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Depressive Position

  The Depressive Position is a concept of Melanie Klein\'s, a further development in her object relations psychoanalysis, and is the developmental phase in the infant that occurs after the Paranoid-Schizoid Position. It begins when the baby recognizes its mother.

In the early months the baby lives in a dream-like world of sights and sounds, pleasant and unpleasant experiences, where the mother is a series of parts particularly breasts, hands, voice, etc. This is the time of the Paranoid-Schizoid Position when the baby can split off the unconscious objects that are too threatening.

Out of this emerges the mother as a whole object. This brings about a gradual understanding of separation: that this person, the mother, contains good and bad parts which the baby can love and hate. This separation brings up the feeling that the child is responsible for the separation and its hateful feelings have brought it about. The baby suffers guilt and pain and experiences it as a kind of death, imagining that it has caused irreparable harm to the love-object. This is followed by a phase of reparation which is facilitated by the supported mourning of the infant. This phase is brought up again in adult depression, and the painful separation is relived through a therapeutic relationship with the analyst and, given the depressive position, the termination of the therapy and its mourning phase are seen as a most important part of that process. MJ

Further reading Hannah Segal, Klein.



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