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The role of the witness in healing conflict : transformation within personal, religious, and sociopolitical spheres

by Minsky, Anna Heming


Imagine a divorced man who still loves his wife despite her unfaithfulness. Imagine a church full of believers, praying to understand the violent actions of a fellow believer. Imagine a country torn by political turmoil, whose citizens find reconciliation with their warring neighbors in the conversation between the walls. These scenarios help to reveal the tension between the good and bad within us all and the potential for living in awareness of both. All over our world we see the struggle for humanity to defend itself, while simultaneously working towards the good of all. The awareness that such struggle represents is incredibly powerful but difficult to achieve on one’s own. It is often a witness, a separate but connected other, who is able to facilitate a resolution of conflict within our selves, our religious lives, and our political spheres. This paper is an exploration of the role of the witness in three different contexts. In psychoanalysis, the analyst’s role as a witness is pivotal in the transformation of the analysand, and I have observed similar dynamics between deity and devotee in the Hindu practice of darshan as well as between activist and nation in the work of peacemakers in places of sociopolitical conflict. For the purpose of this paper, a witness is an entity that, through simultaneously being connected to the subject at hand and maintaining a sense of otherness, is able to hold a multiplicity of truths. This psychological role of the witness plays out culturally in darshan and in witnessing sociopolitical conflicts. The witness is significant in each of these contexts because of his or her ability to see multiplicity in the subject being witnessed.


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Includes bibliographical references.

Administrative Notes

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Colorado College
Digital Origin
born digital
32 pages
Senior Thesis -- Colorado College
Thesis Advisor
Tynan, Dan Gardiner, David
Liberal Arts and Sciences
Degree Name
Degree Type
Bachelor of Arts
Degree Grantor
Colorado College
Date Issued