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Amati Mehler, J. Argentieri, S. (1989). Hope and Hopelessness: A Technical Problem?. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 70:295-304.

(1989). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 70:295-304

Hope and Hopelessness: A Technical Problem?

Jacqueline Amati Mehler and Simona Argentieri


The authors discuss a particular technical problem raised by two patients whose analysis seemed to be at a standstill. The analysands had been complaining for a long time, repeating with a monotonous, plaintive tone that there was no more hope for them. The statement of hopelessness assumed a specific meaning in the frame of their resistance within the analytic relationship. All possible interpretations had been tried until both analysts—independently—resorted to a similar unusual technical strategy which is the issue of this paper.

The analyst is invested with the unrealistic task of preserving the illusion that unsatisfied needs or lost objects can be supplied and restituted. This illusion coexists with constant resentment of its lack of fulfilment. Hope alternates with hopelessness and the paradox lies in the necessity to have both coexist as an extreme defence against separation.

The resentment and the mournful complaint represented the last and unique possible tie with the primary object and giving this up would mean the definite downfall of illusion and admission that it is really, truly lost for ever.

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