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Jelliffe, S.E. (1933). The Death Instinct in Somatic and Psychopathology. Psychoanal. Rev., 20(2):121-132.

(1933). Psychoanalytic Review, 20(2):121-132

Original Articles

The Death Instinct in Somatic and Psychopathology

Smith Ely Jelliffe, M.D.

In my early thirties while still in the beginning of my medical career, and trying to earn an honest penny by work outside of the actual practice of medicine, I became editor of the Medical News, then one of the oldest of the medical weeklies of the United States.

The annual meetings of the American Medical Association were events of much moment to editors of the four or five medical weeklies then existing and hence I visited them. In 1905 the annual meeting took place at Portland, Oregon, and it was at that time that an occasion was offered to visit Alaska and I traveled as far north as the Great Divide, down which the gold rush descended in that memorable push to the golden sands of the Yukon.

One of the strange events of this trip which burned in my memory at that time and which constitutes the beginning of this contribution was the vivid picture of the mad climb of the salmon up the western coast rivers carrying out their strange and fatal journey during which the instinctual impulses of Life and Death fought out their implicit patterns in grotesque antithesis.

If ever the lines “In the midst of life we are in death,” which came as a faint echo from an earlier period of my life, were obscure in my mind as to explicit meaning, here there was no doubt that such a paradox was patent as well as potent.

It was not by any means the first time that the phenomenon in question had come to my notice.

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