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Zachrisson, A. (2013). The empty couch. The taboo of ageing and retirement in psychoanalysis, edited by G. Junkers. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 36(2):135-136.

(2013). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 36(2):135-136

The empty couch. The taboo of ageing and retirement in psychoanalysis, edited by G. Junkers

Anders Zachrisson

The following story is attributed to Freud. One of his American patients coming to Vienna for analysis some months every year had made an appointment for the next year. In an afterthought, Freud added: if I’m then still alive. The American was quite out-spoken and said: You do think a lot of death, Professor Freud. And Freud, in another afterthought: Yes I do, every day actually. I can warmly recommend that habit.

This book is about the taboo of ageing and retirement. Behind the taboo, we find fear of death. And fear of death seems to be prevalent also among psychoanalysts. Even after spending a professional life containing our patients’ psychic pains and anxieties, most of us have kept enough fear of “the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns” to feed the taboo of our own death. It is not easy, to really comprehend and accept the fact of death; growing older, we have perhaps, like Freud, to work on it every day.

Not very much is written about ageing, illness, retirement and death in the psychoanalytic library. For some decades, however, the themes have gradually gained a place as topics for papers and conferences. A number of colleagues have contributed to this development – a selection of them also contributes to this book, whose editor Gabriele Junkers has been a central force in the promotion of these issues.

The book has three parts: (1) growing older as psychoanalysts; (2) illness and ending; (3) institutional parts of ending.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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