To understand the range of Dr. Fred Luskin's Forgive for Good, one must consider the entire title: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness. The book is full of suggestions, i.e. prescriptions, for helping the obsessed unforgiver. And the proofs that these prescriptions work lie in the many anecdotes scattered throughout the book. As for health and happiness, Luskin's book shows that unforgiveness is an obstacle that gets in the way of social communication, a good life and physical health. Director and cofounder of The Stanford University Forgiveness Project, Luskin has contributed to that genre of literature which skirts spirituality and self-help.
Unlike some psychological illnesses whose symptoms are different in all patients, unforgiveness has symptoms that are common to all its victims: emotional unease, the blame game, the (oft-told) "grievance story." The unforgiving man or woman, for various emotional, psychological and spiritual reasons, has become unable to ponder or speak about anything else. They are stuck, renting out a large space in their minds to past events. In response to this obsession, they are unable to connect with the outside world in a positive way. In order to have a fuller life they must leave the pain of the past behind and learn to live in the present.
As in all good self-help books, the author tells the reader about his own battles with the problem. The book is full of anecdotes about recognizable people with deep hurts who are given the choice of destroying their lives or moving on. Luskin repeatedly tells the reader what forgiveness is and is not. He tells them, for instance, that it is not excusing the other person or belittling one's hurt. But neither is it becoming a victim.
Dr Luskin's "Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness" can be found in two mnemonics: HEAL and PERT. Hope in the future and in yourself, Educate yourself about your power or lack of power, Affirm your positive intention towards life, and Think Longterm. Luskin believes that by practicing the PERT system -- Positive Emotion Refocusing Techniques that train the mind to refocus on gratitude, beauty, love, forgiveness and give up unrealistic "unenforceable rules" -- the person in the bonds of unforgiveness can get better. He believes it is specifically these unrealistic ideas that cause problems. The unforgiving person is stuck because they wish to enforce rules such as "My partner shouldn't cheat on me." But they have no power over another's life or morality, and that keeps unforgivers rooted in the past.
The audience for this book will be average people with forgiveness issues, therapists, and those in secular or religious counseling. It is honest and informative, and its vocabulary is accessible. I doubt the book will completely help those unforgivers who cling to their resentment. But Dr. Luskin's activities will help them on their way to seeing how destructive living obsession with a past hurt can be. I highly recommend this book.