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Victimhood, Vengefulness, and the Culture of Forgiveness
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Authors: Ivan Urlić (School of Medicine, University of Split, Croatia) Miriam Berger (Bar Ilan University and "Beer Yakov" Psychiatric Mental Health Center, Tel Aviv) Avi Berman (Tel- Aviv Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis) 
Book Description:
This book was born out of the personal experiences of three authors,two Israeli psychologists and a Croatian psychiatrist, with the traumatic realities of man-made violence they face daily as they struggle with the suffering caused by the endless cycles of hostilities and counter- hostilities in their countries. It evolved into a study of the relational injuries that unleashed aggression causes and of the psychodynamic processes that characterizes them. Their respective contributions are clustered into three topics: Victimhood, Vengefulness, and a culture of forgiveness. The book offers new understandings about the processes involved in them and focuses on their implication for treatment of trauma victims and beyond.

Victimhood is defined as a self-state within which a person prefers compensation over recovery and growth. It entails a form of identification with a past aggressor that is manifested by a displaced intimidation and over-powering aimed at loved ones. When governed by this self-state a person may perceive himself as entitled to be exempted from concern for other people feelings and rights. It deprives all involved parties of relational and social resources and diminishes capacity for dialogue.

Vengefulness may be perceived as a quest for restoration of hope, justice and dignity when one is being made irrelevant, dismissed, ostracized. If the original insult has never been properly exposed, recognized and authenticated, the denigration causes an unbearable emotional pain that demands vindication. It may turn into viscous cycles of vengeful attacks and counter-attacks.

From this perspective, victimhood and vengefulness are intertwined processes that can set off destructive reactions and lock the individual (and/or the group) in dead end traps. These modes of relating constitute an intersubjective challenge in the clinical setting and in understanding socio-political processes as well.
Victims of traumatic histories may suspect that forgiveness is an impossible illusion and resign themselves to an existence in a harsh, hostile world in which one is destined to live chronically by one’s sword; such a stance undermines constructive vision, hinders learning from experience, and obstructs healing and renewal. It is therefore crucial to enable the unfolding of a culture of forgiveness as an essential element woven into the process of reconciliation with oneself and others.

Although the issues discussed in these "clusters" have a strong presence in the everyday lives of people and affect them deeply, they have not been sufficiently explored. This study presents them as relational processes which evolve all the way from unbearable destructive emotional states towards prospects of reconciliation. Clinical material that reflects the desolation caused by violence, lack of mutual concern and human need for connectedness is presented. The authors are joined in the belief that being more aware of the subjective meanings of the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors these "clusters" generate will enable therapists to be more empathic in their clinical work and beyond. The book constitutes a much needed additional path towards a humanizing dialogue and contributes to the struggle against senseless violence.

Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Prof. Rudolf Gregurek, MD, PhD, Psychiatrist/Psychotherapist/Group analyst. To read the review, click here.


Table of Contents:
Introduction: Personal motivations: how this book came into being? pp. i-xv

Part one (Avi Berman)

1. Post-traumatic Victimhood: Between Recovery and Fixation;pp. 1-17

2. Post-traumatic Victimhood and Psychotherapeutic Considerations; pp.19-40

3. Social and national Victimhood: The sociopolitical Aspect;pp. 41-57

Part two (Miriam Berger)

4. Vengefuness as a discredited emotion;pp. 61-83

5. Vengeful wishes: What are they about? The communicative function of
vengefulness;pp. 85-105

6. "Am I My Brother's Keeper": Vengefulness as a link of reconnecting;pp. 107-128

Part three (Ivan Urlic)

7. To live with enemies and the "impossible"“ task to think on forgiveness;pp. 131-152

8. Mourning and forgiveness as parts of a healing process;pp. 153-182

9. On the culture of forgiveness as essential for reconciliation;pp. 183-202

About the Authors pp. 203-204

Index pp. 205-216

      Psychiatry - Theory, Applications and Treatments
   Binding: Hardcover
   Pub. Date: 2011
   Pages: 231, 7 x 10
   ISBN: 978-1-60876-191-3
   Status: AV
Status Code Description
AN Announcing
FM Formatting
PP Page Proofs
FP Final Production
EP Editorial Production
PR At Prepress
AP At Press
AV Available
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Victimhood, Vengefulness, and the Culture of Forgiveness