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Allen, T.E. (1967). Suicidal Impulse in Depression and Paranoia. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 48:433-438.

(1967). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 48:433-438

Suicidal Impulse in Depression and Paranoia

Thomas E. Allen

Since its introduction in 1920, Freud's concept of a death instinct has received sporadic attention and has had its critics, e.g. Fenichel (1935), Pratt (1958) and Horney (Weiss, 1954) and its apologists, Ostow (1958). The prevailing trend has been to view it as a step in the development towards the later dual instinct theory of sex and aggression. But in spite of this it has remained on the psycho-analytic landscape as something of a white elephant, possibly of value and too big to ignore. It is my own view that the concept can play a significant role in understanding depression and paranoia, after some important modifications have been made.

The Death Instinct

To understand what follows it is necessary to go into considerable detail to delineate Freud's theory of the death instinct, its derivation and its intended applications. Its development in Beyond the Pleasure Principle is not much changed in later restatements (Freud, 1930), (1940) and can serve, therefore, as a means of understanding this concept. A presentation of its development follows in Freud's own language:

It seems, then, that an instinct is an urge inherent in organic life to restore an earlier state of things which the living entity has been obliged to abandon under the pressure of external disturbing forces; that is, it is a kind of organic elasticity, or to put it another way, the expression of the inertia inherent in organic life (p. 36).

If we are to take it as a truth that knows no exception that everything living dies for internal reasons—becomes inorganic once again—then we shall be compelled to say that " the aim of all life is death " and, looking backwards, that " inanimate things existed before living ones " (p.

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