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In the first place, normal mourning, too, overcomes the loss of the object, and it, too, while it lasts, absorbs all the energies of the ego. Why, then, after it has run its course, is there no hint in its case of the economic condition for a phase of triumph? I find it impossible to answer this objection straight away. It also draws our attention to the fact that we do not even know the economic means by which mourning carries out its task. Possibly, however, a conjecture will help us here. Each single one of the memories and situations of expectancy which demonstrate the libido’s attachment to the lost object is met by the verdict of reality that the object no longer exists; and the ego, confronted as it were with the question whether it shall share this fate, is persuaded by the sum of the narcissistic satisfactions it derives from being alive to sever its attachment to the object that has been abolished. We may perhaps suppose that this work of severance is so slow and gradual that by the time it has been finished the expenditure of energy necessary for it is also dissipated.¹


It is tempting to go on from this conjecture about the work of mourning and try to give an account of the work of melancholia. Here we are met at the outset by an uncertainty. So far we have hardly considered melancholia from the topographical point of view, nor asked ourselves in and between what psychical systems the work of melancholia goes on. What part of the mental processes of the disease still takes place in connection with the unconscious object-cathexes that have been given up, and what part in connection with their substitute, by identification, in the ego?


¹ The economic standpoint has hitherto received little attention in psycho-analytic writings. I would mention as an exception a paper by Victor Tausk (1913) on motives for repression devalued by recompenses.2


The quick and easy answer is that ‘the unconscious (thing-) presentation of the object has been abandoned by the libido’. In reality, however, this presentation is made up of innumerable single impressions (or unconscious traces of them), and this withdrawal of libido is not a process that can be accomplished in a moment, but must certainly, as in mourning, be one in which progress is long-drawn-out and gradual. Whether it begins simultaneously at several points or follows some sort of fixed sequence is not easy to decide; in analyses it often becomes evident that first one and then another memory is activated, and that the laments which always sound the same and are wearisome in their monotony nevertheless take their rise each time in some different unconscious source. If the object does not possess this great significance for the ego - a significance reinforced by a thousand links - then, too, its loss will not be of a kind to cause either mourning or melancholia. This characteristic of detaching the libido bit by bit is therefore to be ascribed alike to mourning and to melancholia; it is probably supported by the same economic situation and serves the same purposes in both.


As we have seen, however, melancholia contains something more than normal mourning. In melancholia the relation to the object is no simple one; it is complicated by the conflict due to ambivalence. The ambivalence is either constitutional, i.e. is an element of every love-relation formed by this particular ego, or else it proceeds precisely from those experiences that involved the threat of losing the object. For this reason the exciting causes of melancholia have a much wider range than those of mourning, which is for the most part occasioned only by a real loss of the object, by its death. In melancholia, accordingly, countless separate struggles are carried on over the object, in which hate and love contend with each other; the one seeks to detach the libido from the object, the other to maintain this position of the libido against the assault. The location of these separate struggles cannot be assigned to any system but the Ucs., the region of the memory-traces of things (as contrasted with word-cathexes). In mourning, too, the efforts to detach the libido are made in this same system; but in it nothing hinders these processes from proceeding along the normal path through the Pcs. to consciousness. This path is blocked for the work of melancholia, owing perhaps to a number of causes or a combination of them. Constitutional ambivalence belongs by its nature to the repressed; traumatic experiences in connection with the object may have activated other repressed material. Thus everything to do with these struggles due to ambivalence remains withdrawn from consciousness, until the outcome characteristic of melancholia has set in. This, as we know, consists in the threatened libidinal cathexis at length abandoning the object, only, however, to draw back to the place in the ego from which it had proceeded. So by taking flight into the ego love escapes extinction. After this regression of the libido the process can become conscious, and it is represented to consciousness as a conflict between one part of the ego and the critical agency.


