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Smith, H.F. (2009). On: The Comment of Martin Bergmann. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 90(3):641-642.

(2009). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 90(3):641-642

On: The Comment of Martin Bergmann Related Papers

Henry F. Smith

Dear Editors,

Dr. Bergmann's comment on my paper is so profound in its simplicity that, as in the late works of great artists, he seems to have honed everything to its essence. The superego softens, allowing the ego some room to breathe, and libidinal forces triumph over punishment and vengeance. In the presence of such a statement I am reluctant to comment further.

But I wonder if Dr. Bergmann's comment truly explains forgiveness, as he suggests. The “shift in favor of libido”, as an explanation, would seem to apply to any complex positive emotion — love, for example, or even joy. It is a general theoretical description of what we might imagine allows for positive affective experience to take place. As it applies to forgiveness in particular, I think it speaks to a view of forgiveness as we might like it to be, an ideal type of forgiveness, so to speak. Let me try to explain what I mean.

There is a hint in Dr. Bergmann's explanation of an earlier Freudian model, one in which one drive (the libidinal) might neutralize the other (the aggressive). From that point of view, does it do justice to the complexity of the situation once we consider more fully the defensive functions of the ego? Might they not play a more prominent role in the subjective experience of forgiveness than his brief explanation suggests?

I should think any complex emotion is a balance of components derived from the drives, the ego, and the superego, to use Dr. Bergmann's terminology. But, as a result, it is very difficult to tell on the face of it whether any given feeling of forgiveness is shaped more by one component or another.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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