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Stern, M.M. (1968). Fear of Death and Trauma—Remarks about an Addendum to Psychoanalytic Theory and Technique. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 49:457-461.

(1968). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 49:457-461

Fear of Death and Trauma—Remarks about an Addendum to Psychoanalytic Theory and Technique

Max M. Stern

Fear of death has not had the consideration in analytical theory and technique necessary for the full understanding of the function of the mind in general and of neurosis in particular. Yet fear of the inevitable end exists, although mostly denied, throughout life and in various disguises. That fear of death is in the psychoanalytic literature mainly treated as an analogy to, or development of, castration anxiety, originates in Freud's remarks about "Todesangst" in The Ego and the Id(1923), which he repeated in Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety(1926) and which was translated in the Standard Edition as fear of death. That in these passages Freud was dealing with mortal anxiety and not with fear of death, I have pointed out in a previous paper (Stern, 1968). Although there is some connection, fear of future death with which this paper deals, is not identical with mortal anxiety which Freud calls the response to situations of extreme danger.

My own clinical observations show that fear of death has its own place in the individual's development. Of course, in psychoanalysis we are not concerned with what death objectively is, but with its psychic representation. Fear of death seems to contain a projection of actually felt annihilation of self and ego into an indefinite future. This paper maintains that it emerges already in the first years of life (A. Freud) from experiences in early traumatic situations from which, as Freud stressed, no individual is spared and which I, therefore, call biotraumata.

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