What consciousness is aware of in the work of melancholia is thus not the essential part of it, nor is it even the part which we may credit with an influence in bringing the ailment to an end. We see that the ego debases itself and rages against itself, and we understand as little as the patient what this can lead to and how it can change. We can more readily attribute such a function to the unconscious part of the work, because it is not difficult to perceive an essential analogy between the work of melancholia and of mourning. Just as mourning impels the ego to give up the object by declaring the object to be dead and offering the ego the inducement of continuing to live, so does each single struggle of ambivalence loosen the fixation of the libido to the object by disparaging it, denigrating it and even as it were killing it. It is possible for the process in the Ucs. to come to an end, either after the fury has spent itself or after the object has been abandoned as valueless. We cannot tell which of these two possibilities is the regular or more usual one in bringing melancholia to an end, nor what influence this termination has on the future course of the case. The ego may enjoy in this the satisfaction of knowing itself as the better of the two, as superior to the object.


Even if we accept this view of the work of melancholia, it still does not supply an explanation of the one point on which we were seeking light. It was our expectation that the economic condition for the emergence of mania after the melancholia has run its course is to be found in the ambivalence which dominates the latter affection; and in this we found support from analogies in various other fields. But there is one fact before which that expectation must bow. Of the three preconditions of melancholia - loss of the object, ambivalence, and regression of libido into the ego - the first two are also found in the obsessional self-reproaches arising after a death has occurred. In those cases it is unquestionably the ambivalence which is the motive force of the conflict, and observation shows that after the conflict has come to an end there is nothing left over in the nature of the triumph of a manic state of mind. We are thus led to the third factor as the only one responsible for the result. The accumulation of cathexis which is at first bound and then, after the work of melancholia is finished, becomes free and makes mania possible must be linked with regression of the libido to narcissism. The conflict within the ego, which melancholia substitutes for the struggle over the object, must act like a painful wound which calls for an extraordinarily high anticathexis. - But here once again, it will be well to call a halt and to postpone any further explanation of mania until we have gained some insight into the economic nature, first, of physical pain, and then of the mental pain which is analogous to it. As we already know, the interdependence of the complicated problems of the mind forces us to break off every enquiry before it is completed - till the outcome of some other enquiry can come to its assistance.¹


¹ [Footnote added 1925:] Cf. a continuation of this discussion of mania in Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921c).4





Some years ago a well-known lawyer consulted me about a case which had raised some doubts in his mind. A young woman had asked him to protect her from the molestations of a man who had drawn her into a love-affair. She declared that this man had abused her confidence by getting unseen witnesses to photograph them while they were making love, and that by exhibiting these pictures it was now in his power to bring disgrace on her and force her to resign the post she occupied. Her legal adviser was experienced enough to recognize the pathological stamp of this accusation; he remarked, however, that, as what appears to be incredible often actually happens, he would appreciate the opinion of a psychiatrist in the matter. He promised to call on me again, accompanied by the plaintiff.


(Before I continue the account, I must confess that I have altered the milieu of the case in order to preserve the incognito of the people concerned, but that I have altered nothing else. I consider it a wrong practice, however excellent the motive may be, to alter any detail in the presentation of a case. One can never tell what aspect of a case may be picked out by a reader of independent judgement, and one runs the risk of leading him astray.)

Shortly afterwards I met the patient in person She was thirty years old, a most attractive and handsome girl, who looked much younger than her age and was of a distinctly feminine type. She obviously resented the interference of a doctor and took no trouble to hide her distrust. It was clear that only the influence of her legal adviser, who was present, induced her to tell me the story which follows and which set me a problem that will be mentioned later. Neither in her manner nor by any kind of expression of emotion did she betray the slightest shame or shyness, such as one would have expected her to feel in the presence of a stranger. She was completely under the spell of the apprehension brought on by her experience.


