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Pöstényi, A. (1993). Comments on the Ikonen and Rechardt papers on the death drive and the origin of shame. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 16(2):135-140.

(1993). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 16(2):135-140

Comments on the Ikonen and Rechardt papers on the death drive and the origin of shame

András Pöstényi, M.D.

Of the two important papers by Ikonen and Rechardt, I shall concentrate on that on shame. By this I do not mean to imply that the other one is of less interest, far from it. But the fact is that the problems Rechardt and Ikonen (1993) grapple with in their “Thanatos” article are so difficult, and their contributions to the subject for more than a decade (see the bibliography in 1993b) have been so rich that it would be presumptious of me to try to do it justice in just a few short remarks. I shall therefore only comment on it when I believe that a comparison between the two papers helps to illuminate the authors' views on shame and its place in psychoanalytic theory and practice.

In Ikonen and Rechardt (1993), we are presented with a brilliant, sophisticated and clinically very promising theory on shame. The authors build methodically (even if, as it will be seen, not entirely self-consistently) on their earlier work. This has its roots in their own (personal but not idiosyncratic) version of classical Freudian metapsychology, which I find in its essential features in sympathy with my own thinking.

As Ikonen and Rechardt have taught us to expect, in this paper, as in their earlier ones, great theoretical sophistication goes hand in hand with richness in descriptive detail. Many clinical examples show us the whole spectrum of the various manifestations of shame. The authors exhibit once more their skill both as phenomenologists, by demonstrating the intricate structure of the experience of shame, and as master psychoanalysts, by showing the manifold connections of that experience with other psychodynamically relevant affects, representations and processes.

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