This is a philosophical look at a subject of intense interest to psychiatrists. The thirteen authors include seven philosophers, two theologians, three psychologists and six psychiatrists, several doubly qualified. Some chapters are unashamedly theoretical; use of conditional tenses is quite refreshing as a change from medical books.
Potter, the editor, introduces the topic of the healing power of forgiveness and reconciliation, including the vexed issue of the morality of forgiving someone with no remorse. Brendel, considering the implications of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for psychotherapy, looks at the way that apology can be an important first step towards repairing a damaged relationship. Krüger writes about forgiveness and reconciliation from a South African perspective. She regards Desmond Tutu's ubuntu theology as having been a guiding force in the work of the TRC. Zachar, also considering the TRC from a psychotherapeutic perspective, argues that it had a legitimate purpose in the management of both individual and societal rage, and that the experience of rage is related to a desire for justice. He deals with the different problem of prescribed forgiveness. How the philosophical approach to the concept of truth helps us understand the notion and role of truth-telling in our lives is linked by Mitchell to the work of the TRC.
Political reconciliation, the process of building healthier relationships among citizens formerly estranged through conflict or repression, is discussed by Murphy. Psychotherapy can help to clarify past events and explore feelings but cannot provide reconciliation, according to Spitz, who elaborates how truth and trust are required. Rawlinson discusses the moral significance of the act of forgiveness. The hypothesis of Glas is that the description of the dynamic of evil helps us to understand forgiveness and reconciliation, and that this is useful for the work of the psychiatrist. `It is characteristic for forgiveness to have insufficient grounds; this is not a weakness but indicates forgiveness's power... ' Verhagen develops a relational model of forgiveness involving both victim and offender.
How forgiveness may reinforce gender stereotypes and uneven power relations is discussed by Lamb. Perring states that truth-telling is an essential ingredient in the healing process and discusses consumer/survivor movements in psychiatric care. `Change the story, the future changes' is central to work with aboriginal people in Canada, according to Mehl-Madrona who cooperates with community elders in psychotherapy.
This book is recommended to those who want to take one of the fundamentals of our work a bit further.
- © 2007 Royal College of Psychiatrists