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Hagman, G. (1995). Chapter 12 Death of a Selfobject: Toward a Self Psychology of the Mourning Process. Progress in Self Psychology, 11:189-205.

(1995). Progress in Self Psychology, 11:189-205

Chapter 12 Death of a Selfobject: Toward a Self Psychology of the Mourning Process

George Hagman, M.S.W.

The psychoanalytic theory of mourning has changed little from Freud's original formulation (Freud, 1917) despite the extensive theoretical and clinical literature on the subject. A primary emphasis on decathexis and identification related to object loss has remained consistent regardless of school of thought and clinical method. The purpose of this chapter is to review the psychoanalytic model of mourning from a new perspective: the psychology of the self. My thesis is that mourning is essentially the transmuting internalization of the structure and function of the lost self-object. I intend to offer a reinterpretation of the stages of mourning as formulated by Bowlby (1980) and Parkes (1987) with an emphasis on the transformation of the lost selfobject's narcissistic function as the primary goal of the work of mourning.

After a brief literature review, I expand on my thesis and propose a reinterpretation of the stages of mourning along self psychological lines. This is followed by a discussion of the role of the selfobject ambience in the facilitation of the mourning process. In closing, treatment implications of a self-focused approach to mourning is reviewed.


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