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Psychoanalytic Approaches to Forgiveness and Mental Health
Edited by Ronald Britton and Aleksandra Novakovic
Routledge / Softcover / Aug 2023
9781032427911 (ISBN-10: 1032427914)
price: $63.50
222 pages
In Stock (Ships within one business day)

Psychoanalytic Approaches to Forgiveness and Mental Health considers the role of forgiveness in mental life, concerning both forgiving and being forgiven.

Each chapter addresses concepts including superego, repetition compulsion, enactment, and notions such as sacrifice, penance, justification, absolution, and contrition. The contributors consider both their professional and clinical experience and their ethical, cultural, or philosophical background when considering aspects of forgiveness and its impact on clinical practice. The book is an attempt to open the subject of forgiveness, not to reach ethical conclusions nor to formulate pious psychological behavioural axioms. It also considers the weight of feeling unforgiven and of holding the lifelong resentment or vengeful wishes of the unforgiving.

Psychoanalytic Approaches to Forgiveness and Mental Health will be key reading for psychoanalysts and psychotherapists in practice and in training and for other professionals interested in the role of forgiveness in mental life. It will also be of interest to academics and students of psychoanalytic studies, philosophy and spirituality.


"This is profound book on a deep subject by an erudite and reflective group. Yes, forgiveness in the face of catastrophic loss and the vital role the capacity for it plays in all lives, gets to the heart of many questions in mental health. But as these authors show, it is a topic far wider – stretching into the deepest and most monstrous issues in our societies and their histories and to the deepest concerns of poets, novelists, philosophers, and theologians. It is hard to think of a better group of people to tackle the subject. And it is a very contemporary subject looking at the world today - particularly enlightened by new looks at the idea of the internal saboteur within each of us and the hardened myths and repetitive behaviours it threatens. Very strongly recommended to all with an interest in the human condition." - Professor David Tuckett, Department of Science, Technology and Public Policy, University College London, Fellow, Institute of Psychoanalysis, London

"The central role of forgiveness in psychic life is attested by this fine book and underlined throughout the various authors’ inspiring chapters. Ronald Britton suggests that what feels unforgiven or unforgiveable arises from the internalization of unforgiving internal objects. With chapters ranging from deep reflections on the clinic to analyses of works of literature, religion, and music, as well as a chapter on the Holocaust, this skilfully edited and important book is full of gems and illuminating insights." - Rosine Perelberg is a Training and Supervising Analyst, and Past President of the British Psychoanalytical Society. She has written and edited several books, including Sexuality, Excess and Representation.

"Britton and Novakovic have, in this most stimulating collection of contributions, put ‘Forgiveness’ at the center of the psychoanalytic spotlight. This is most appropriate in the current climate where forgiveness is often overshadowed by pressure from grievance and revenge. Forgiveness is considered in individual, interpersonal, institutional, and societal contexts and includes illustrations in literature and music. An important theme is Sodre’s view that ‘nobody who has not felt forgiven can expect to forgive’ indicating the necessity for kindness towards the self from one’s internal objects." - Dr. David Simpson FRCPsych. F.Inst. Psychoanal. Former President British Psychoanalytic Association.

Table of Contents:


About the Editors and Contributors


Chapter 1: The lost good object regained: Coexisting pars of self and the generosity of forgiveness, Aleksandra Novakovic

Chapter 2: Forgiving as malice relented: the depressive position in action, Chris Mawson

Chapter 3: The developmental importance of forgiveness and compassion: In psychoanalysis and Buddhism, Hiroshi Amino

Chapter 4: Revenge or Forgiveness: the Oresteia, Ronald Britton

Chapter 5: Cry Havoc and Reconciliation, David Millar

Chapter 6: Revenge And Resentment In The ‘Oedipus Situation’, John Steiner

Chapter 7: She waited, Kate Croy… Forgiveness in Henry James’ "The Wings of the Dove": the Villain’s Tragedy, Ignês Sodré

Chapter 8: Contessa perdono! Mozartian sexual betrayal and forgiveness, Francis Grier

Chapter 9: Forgiveness Work in Society, Institutions and Large Groups, Gerhard Wilke

Chapter 10: Forgiveness in the Recognition of Actuality, Karl Figlio

Chapter 11: In the grip of un-forgiveness : Some notes on forgiveness and orientation from a German background, Claudia Frank

Chapter 12: The Unforgiving Self, Ronald Britton

About the Editors:

Ronald Britton is a training and supervising analyst with the British Psychoanalytical Society. He first trained as a doctor, and as a child psychiatrist; he was chair of the Department of Children and Parents at the Tavistock Clinic, where he was involved in treatment of deprived children and their parents. This experience was influential to his psychoanalytic thinking where he maintains the importance of ‘childhood’ as a formative experience.

Aleksandra Novakovic is a training and supervising analyst of the British Psychoanalytic Association and a group analyst. She was consultant clinical psychologist, joint head of the Inpatient & Community Psychology Service, and she worked with patients with severe mental health problems and facilitated staff groups for mental health teams. She worked at Tavistock Relationships and supervised on the Reflective Practice Course at IGA.

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