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.
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
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