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Kernberg, O. (2009). The Concept of the Death Drive: A Clinical Perspective. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 90(5):1009-1023.

(2009). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 90(5):1009-1023

The Concept of the Death Drive: A Clinical Perspective

Otto Kernberg

(Final version accepted 30 March 2009)

This paper discusses Freud's theory of the death drive in the light of clinical experience with severely self-destructive personality disorders, and contemporary object relations theory. Repetition compulsion, sadism and masochism, negative therapeutic reaction, suicide in depressed and in non-depressed patients, and destructive group processes are explored from this perspective. The paper concludes that the concept of the death drive is clinically relevant, but that this condition needs to be traced to the general dominance of aggressive affects as the primary etiological factor; only under severely pathological circumstances does this dominance lead to a focused drive to self-destruct.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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