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Sperling, O. (1944). On Appersonation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 25:128-132.

(1944). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 25:128-132

On Appersonation

Otto Sperling

A woman with psychogenic depression, who professedly loved her six-year-old son, was absolutely determined to kill herself and her son. If she did not love the boy, she would die without troubling about the fate of her child. But she wished to spare him the misery of ending as cannon fodder or as one of the unemployed. 'What does a child get out of life if it grows up without a mother?' The father, she claimed, had no proper understanding of her or of her child. To a reminder that she would be breaking the law, she replied that she alone had any claims to her son. 'The child is a part of me. If I killed him, it would be the same as if I had cut off my right arm with an axe. I shall not do it easily, but if I do it, I feel I have a right to.' I asked her if the child had agreed to die. 'Naturally', she declared, 'he said that I shouldn't go away. I shouldn't leave him behind alone.' To be sure, closer questioning showed that the child had been afraid to be alone with her, and that he by no means shared her yearning for self-destruction.

In another case I observed similar behaviour wherein the mother claimed: 'It is all the same to him whether he lives or not.' And in still another case the mother told me that the child was too young to make a decision for himself whether to live or die. It was, therefore, her prerogative to decide that the child should die with her. I wish to point out here the striking fact that the intention to murder without conscious feelings of guilt and the blindness towards the psychic processes in the child were apparently explained in each of the above cases by the mother's feeling that the child was a part of herself.

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