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Parsons, M. (1986). ‘Depression and creativity’ by André Haynal. New York: Int. Univ. Press. Pp. xxxv + 271. $30.. Psychoanal. Psychother., 2(2):188-189.

(1986). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 2(2):188-189

‘Depression and creativity’ by André Haynal. New York: Int. Univ. Press. Pp. xxxv + 271. $30.

Review by:
Michael Parsons

This is a translation of Le Sens du Désespoir, originally published in 1976 (P.U.F.) The English title is misleading, because the book is not about creativity. The subject is touched on, but only in passing and briefly. A more accurate translation of the French title would be The Meaning of Despair. It also implies the “sense of despair” as an experience. This is much more what the book is concerned with.

Haynal's basic theme is that depression is central both to normal human experience, at all stages of the developmental process, and to all kinds of psychopathology. He links depression very closely to mourning, and much of the time he equates depressive affect with what we feel when we lose something, or have to give something up which is precious to us. His analysis of development from infancy to adulthood turns into an analysis of what we are called on to leave behind at fresh stages of growth. He discusses mourning as something which thus becomes a constant element in our lives, needing perpetual handling and rehandling.

This approach, although not new, is illuminating and clinically helpful. In the course of insisting on the ubiquity of depressive affect, Haynal also considers the variety of forms it may take in neurotic, borderline and psychotic patients. He has a chapter on the kinds of defence that may be mounted against it, and says quite a lot about “helplessness” as the experience of the failure of such defences. He considers man's fear of death and hope for immortality as yet another manifestation of the struggle with despair. At a more theoretical level he discusses the role of introjection and identification in the genesis and handling of depression. There are two concluding chapters on the evolution of ideas on depression in Freud's thinking and in subsequent psychoanalytic writing.

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