Forgiveness in Mental Health
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Live Online Event
Zoom & Recording for 365 days
3:00 pm - 5:30 pm
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Forgiveness in Mental Health
Friday, May 17, 2024

Forgiveness in Mental Health

Forgiving and Being Forgiven

With Francis Grier & Aleksandra Novakovic

This workshop is inspired by the recently published book Psychoanalytic Approaches to Forgiveness and Mental Health co-edited by Aleksandra Novakovic and Ron Britton. Our speakers include Aleksandra Novakovic and contributor Francis Grier. The focus for this event will be the importance of forgiveness in mental life as well as in couple relationships.  Our speakers will offer analytic understandings of the challenges in forgiving and the developmental processes of being able to forgive. Weaving in music from The Marriage of Figaro and Mozart’s Don Giovanni in to their presentations Francis and Aleksandra will offer a visceral and intellectual discussion on the impact of forgiveness.

“The experience of anyone practicing psychotherapy or psychoanalysis is that mental health is seriously affected by feeling unforgiven or being unable to forgive if the people involved are close and important figures in their life. In everyday life in marriage, work, or love, forgiveness is part of the daily traffic of our relationships, if we find that relatively easy we are fortunate. For some it is fraught in general and for some others the particular issues concerned may be very large or emotionally disturbing. To forgive is natural but like many things that are natural, such as childbirth, it can be difficult and it can go wrong.

What the practice of analysis demonstrates is that feeling forgiven and being forgiving is crucial in mental life.  Yet little seems to have been written in the analytic literature specifically on forgiveness and how it relates to familiar psychoanalytic concepts such as guilt, reparation, mourning, obsessional-compulsive disorder, or depression.” (Britton, R. & Novakovic, A. (2024).  Introduction. In: Psychoanalytic Approaches to Forgiveness and Mental Health. London: Routledge.)


15.00 (UK) Introductions
15.05 Aleksandra Novakovic
The lost good object regained: conflicting parts of self and the generosity of forgiveness 

Two questions are posed: What are the “hurts” that occur in the process of growing up and growing old that can be difficult to forgive? What is it that “allows” a person to forgive and what are the processes involved in forgiveness? Hurts and consequent grievances that can be difficult to work through and forgive coalesce into three domains: early infantile experience, oedipal conflicts in childhood and reverberations of these in later life, such as, the conflicts in the adult couple relationship, and fears, envy and hatred around loss, ageing and death. The paper explores processes of forgiveness that are intrinsically linked to the depressive position: finding the lost good object, coexisting within different parts of self and generosity.

15.45 Q&A with both speakers
16.00 Break
16.15 Francis Grier
Contessa Perdono

The dramatic and musical climax of The Marriage of Figaro, perhaps Mozart’s operatic masterpiece, is famously marked by the unexpected forgiveness of the Count by the Countess, whom the countess has infamously refused to forgive earlier in the opera. This paper will explore the musical and psychological ramifications of forgiveness and the refusal to forgive within couple relationships, not only in this opera but also in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, in which issues around forgiveness are also implicitly central. It will be argued that Mozart’s very differing and contrasting realisations of this core human and couple dynamic through his unique dramatic, verbal and musical talents may partially account for the reputation of these operas for depth and universality.

17.00 Q&A with both speakers
17.30 End