For many years she had been on the staff of a big business concern, in which she held a responsible post. Her work had given her satisfaction and had been appreciated by her superiors. She had never sought any love-affairs with men, but had lived quietly with her old mother, of whom she was the sole support. She had no brothers or sisters; her father had died many years before. Recently an employee in her office, a highly cultivated and attractive man, had paid her attentions and she in turn had been drawn towards him. For external reasons, marriage was out of the question, but the man would not hear of giving up their relationship on that account. He had pleaded that it was senseless to sacrifice to social convention all that they both longed for and had an indisputable right to enjoy, something that could enrich their life as nothing else could. As he had promised not to expose her to any risk, she had at last consented to visit him in his bachelor rooms in the daytime. There they kissed and embraced as they lay side by side, and he began to admire the charms which were now partly revealed. In the midst of this idyllic scene she was suddenly frightened by a noise, a kind of knock or click. It came from the direction of the writing-desk, which was standing across the window; the space between desk and window was partly taken up by a heavy curtain. She had at once asked her friend what this noise meant, and was told, so she said, that it probably came from the small clock on the writing-desk. I shall venture, however, to make a comment presently on this part of her narrative.


As she was leaving the house she had met two men on the staircase, who whispered something to each other when they saw her. One of the strangers was carrying something which was wrapped up and looked like a small box. She was much exercised over this meeting, and on her way home she had already put together the following notions: the box might easily have been a camera, and the man a photographer who had been hidden behind the curtain while she was in the room; the click had been the noise of the shutter; the photograph had been taken as soon as he saw her in a particularly compromising position which he wished to record. From that moment nothing could abate her suspicion of her lover. She pursued him with reproaches and pestered him for explanations and reassurances, not only when they met but also by letter. But it was in vain that he tried to convince her that his feelings were sincere and that her suspicions were entirely without foundation. At last she called on the lawyer, told him of her experience and handed over the letters which the suspect had written to her about the incident. Later I had an opportunity of seeing some of these letters. They made a very favourable impression on me, and consisted mainly in expressions of regret that such a beautiful and tender relationship should have been destroyed by this ‘unfortunate morbid idea’.


I need hardly justify my agreement with this judgement. But the case had a special interest for me other than a merely diagnostic one. The view had already been put forward in psycho-analytic literature that patients suffering from paranoia are struggling against an intensification of their homosexual trends - a fact pointing back to a narcissistic object-choice. And a further interpretation had been made: that the persecutor is at bottom someone whom the patient loves or has loved in the past. A synthesis of the two propositions would lead us to the necessary conclusion that the persecutor must be of the same sex as the person persecuted. We did not maintain, it is true, as universally and without exception valid the thesis that paranoia is determined by homosexuality; but this was only because our observations were not sufficiently numerous; the thesis was one of those which in view of certain considerations become important only when universal application can be claimed for them. In psychiatric literature there is certainly no lack of cases in which the patient imagines himself persecuted by a person of the opposite sex. It is one thing, however, to read of such cases, and quite a different thing to come into personal contact with one of them. My own observations and analyses and those of my friends had so far confirmed the relation between paranoia and homosexuality without any difficulty. But the present case emphatically contradicted it. The girl seemed to be defending herself against love for a man by directly transforming the lover into a persecutor: there was no sign of the influence of a woman, no trace of a struggle against a homosexual attachment.


In these circumstances the simplest thing would have been to abandon the theory that the delusion of persecution invariably depends on homosexuality, and at the same time to abandon everything that followed from that theory. Either the theory must be given up or else, in view of this departure from our expectations, we must side with the lawyer and assume that this was no paranoic combination but an actual experience which had been correctly interpreted. But I saw another way out, by which a final verdict could for the moment be postponed. I recollected how often wrong views have been taken about people who are ill psychically, simply because the physician has not studied them thoroughly enough and has thus not learnt enough about them. I therefore said that I could not form an immediate opinion, and asked the patient to call on me a second time, when she could relate her story again at greater length and add any subsidiary details that might have been omitted. Thanks to the lawyer’s influence I secured this promise from the reluctant patient; and he helped me in another way by saying that at our second meeting his presence would be unnecessary.


