Imagery rescripting of revenge, avoidance, and forgiveness for past bullying experiences in young adults

Hayley Watson*, Ronald Rapee, Natasha Todorov

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    Abstract: Background and Objectives: Forgiveness has been found to be a useful intervention for past trauma across a variety of situations. However, this has yet to be experimentally tested in victims of bullying. The aim of the current study was to evaluate the impact of imagining forgiveness, avoidance, or revenge responses towards a perpetrator among young adult victims of bullying. Methods: One hundred and thirty-five undergraduate psychology students aged 17–24 who reported a recent experience of being victimized were led through imagery rescripting where they recalled a personal episode of bullying and imagined a new ending to one where they forgave, avoided, or took revenge on the bully. Results: Results indicated significant differences between Time 1 (imagining the event as it occurred), to Time 2 (imagining an alternate ending) for all three processes. Negative affect decreased significantly in the forgiveness and avoidance conditions, but not in the revenge condition. Positive evaluations of coping decreased significantly in the revenge condition, but not in the avoidance or forgiveness conditions. However, imagined forgiveness of the bully was more stressful than either imagined avoidance or revenge. Limitations: The short-term measurements and the researcher-directed re-scripting limit the interpretation of results, however, yield valuable information about the immediate impact of imaginal exposure and point to future research directions. Conclusions: The impact of focusing on immediate stress reduction in dealing with bullying is explored, and a combination of short-term avoidance and longer term forgiveness is highlighted as a potentially effective strategy to deal with the negative emotional consequences of victimization.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)73-89
    Number of pages17
    JournalCognitive Behaviour Therapy
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2016


    • bullying
    • forgiveness
    • avoidance
    • intervention
    • imagery rescripting

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