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Roth, N. (1983). Loneliness and the Poet: Robert W. Service. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 11(4):593-602.

(1983). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 11(4):593-602

Loneliness and the Poet: Robert W. Service

Nathan Roth, M.D.

It has become a commonplace to read that psychiatrists and psychoanalysts have contributed little to our understanding of the topic of loneliness (von Witzleben, 1958; Bowman, 1955; Fromm-Reichmann, 1959; Sangster and Ellison, 1978; Barnett, 1978; Russell et al., 1978; Mijuskovic, 1977; Ranshaw, 1979). These statements continue even as contributions to the subject multiply, and this repetition has some justification. It is the message of Frieda Fromm-Reichmann (1959) on the subject which is quoted most often and which makes very cogent remarks. She feels that psychiatrists have entered into a type of secret collusion about the matter which results in their leaving the topic of loneliness unconceptualized, and in which they allow the words anxiety and loneliness to be interchangeable, thus leaving the topic of loneliness submerged. She feels this is done because psychiatrists, like all people, are capable of feeling very lonely and do not wish to be made aware of this fact or their dread of it. This strange state of affairs persists despite the enormous significance of the topic for psychopathology. Fromm-Reichmann asserts her “assumption that real loneliness cannot be endured more than temporarily without leading to psychotic developments or that it occurs as an inherent part of mental illness.”

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