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Levin, S. (1966). Depression and Object Loss. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 14:142-153.

(1966). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 14:142-153

Depression and Object Loss

Sidney Levin, M.D.

Helen Ross introduced the panel by outlining some of the common experiences to which the term "object loss" may be applied. She noted that not only may there be loss of a parent by death or by separation, the latter including adoption and divorce, but there also may be a loss when a parent, although present, is in essence not there due to psychosis. She then presented material from the autobiography of Jean-Paul Sartre which described the author's reactions to the loss of his father. Sartre was an infant when his father died. His mother then returned to live with her parents. Sartre felt that his mother was there to serve him, but he could not respect her since no one else did. The only evidence of the father was a picture of him in his mother's bedroom, which the boy shared. Sartre states that his father's death "was the big event of my life; it sent my mother back to her chains and gave me freedom." He perceived his mandate as that of pleasing others and stated that if his father were alive, he would have known his rights and duties. He had little traffic with other children and made it his business to step aside. He confessed a strong need for an inner authority which he connected with self-respect and his need for a father. Although the essence of authority in the house was the grandfather, Sartre had to set up his own authority, and he focused his love on books. He wrote: "I am not a leader, nor do I aspire to become one. Command, obey, its all one. The bossiest of men commands in the name of another—his father. … Never in my life have I given an order without laughing, without making others laugh. It is because I am not consumed by the canker of power; I was not taught obedience."

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