Lionel Monteith Annual Lecture

British Psychotherapy Foundation
Saturday 13 June 2015
The Governor’s Hall, St. Thomas’ Hospital, Lambeth Palace Rd, London SE1 7EH

The Problem of Forgiveness & Reparation in the Aftermath of Evil

This year began with the Isis killings in Paris while weeks later we marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

These events have in common the treatment of people as objects to be destroyed, as a means of establishing absolute power over the world and over life itself.

These acts are not committed from hatred but from a disregard for human life that is at the root of evil. Survivors are often encouraged to forgive their perpetrators and held up as examples of moral idealism when they do forgive.

The concept of forgiveness is a fundamental tenet of most religious faiths. Forgiveness is meant to vanquish hatred and restore psychic integration, transforming the victim into agent.

But is this the case? Is forgiveness an act of reparation or is it another form of splitting and denial of that which cannot be conceived?

And what processes of reparation are actually possible within the psyche so that life can continue in the face of what is inconceivable?

Is the real trauma of evil that it is beyond forgiveness and reparation?

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