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Wangh, S. (2005). Revenge and Forgiveness in Laramie, Wyoming. Psychoanal. Dial., 15(1):1-16.

(2005). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 15(1):1-16

Revenge and Forgiveness in Laramie, Wyoming Related Papers

Stephen Wangh, MFA

This author posits that, perhaps because of its religious implications, psychoanalysis has historically avoided speaking of forgiveness, although playwrights have often depicted forgiveness as a psychological mechanism that can help resolve cycles of anger and revenge. The Laramie Project (Kaufman et al., 2001), a play about how a U.S. town deals with a murder and its aftermath, provides an example of the way in which forgiveness offers an exit from vengeance. The play points to both the positive and the negative roles that religious ideas play in human actions. At the same time, however, the play itself avoids some of the painful processes that enable human beings to locate forgiveness. This paper draws on psychoanalytic literature, social commentary, and plays by Aeschylus and Shakespeare to demonstrate how the mechanisms of forgiveness operate. In conclusion, it suggests that although enabling the psychological processes of forgiveness can be extremely difficult, ignoring these processes may be life-threatening.

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