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Gottlieb, R.M. (2015). Introduction: Toward a Psychoanalytic Psychology of Repair after Gross Human Rights Abuses. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 63(6):1081-1083.

(2015). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 63(6):1081-1083

Introduction: Toward a Psychoanalytic Psychology of Repair after Gross Human Rights Abuses

Richard M. Gottlieb

This issue of JAPA features a contribution by the eminent South African psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, a past member of that country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Her article, “Psychological Repair: The Intersubjective Dialogue of Remorse and Forgiveness in the Aftermath of Gross Human Rights Violations,” is a complex study of aspects of the TRC, one that attempts an understanding of certain of the Commission's processes within a psychoanalytic framework.

As is well known, the South African TRC was not successful in all of its undertakings, but Gobodo-Madikizela writes that certain aspects were strikingly successful in achieving their goals and she wants to know why. She addresses those instances in which “remorse,” “empathy,” and “forgiveness” played major facilitating roles, while at the same time observing that these terms are inadequate descriptors of the processes involved.

Past perpetrators of the most ghastly and monstrous acts (“gross human rights abuses”) were brought face to face with their victims or surviving members of the victims’ families. They described in detail their hideous crimes, in the course of which testimony they evinced remorse and established empathic connections with victims or families, resulting at times in what seemed to have been genuine forgiveness and the emergent capacity on both sides to “go on,” less encumbered or crippled by past events. To understand how this can happen is obviously of enormous importance, and seeking that understanding is Gobodo-Madikizela's aim.

In

[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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