After the Offense: Thoughts on Forgiveness
Speaker: Donald Moss, M.D.
December 2 at 8:30 am - 12:00 pm
The experiences of being offended, attacked, aggressed against, insulted and the like give rise to two opposite psychic urges: the impulse to exact revenge and the contrary impulse to forgive. These tendencies both have qualities of moral/ethical demand, and both are initially the products of reflex, as opposed to thought. The speaker will discuss ways to move both impulses out of the reach of reflex and into the realm of thought. As such, each term is morally equivalent to the other. Thought can lead one to deliberately take revenge just as it can lead to choicefully forgiveness. Neither should be thought of as morally/ethically superior to the other. The talk will include a few non-clinical examples of these ideas and phenomena; then move on to a consideration of “The Grand inquisitor” chapter in Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov;” and from there to James Strachey’s classic paper on the therapeutic action of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalytic interpretation will be described as the paradigmatic example of forgiveness. The analyst moves him/herself outside the grip of reflex, in response to insults and pressures from the analysand, and this move allows for thought, which allows for a consideration of how to respond: forgivingly or vengefully. How can we understand the factors that influence whether the insult/pressure can be borne by the analyst, in order to permit him/her to consider the situation thoughtfully?
- The participants will learn how to situate and understand the traditional moral views of revenge and forgiveness, psychoanalytically.
- The participants will learn why and how this traditional moral view does not allow the individual to consider his/her feelings and reactions to offenses from a secondary process viewpoint: thus bypassing the use of thought and other distinctly human
and effective ways of controlling and determining behavior.
- The participants will learn to understand and be able to make clinical use of a more differentiated, thoughtful concept of appropriate forgiveness, as demonstrated originally in James Strachey’s paper on the therapeutic function and action of psychoanalysis.
Donald Moss, MD is a prolific psychoanalytic writer, editor and presenter, and a psychoanalytic activist who often explores areas of our theory and practice that he senses have become ossified, overlooked, or taken for granted. At the January 2016 Winter Meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association his plenary address, titled “The insane look of the bewildered half-broken animal,” received a standing ovation.
He is also – to borrow language from his paper, “On situating homophobia,” – an active exponent of the “receding tradition of politically engaged, psychoanalytically informed social science.” For example, in a previous visit to Florida, Dr. Moss discussed a psychoanalytic understanding why society uses the death penalty for certain crimes.
Donald Moss is a faculty member of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute and the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis, and is in private practice in New York City. He is also a member of the Green Gang, a four-person collective that studies the relationships between the human and non-human environments.
He is currently the incoming Chair of the American Psychoanalytic Association’s Program Committee, and has been on the editorial boards of the Psychoanalytic Quarterly, the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, American Imago, and Studies in Gender and Sexuality.
Over the past 35 years, Dr. Moss has authored more than 50 psychoanalytic papers and produced three books:Hating in the First-Person Plural (2003), Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Man (2012), and At War with the Obvious (2017).