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Malmquist, C.P. Meehl, P.E. (1978). Barabbas: A Study in Guilt-Ridden Homicide. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 5:149-174.

(1978). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 5:149-174

Barabbas: A Study in Guilt-Ridden Homicide

Carl P. Malmquist and Paul E. Meehl


Problems associated with the assessment of psychotic depressions are multiple. These partly arise from absence of clearly delineated criteria for the exclusion or inclusion of psychotic symptoms and signs, except in extreme cases when seen in retrospect. The problem was illustrated theoretically by considering conflicting notions about the native delusions. Central importance is given to self-depreciatory delusions as indicating a critical impairment in cognitive ego functioning. The relationship of ego-splitting and altered states of consciousness to homicidal acts in psychotic depressions are discussed in the context of depersonalization processes. Regression in all mental spheres is viewed as the essential mechanism which sets the stage for acting out homicidal aggression in such individuals. In the case used for illustration, this was manifested in a loss of hearing—taken as an index of ego regression and loss of superego control. Other ego functions, such as perception, motility and reality-testing, were other indices of impairment. The precipitating role of a film involving the guilt-ridden figure of Barabbas is discussed in terms of its impact on this individual. General background features of the Barabbas myth and legend were commented upon.

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