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Volkan, V.D. (1995). Guilt And Depression. By Leon Grinberg. London: Karnac Books, 1992, 318 pp., £19.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 43:938-941.

(1995). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 43:938-941

Guilt And Depression. By Leon Grinberg. London: Karnac Books, 1992, 318 pp., £19.95.

Review by:
Vamik D. Volkan

Leon Grinberg notes in his preface to the English edition of Guilt and Depression that, although it was originally published “years ago” (most of its references come from the literature of the 1950's or 1960's), its central ideas are “still fully applicable” (p. xiii). The book is divided into three sections, the first devoted to guilt, the second to mourning, and the third to the appearance of both in artistic creations.

It opens with the role feelings of guilt have played throughout history in religion and myth and explores related philosophical and psychoanalytical concepts, culminating in a presentation of Grinberg's own ideas about them. Inspired by Melanie Klein's classification of persecutory and depressive anxiety, he envisions guilt in like categories. It will be remembered that she differs from classical Freudian thought in her belief that the ego is present at birth and that, at the beginning of life, the life and death instincts are opposed. Attributing much “knowledge” to the neonate, she posits the infant experiencing anxiety as an affective response to danger generated by the death instinct that brings fear of annihilation of the self and evokes persecutory anxiety.

The type of anxiety that dominates during the infant's paranoidschizoid position she calls persecutory; the child deals with it by splitting, projection, introjection, projective identification, idealization, denial, and feelings of omnipotence. Kleinian theory does not emphasize the contribution of the real world but considers important the vivid unconscious “phantasies” attached to the “good” and “bad” objects separated by splitting. Nor does Kleinian theory differentiate objects from their representations.


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