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Rosenbluth, D. (1965). The Kleinian Theory of Depression. J. Child Psychother., 1(3):20-25.
   

(1965). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 1(3):20-25

The Kleinian Theory of Depression

Dina Rosenbluth

The term depression is used for a large number of different painful mental states: it can denote an affect or mood, experienced by everyone, healthy or ill, at different times. It can also mean an illness symptom, which may occur in a number of different illnesses. Or, finally, it may be a specific syndrome—more or less crippling or severe, the depressive illness.

The Kleinian thesis is that depressive illness arises as a result of an inability to face, or adequately deal with, the conflicts aroused in the depressive position. As space is limited I shall concentrate on attempting to clarify, in broad outline, this relation between depressive illness on the one hand and the “depressive position” and “depressive anxieties” on the other.

To begin with I think it important to be clear that Melanie Klein, in talking of “position” (paranoid-schizoid or depressive) did not mean a stage or phase of development. Although she postulates that both “positions” originate in the oral stage, they are not thought of as phases that occupy a certain period of time and are then wholly superseded. This is why she chose the term “position”, to make explicit that it is not a phase, in the sense of the oral, anal, or phallic stages of libidinal development. The term “position” is meant to cover certain constellations of the ego's relation to objects and the kind of anxieties and defences at work in these different constellations.

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