The story told me by the patient on this second occasion did not conflict with the previous one, but the additional details she supplied resolved all doubts and difficulties. To begin with, she had visited the young man in his rooms not once but twice. It was on the second occasion that the had been disturbed by the suspicious noise: in her original story she had suppressed, or omitted to mention, the first visit because it had no longer seemed of importance to her. Nothing noteworthy had happened during this first visit, but something did happen on the day after it. Her department in the business was under the direction of an elderly lady whom she described as follows: ‘She has white hair like my mother.’ This elderly superior had a great liking for her and treated her with affection, though some times she teased her; the girl regarded herself as her particular favourite. On the day after her first visit to the young man’s rooms he appeared in the office to discuss some business matter with this elderly lady. While they were talking in low voices the patient suddenly felt convinced that he was telling her about their adventure of the previous day - indeed, that the two of them had for some time been having a love-affair, which she had hitherto overlooked. The white-haired motherly old lady now knew everything, and her speech and conduct in the course of the day confirmed the patient’s suspicion. At the first opportunity she took her lover to task about his betrayal. He naturally protested vigorously against what he called a senseless accusation. For the time being, in fact, he succeeded in freeing her from her delusion, and she regained enough confidence to repeat her visit to his rooms a short time - I believe it was a few weeks - afterwards. The rest we know already from her first narrative.


In the first place, this new information removes any doubts as to the pathological nature of her suspicion. It is easy to see that the white-haired elderly superior was a substitute for her mother, that in spite of his youth her lover had been put in the place of her father, and that it was the strength of her mother-complex which had driven the patient to suspect a love-relationship between these ill-matched partners, however unlikely such a relation might be. Moreover, this disposes of the apparent contradiction to the expectation, based on psycho-analytic theory, that the development of a delusion of persecution will turn out to be determined by an over-powerful homosexual attachment. The original persecutor - the agency whose influence the patient wishes to escape - is here again not a man but a woman. The superior knew about the girl’s love affairs, disapproved of them, and showed her disapproval by mysterious hints. The patient’s attachment to her own sex opposed her attempts to adopt a person of the other sex as a love-object. Her love for her mother had become the spokesman of all those tendencies which, playing the part of a ‘conscience’, seek to arrest a girl’s first step along the new road to normal sexual satisfaction - in many respects a dangerous one; and indeed it succeeded in disturbing her relation with men.


When a mother hinders or arrests a daughter’s sexual activity, she is fulfilling a normal function whose lines are laid down by events in childhood, which has powerful, unconscious motives, and has received the sanction of society. It is the daughter’s business to emancipate herself from this influence and to decide for herself on broad and rational grounds what her share of enjoyment or denial of sexual pleasure shall be. If in the attempt to emancipate herself she falls a victim to a neurosis it implies the presence of a mother-complex which is as a rule over-powerful, and is certainly unmastered. The conflict between this complex and the new direction taken by the libido is dealt with in the form of one neurosis or another, according to the subject’s disposition. The manifestation of the neurotic reaction will always be determined, however, not by her present-day relation to her actual mother but by her infantile relations to her earliest image of her mother.


We know that our patient had been fatherless for many years: we may also assume that she would not have kept away from men up to the age of thirty if she had not been supported by a powerful emotional attachment to her mother. This support became a heavy yoke when her libido began to turn to a man in response to his insistent wooing. She tried to free herself, to throw off her homosexual attachment; and her disposition, which need not be discussed here, enabled this to occur in the form of a paranoic delusion. The mother thus became the hostile and malevolent watcher and persecutor. As such she could have been overcome, had it not been that the mother-complex retained power enough to carry out its purpose of keeping the patient at a distance from men. Thus, at the end of the first phase of the conflict the patient had become estranged from her mother without having definitely gone over to the man. Indeed, both of them were plotting against her. Then the man’s vigorous efforts succeeded in drawing her decisively to him. She conquered her mother’s opposition in her mind and was willing to grant her lover a second meeting. In the later developments the mother did not reappear, but we may safely insist that in this phase the lover had not become the persecutor directly but via the mother and in virtue of his relationship to the mother, who had played the leading part in the first delusion.


