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.
Published in: Journal of PositivePsychology, Volume 6, Issue 4, July 1, 2011, pages 286-299. Copyright © 2011 Routledge Journal, Oxfordshire, England. The final published version is available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2011.577091