The Depressive Position

Jennifer Radden

in The Nature of Melancholy

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780195151657
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849253 | DOI:
The Depressive Position

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This chapter presents Melanie Klein's discussion of melancholy. Klein was one of the most influential but also controversial thinkers to extend and expand Freudian insights. Her interest lay in the relationships established by an infant during the first years of life. Reinterpreting Freud's account of the conflicts among instincts, Klein developed a theory about the interplay of attitudes, particularly of love and hate, felt in relation to the infant's first “objects,” the mother and parts of the mother, such as her breasts, as both external objects and internal representations. The centrality accorded to these early feelings, particularly the intense, negative ones, is a distinguishing mark of Kleinian theory. Klein first wrote of the depressive position in 1935 and continued to alter and develop her analysis for the rest of her life. In an excerpt included here, from 1940, depressive position referred to the infant's inner turmoil and distress accompanying weaning; the first painful, frustrating, and alarming experience of separation and loss; and the recognition that a whole object is both loved and hated. Elaborating on the feelings of loss associated with early separation about which Freud had written in “Mourning and Melancholia,” Klein postulated that this period of infancy involved in every case a kind of infantile neurosis, similar to melancholia.

Keywords: Melanie Klein; Freud; infants; loss; separation; melancholia

Chapter.  6809 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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