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Grinberg, L. (1964). Two Kinds of Guilt—their Relations with Normal and Pathological Aspects of Mourning. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:366-371.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:366-371

Two Kinds of Guilt—their Relations with Normal and Pathological Aspects of Mourning

León Grinberg

Origin and Nature of the Sense of Guilt

The importance of guilt in the aetiology of neuroses and psychoses is well known. In my opinion, however, the question of guilt, of its origin, nature, and different ways of participation in the individual's mental development, is still one of the problems in the field of psycho-analytic research that has not yet been fully elucidated.

In some psycho-analytic circles different groups of therapists have developed varying trends of thought which differ mainly—among other things—in the way they handle guilt in their respective techniques. One of these trends centres interpretation around the necessity of liberating the patient from a guilt which, according to them, is of a negative and pathological nature, to which he is bound in a masochistic manner. Other analysts, on the other hand, seem to follow an utterly opposed theoretical-technical criterion in regard to this problem. For them, the core of any neurotic conflict is, in fact, centred on the denial of guilt experienced by the individual on account of aggressive fantasies directed towards the objects. In my opinion this controversy results from the mistake of dealing with two different kinds of guilt under the assumption that they are one and the same.

One of the classic starting-points established by Freud is that guilt, proceeding from tensions between the ego and the superego, appears as a need for punishment. Freud (1913), when studying the oedipal conflict in primitive societies, shows how out of the sense of guilt sprang the two main taboos of totemism: parricide and incest.

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