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Lupi, R.S. (1998). Classics Revisited: Freud's “Mourning and Melancholia”. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(3):867-883.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(3):867-883

Classics Revisited: Freud's “Mourning and Melancholia”

Robert S. Lupi

Stephen Mitchell noted in his presentation to this panel that “one always writes history from one's own vantage point in the present.” This was clearly demonstrated by the panel's presentations and discussion, which not only addressed the rich array of psychoanalytic concepts Freud introduced in “Mourning and Melancholia,” but also provided the opportunity for a lively and productive exchange of ideas between competing points of view in psychoanalysis (contemporary drive/conflict theory and relational theory) on psychoanalytic technique, theories of psychogenesis, and motivation in human mental processes.

In his opening remarks, Edward Nersessian noted that “Mourning and Melancholia” is among the most influential of Freud's papers because of the enduring usefulness of the ideas presented there concerning theories of the mind and theories of psychopathology. The relation of mourning to melancholia remains central to psychoanalytic thinking, as do concepts involving identification, ambivalence, superego formation, aggression in mental life, and anxiety in depressive states. Nersessian also emphasized the importance this paper had in the evolution of psychoanalytic thought from the topographical to the structural theory.

Commenting on recent advances in the neurobiology of depression, Nersessian remarked that despite contemporary psychiatric thinking, which tends to dismiss the connection between loss and depression, none of the data actually contradicts the connection. One can envision the gradual elaboration of the biochemical steps between psychological


Panel held at the Fall Meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, New York, December 17, 1995.

Panelists: Edward Nersessian (chair), Leon Hoffman, Otto F. Kernberg, Stephen A. Mitchell; Discussant: Arnold Rothstein.

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