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Hamilton, V. (1988). The Concept of Mourning and its Roots in Infancy. Psychoanal. Psychother., 3(3):191-209.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 3(3):191-209

The Concept of Mourning and its Roots in Infancy

Victoria Hamilton

Since Freud's seminal paper ‘Mourning and Melancholia’, the term mourning has become a common psychoanalytic concept. As such, it carries many of its ordinary connotations relating to death and the endings encountered in everyday life. In addition, the term has acquired a more specialised meaning in which it is used to donote complex developmental processes in infancy. In this paper, I draw various distinctions between the events of endings and the mental processes — beliefs and feelings — associated with these events. I discuss the pivotal place occupied by the belief in reunion in mourning and some aspects of the distinction between separation and separateness. I point to the contexts other than conflict and pain in which a sense of separateness can develop. The literature on mourning necessarily focusses upon the pains of separation and separateness. A clinical example is given in which an infant's rocking is viewed as a compromise or ‘symptom’ of disordered mourning. The rocking is understood as the best way in which a mother and baby cope with the pains of separation and separateness.

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