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Hansell, J.H. (2000). Mourning and Melancholia in Superego Development and Resistance to Change. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 9(2):255-277.

(2000). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 9(2):255-277

Clinical Paper

Mourning and Melancholia in Superego Development and Resistance to Change

James H. Hansell, Ph.D.

This paper relates certain difficult resistances in psychoanalytic treatment to a specific form of superego and ego-ideal pathology. The resistances I have in mind are familiar to all analysts and have been described in various ways. What they have in common is patients' difficulty in using the psychoanalytic process productively in the service of growth and change. Rather, analysis is used (or avoided) in the service of holding on to old symptoms, old patterns, and old grievances. Sometimes these resistances take the form of sadomasochistic transferences leading to interminable analyses or stalemates. In other cases, they interfere with patients' acceptance of a recommendation for psychoanalytic treatment, so that the process never begins. While such resistances are present to some degree, and at certain moments, in all analyses, they are central in many treatments, posing numerous difficulties for the analytic couple.

Resistance to change has been frequently discussed from the standpoints of the repetition compulsion (Freud, 1920; Inderbitzin and Levy, 1998), pathological narcissism (Kernberg, 1974), attachment to internalized “bad objects” (Fairbairn, 1952), sadomasochism (Novick and Novick, 1996), and dyadic resistances emerging from the intersubjective field (Stolorow, 1984). My intent is to explore one particular aspect of these complex resistances linked to problems in superego and ego-ideal development.

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