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Grotstein, J.S. (1990). Nothingness, Meaninglessness, Chaos, and the "Black Hole" I—The Importance of Nothingness, Meaninglessness, and Chaos in Psychoanalysis. Contemp. Psychoanal., 26:257-290.

(1990). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 26:257-290

Nothingness, Meaninglessness, Chaos, and the "Black Hole" I—The Importance of Nothingness, Meaninglessness, and Chaos in Psychoanalysis

James S. Grotstein, M.D.


IN A RECENT CONTRIBUTION I sought to examine the concept of powerlessness from a psychoanalytic perspective (Grotstein, 1986). My thesis was that psychoanalytic theory has long depended on the putative power of the peremptory irruption of the instinctual drives and their vicissitudes in order to formulate a theory of motivation. There I hypothesized that Freud, influenced as he was by German Romanticism and Logical Positivism, developed a notion of human motivation which depended in no small measure on the romantic, preternatural power of Nature on one hand and on the power of logical science on the other. Psychoanalysis was the child of this union. To this notion I seek to introduce its dialectic—the experience of the awesome force of powerlessness, of defect, of nothingness, of "zero-ness"—expressed, not just as a static emptiness but as an implosive, centripetal pull into the void. I should like to link and to contrast meaninglessness with nothingness, its


Presented as the Harry Stack Sullivan Award Lecture on the Annual Scientific Day of the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, Towson, Maryland, April 8, 1989. This is the first of a three-part article.— Ed

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