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Nissen, B. (2017). Breakdown of Intimacy. Insights into the world of a depressive lock-in. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 40(2):79-84.

(2017). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 40(2):79-84


Breakdown of Intimacy. Insights into the world of a depressive lock-in

Bernd Nissen

Breakdowns are states in which the continuity of being was destroyed. A breakdown has happened but could not be experienced. It is not possible to observe these states because they are beyond our intuition. We have to paraphrase them as ‘shadow’, ‘non-existence’, or ‘black hole’. In these dynamics, the development of a Super-Ego precedes the development of the ego. Under such a Super-Ego, the unthinkable turns into omniscience – no intimacy is left.

This process is demonstrated using the example of a treatment in which a patient regresses into a severe autistoid depression (major depression). In a depressive lock-in, all mental life collapsed and intrapsychic and interpsychic communication was not possible, neither of the depression nor of the panic. The ‘me’ is threatened with dissolution, the ‘not-me’ is flattened into a two-dimensional non-existence. For the analyst, it is nearly impossible to understand anything, to build up any empathy, i.e., to grasp the depression intuitively. Finally, intimacy gets lost – until it is possible to communicate this agony (e.g., by projective identification).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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