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Tip: To sort articles by year…

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

After you perform a search, you can sort the articles by Year. This will rearrange the results of your search chronologically, displaying the earliest published articles first. This feature is useful to trace the development of a specific psychoanalytic concept through time.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

May, U. (2001). Abraham's Discovery of the ‘Bad Mother’ A Contribution to the History of the Theory of Depression. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 82(2):283-305.

(2001). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 82(2):283-305

Abraham's Discovery of the ‘Bad Mother’ A Contribution to the History of the Theory of Depression

Ulrike May

The author shows how, after Freud struggled in vain from the 1890s to develop a theory of depression, Abraham succeeded for the first time in finding an approach to the understanding of depression a few years before the publication of Freud's ‘Mourning and melancholia’. It is contained in his study of the painter Giovanni Segantini (1911), which also includes a description, imbued with a new atmospheric quality, of the mother-son relationship that centres on the concept of the ‘bad mother’. The author points out that Abraham's ‘goodlbad’ dimension is effectively absent from Freud's published work up to 1911 and is also at variance with his view of the relationship between son and mother. In later contributions, too, Abraham maintained that unconscious hate directed at the mother, who is experienced as ‘bad’ but longed for as ‘good’, was a central factor in the aetiology of depression, a view he had to defend vis-à-vis Freud. The author contends that in the Segantini paper Abraham was describing an inner world similar to that evinced by the work of Melanie Klein and significantly different from Freud's. It is characterised by hate, revenge, death wishes and guilt feelings on the one hand and tranquillity and inner peace on the other.

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