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Pollock, G.H. (1980). Dying. A Psychoanalytic Study with Special Reference to Individual Creativity and Defensive Organization: By Tor-Björn Hägglund. Helsinki: Psychiatric Clinic of the Helsinki University Central Hospital, 1976, 138 pp.; New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1978. 259 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 49:704-706.

(1980). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 49:704-706

Dying. A Psychoanalytic Study with Special Reference to Individual Creativity and Defensive Organization: By Tor-Björn Hägglund. Helsinki: Psychiatric Clinic of the Helsinki University Central Hospital, 1976, 138 pp.; New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1978. 259 pp.

Review by:
George H. Pollock

We all live under a death sentence throughout our lives, although the form, shape, and means of dealing with this threat to our existence varies from person to person. Until the early 1960's few papers and monographs by psychoanalysts were devoted to this enigmatic, inevitable, and universal topic. Theologians and philosophers have long addressed the theme of death and immortality. Painters, writers, sculptors, composers, poets, have all creatively depicted aspects of this human anxiety, but systematic studies of the phenomena and experiences were few. Then came the "death and dying" movement, particularly in the United States and Great Britain. Much of this research, clinical as well as conceptual, was based on the classic contributions of Freud (e.g., Mourning and Melancholia and On Transience) and brought a neglected area to our awareness. The thanatologic had been avoided and denied for many internal and external reasons. Now taboos could be faced and observed directly. Theoretical formulations were offered about stages of dying, bereavement, and grief work. The hospice movement came to the United States, and one began to read about "preventive intervention" in the dying-bereavement process. In extreme situations one could but wonder about the possible risk involved if preparations for death were pursued too vigorously. Suggestion and voodoo death are powerful agents, and now that it has been posited that underlying biological mechanisms account for their action, it is conceivable that one could hasten the dying-death process if one were too active in preparing the unfortunate for the inevitable fate that awaits us all.

Other investigations into related, connected, and derivative areas have followed: for example, studies of the mourning-liberation process and adaptation, pathological mourning processes, suicide, anniversary phenomena, object loss at various stages of the life span, the relationship of the process of liberation from mourning to creativity, to name but a few. The separation of object loss from the mourning-liberation processes was important because of the linkage, previously seen as tight, which had prevented the investigation of these two different phenomena until they could be researched independently.

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