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Firestein, S.K. (1967). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 36:325.

(1967). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 36:325

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

Stephen K. Firestein

DISCUSSION: Dr. Frank Berchenko elaborated from clinical material some of the most obtrusive features of patients suffering from unusual fear of death. Like Peter Pan, these patients have retained an infantile self-image. Feeling constantly threatened by death, they shun adult responsibilities and seek spouses who will play the role of the parent.

Dr. Max Schur spoke of Freud's comment that 'the core of the danger situation is the feeling of helplessness, and … this certainly applies to our attitude toward death… With age death becomes increasingly a content of the danger situation.' While Dr. Schur concurred with Dr. Stern's emphasis on the importance of the fear of death in our mental life, he took issue with the translation of Todesangst as 'mortal anxiety' and with the postulated associated states of shocklike motor paralysis. When Freud wrote of the experience of being paralyzed in the face of excessive excitation, he was designating a psychic paralysis, 'a paralysis of the performance of the pleasure principle'. Noting Freud's clarification of the essence of the danger situation as the subject's estimation of his helplessness in the face of it, Dr. Schur underscored the importance not merely of the content of the danger but the ego's response to it. In these terms, Dr. Stern's analytic success in contending with his patients' fears of death stemmed from his having explored the feared traumatic situation from the side of the ego.

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