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Jackson, M. (1964). The Importance of Depression Emerging in a Therapeutic Group. J. Anal. Psychol., 9(1):51-59.

(1964). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 9(1):51-59

The Importance of Depression Emerging in a Therapeutic Group

M. Jackson


EXPERIENCE of a mixed group of patients who all showed a greater or lesser degree of schizoid features has convinced me that the emergence of depression in such subjects during the course of group therapy is a highly favourable prognostic feature. In fact, it might not be going too far to say that the onset of depression should be regarded as a sign of increasing maturity, and that without the development of this capacity the chances of any major psychotherapeutic gain are slight.

The constructive aspects of depression are well known to psychotherapists. Jung has expressed this clearly in terms of psychic energy (Jung, 1958, C.W., 8, p. 82): “[the outsider] does not feel the challenge which, for the patient, lies in the depression…In the intensity of the emotional disturbance itself lies the value, the energy which he should have at his disposal in order to remedy the state of reduced adaptation.” Elsewhere he deals with depression in terms of the alchemical nigredo: “The difficulty and grief to be encountered at the beginning of the work once more coincide with the nigredo, like the ‘horrible darknesses of our mind’ …” (Jung, 1944, C.W., 12, p. 261). His description of the processses of meditation and imagination which appear with the beginning of the nigredo has important and intriguing implications in dynamic terms.

However, as Hobson (1956) has pointed out, these are very general statements, which leave us with the problem of investigating the detailed dynamics of depression.

The idea of depression as an achievement is contained in the valuable psycho-analytic concept of the depressive position, which is seen as a phase of greater maturity than the antecedent schizoid-paranoid position.

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