improved at post-test and then continued to gain at follow-up. At follow-up the result was statistically significant, but not so at the post-test.