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Agoston, T. (1946). The Fear of Post-Orgastic Emptiness. Psychoanal. Rev., 33(2):197-214.

(1946). Psychoanalytic Review, 33(2):197-214

The Fear of Post-Orgastic Emptiness

Tibor Agoston, M.D.

“Horror Vacui”

The expression “horror vacui” or dread of a vacuum occurs in the history of physics. It is common knowledge that gases and liquids penetrate a vacuum and tend to fill it. In nature vacuums can be maintained only by artificial means. Hundreds of years ago this familiar phenomenon was explained as though on an affective basis by physicists who said that nature abhors vacuums and therefore tends to fill them. This was obviously an anthropomorphic projection of the feeling that man dreads nothingness.

The Feeling of Emptiness

The sensation of emptiness implies that something is lacking. It may be manifested in two immediate ways, which may be distinguished as inner and outer. By sensation of inner emptiness is meant a void felt in bodily organs or in psychic life, while outer emptiness implies social exclusion, loneliness, or want of love. Between inner and outer, a special, projected form of emptiness is typified by financial, material, or moral need, such as an empty purse or failure in life.

The feeling of emptiness is usually not a pleasant one. According to the Bible even Adam, the first man, did not like to be alone. Furthermore the history of mankind shows that imprisonment (or deprivation of freedom) is one of the most severe forms of punishment, and that this may be aggravated by isolation. Finally, the punishment we consider the most terrible is death, which combines within itself isolation from society with evacuation of life from the body. In general, the aim of most modes of punishment is to arouse a sense of vacuity, privation, or lack, such as those I have mentioned.

The Fear of Emptiness

Fear of emptiness is a symptom from which many psychoneurotics suffer.

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