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Smith, H.F. (2009). On: The Comments of Dr Siassi. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 90(3):645-646.

(2009). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 90(3):645-646

On: The Comments of Dr Siassi Related Papers

Henry F. Smith

Dear Editors,

I am grateful to Dr. Siassi for her generous response to my use of her clinical material. The purpose of my paper was not to question her handling of the case — the patient clearly got better — but to examine her and others' use of the concept of forgiveness. In this respect her letter highlights some of our disagreements, as did her paper.

Dr. Siassi writes: “Every concept in psychoanalysis can be treated as a compromise formation including such concepts as love, guilt, mourning, etc.” If what she means is that every instance of love, guilt, mourning, and what we call forgiveness can be seen to be shaped by wishes, defenses, and self-punitive components — or, as Dr. Bergmann suggests, input from the drives, the ego, and the superego — then I completely agree. I also agree that it is important to understand and “fine tune”, as she puts it, our understanding of these complex human emotions. There is nothing incompatible in these two endeavors. My disagreement is with her reasoning about the concept of forgiveness and the consequences of that reasoning.

Whereas my paper questions how we understand and use the concept of forgiveness in analysis, in her letter Dr. Siassi seems to take the value of forgiveness as a given, which then leads her to make a number of assertions about its function and outcome. Among them is her characterization of forgiveness as “a whole vital process, the end result of which is minimally defensive and maximally restorative for the narcissistic balance of the personality”.

[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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