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Biblical recipes for healing pain

A Californian psychologist, who uses the Bible as a basis for self-help, made a

two-week visit to Phnom Penh this month to offer Cambodians his recipe for

repairing their battered psyches.

Dr David Stoop held lectures for

students at the Phnom Penh Bible School and also ran two seminars for

expatriates, which discussed marriage and family issues.

Dr Stoop's

central theme is forgiveness and he believes it is a philosophy which could help

Cambodians come to terms with their traumatic past, particularly their suffering

under the Khmer Rouge.

The psychologist said: "Forgiveness is the key.

Forgiving is for yourself, not for others."

An essential first step,

according to Dr Stoop's philosophy is the expression of anger - which is

normally an alien concept in Asian culture.

"Forgiveness without anger

becomes excusing," he said. "If anger is not dealt with openly it makes the

forgiving process shallow or ineffective.

"Without anger you are too

vulnerable to getting hurt again. You have to be able to stop the hurt, it's

strength from within."

Many people equate forgiving with forgetting but

this is a misunderstanding, said Dr Stoop, who believes it is vital to remember

so people can learn and progress.

He cited the example of Holocaust

survivors who repeatedly urge the world not to forget Nazi concentration

camps.

He thinks Cambodians can learn from the experiences of these

survivors. Some of the Holocaust victims have stayed angry and some have

repressed their feelings. The only ones able to move forward are those truly

able to forgive.

And he said it is not just victims who have to face up

to their past, many of their tormenters and those associated with them should

also come to terms mentally with what they have done.

Again using the

Holocaust as an example, the psychologist said a documentary had shown that of

the children of Nazi leaders, the only healthy ones were those who had gone

through the forgiving process.

Dr Stoop believes the way for a society to

go forward is for it to grow spiritually. He believes his message is relevant to

Cambodia.

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