Jeanne Safer

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Jeanne Safer, Ph.D. (born 1947) is an author and American psychotherapist.

She has written articles for the Wall Street Journal, Utne Reader, Self, New Woman and other publications. She has also authored the following books in psychotherapy:

  • Beyond Motherhood: Choosing a Life Without Children
  • Forgiving and not Forgiving: Why sometimes it's better not to forgive
  • The Normal One

Safer lives in Manhattan[1] with her husband, Richard Brookhiser, a journalist and historian.[2] They also have a home in Ulster County in the Catskills.

Her books[edit]

Beyond motherhood[edit]

Forgiving and Not Forgiving[edit]

Safer argues in this book that genuine forgiveness is neither easy nor is it always necessary. Carefully choosing not to forgive can also be therapeutic.

The book has a number of incidents of people who managed to forgive, people who decided not to forgive, and people who are trying to forgive. Safer says that forgiveness is a long journey and, like love, cannot be forced.

She discusses three stages of forgiveness:

  • Reengaging with the trauma
  • Recognizing its emotional impact
  • Reinterpreting the actions of the people involved

Safer distinguishes forgiveness from the following:

  • Overlooking: Overlooking an offense means minimizing its significance or magnitude.
  • Excusing: Excusing an offense means explaining (or explaining away) the offense by citing mitigating circumstances.
  • Pardoning: Pardoning the offender means deciding not to punish him or her for the wrong.
  • Reconciliation: Reconciliation means making up with the offender after forgiveness.

Overlooking and excusing do not qualify as forgiveness because they absolve the wrongdoer of responsibility. Pardoning again does not qualify as forgiveness because it can be granted by those other than the wronged party. Reconciliation is done after forgiving.

The recent hype about forgiving, with both religious leaders and psychotherapists proclaiming the virtues of forgiveness, has led, according to Safer, to a lot of false forgiveness. Safer talks of the following:

  • Automatic forgivers: People who, without thinking, grant pardon to others and feel they have forgiven.
  • False forgivers: People who forgive as a shortcut to repress their negative feelings against another person.

The Normal One[edit]

This book is targeted at siblings (brothers or sisters) of abnormal children. As the "normal ones", they are under many societal and parental expectations regarding their siblings.


  1. ^ [1] From the NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) website, "NORML Library" section, Web page titled "National Review Senior Editor Richard Brookhiser's Congressional Testimony (1996)" an excerpt, ("excerpted from testimony Mr. Brookhiser presented before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, on March 6, 1996 in support of the efficacy of medical marijuana."), accessed September 20, 2006
  2. ^ [2] Jeanne Safer, "Symposium: Pat Buckley, R.I.P." Web page, April 17, 2007 at National Review Online Web site, accessed April 18, 2007

External links[edit]