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Fairbairn, W.R. (1936). The Effect of the King's Death Upon Patients Under Analysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 17:278-284.

(1936). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 17:278-284

The Effect of the King's Death Upon Patients Under Analysis

W. R.D. Fairbairn

On the occasion of the recent death of King George (January 20, 1936), I could not help being impressed by the effect which this event seemed to produce upon three of my patients undergoing analysis at the time. Whilst it is always informative to study the reactions of analytical patients to current events, the reactions of a group of patients to the same event are of particular interest—especially when the event in question is so significant and, at the same time, so infrequent as the death of a king. In the present instance, therefore, it seems worth placing on record the reactions of the three patients to whom I have referred. The patients in question were all characterized by a pronounced strain of oral sadism and a marked tendency to oral incorporation; and this fact would appear to have been in large measure responsible for the extreme nature of their reaction to King George's death.

One of the patients was a youth of 18, who was sent to me for analysis from a mental hospital about four months before King George died. He had been an only child most of his life—before the birth of a brother six years younger than himself and after the death of this brother six years later. His chief symptoms were:—(1) Inability to tolerate separation from his mother without intense anxiety. (2) A hypochondriacal preoccupation with the idea that his heart was diseased. (3) Recurring attacks of violent palpitation accompanied by an overwhelming fear of death.

While the clinical picture was thus dominated by anxiety symptoms, the general demeanour of the patient was nevertheless suggestive of a schizophrenic background. After analysis began, it very soon became apparent that the youth's reluctance to be parted from his mother was largely due to a need for constant reassurance that his mother had not been destroyed by his oral sadism.

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