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(1973). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 42:321.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:321

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society


After examining self-pity and self-comforting in both normal and pathological situations, the author drew attention to these affective states as a resistance which is often formidable, and may account for some analyses ending in failure. Self-pity is described by Milrod as a state in which there is a combination of pain and pleasure, in which the self-representation is hypercathected with libidinal energy. When a patient's self-esteem is diminished, when he is wounded, and when he does not live up to his moral demands, he often withdraws into a state of self-comforting in which he mulls over his pain and savors the gratifications of comforting and consolation that he lavishes on himself. The gratification of the self-comforting often surpasses the experience of the pain itself: 'this unique bitter-sweet gratification can become so important that it may appear as a rigid pattern of behavior not unlike an addiction'. Such patients act both as the injured child and as the loving, comforting parent. Narcissism is a prominent feature of this behavior pattern.

Several clinical cases were cited by the author. A young woman who consciously found her states of sadness pleasurable, would try to re-create the mood; a happy event might be unwelcome as she hated to give up the sadness. Even after she married and had less occasion to feel lonely, she missed the periods of self-pity. Another patient, a lonely woman, spent many of her analytic sessions complaining about the terrible burdens that had been placed upon her; each structural arrangement in the analysis was felt to be a burden.

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