One would think that the resistance was now definitely overcome, that the girl who until now had been bound to her mother had succeeded in coming to love a man. But after the second visit a new delusion appeared, which, by making ingenious use of some accidental circumstances, destroyed this love and thus successfully carried through the purpose of the mother-complex. It still seems strange that a woman should protect herself against loving a man by means of a paranoic delusion; but before examining this state of things more closely, let us glance at the accidental circumstances that formed the basis of this second delusion, the one aimed exclusively against the man.


Lying partly undressed on the sofa beside her lover, she heard a noise like a click or beat. She did not know its cause, but she arrived at an interpretation of it after meeting two men on the staircase, one of whom was carrying something that looked like a covered box. She became convinced that someone acting on instructions from her lover had watched and photographed her during their intimate tête à tête. I do not for a moment imagine, of course, that if the unlucky noise had not occurred the delusion would not have been formed; on the contrary, something inevitable is to be seen behind this accidental circumstance, something which was bound to assert itself compulsively in the patient, just as when she supposed that there was a liason between her lover and the elderly superior, her mother-substitute. Among the store of unconscious phantasies of all neurotics, and probably of all human beings, there is one which is seldom absent and which can be disclosed by analysis: this is the phantasy of watching sexual intercourse between the parents. I call such phantasies - of the observation of sexual intercourse between the parents, of seduction, of castration, and others - ‘primal phantasies’; and I shall discuss in detail elsewhere their origin and their relation to individual experience. The accidental noise was thus merely playing the part of a provoking factor which activated the typical phantasy of overhearing which is a component of the parental complex. Indeed, it is doubtful whether we can rightly call the noise ‘accidental’. As Otto Rank has remarked to me, such noises are on the contrary an indispensible part of the phantasy of listening, and they reproduce either the sounds which betray parental intercourse or those by which the listening child fears to betray itself. But now we know at once where we stand. The patient’s lover was still her father, but she herself had taken her mother’s place. The part of the listener had then to be allotted to a third person. We can see by what means the girl had freed herself from her homosexual dependence on her mother. It was by means of a small piece of regression: instead of choosing her mother as a love-object, she identified herself with her - she herself became her mother. The possibility of this regression points to the narcissistic origin of her homosexual object-choice and thus to the paranoic disposition in her. One might sketch a train of thought which would bring about the same result as this identification: ‘If my mother does it, I may do it too; I’ve just as good a right as she has.’3


One can go a step further in disproving the accidental nature of the noise. We do not, however, ask our readers to follow us, since the absence of any deeper analytic investigation makes it impossible in this case to go beyond a certain degree of probability. The patient mentioned in her first interview with me that she had immediately demanded an explanation of the noise, and had been told that it was probably the ticking of the small clock on the writing-desk. I venture, however, to explain what she told me as a mistaken memory. It seems to me much more likely that at first she did not react to the noise at all, and that it became significant only after she met the two men on the staircase. Her lover, who had probably not even heard the noise, may have tried, perhaps on some later occasion when she assailed him with her suspicions, to account for it in this way: ‘I don’t know what noise you can have heard. Perhaps it was the small clock; it sometimes ticks like that.’ This deferred use of impressions and this displacement of recollections often occur precisely in paranoia and are characteristic of it. But as I never met the man and could not continue the analysis of the woman, my hypothesis cannot be proved.


I might go still further in the analysis of this ostensibly real ‘accident’. I do not believe that the clock ever ticked or that there was any noise to be heard at all. The woman’s situation justified a sensation of a knock or beat in her clitoris. And it was this that she subsequently projected as a perception of an external object. Just the same sort of thing can occur in dreams. A hysterical woman patient of mine once related to me a short arousal dream to which she could bring no spontaneous associations. She dreamt simply that someone knocked and then she awoke. Nobody had knocked at the door, but during the previous nights she had been awakened by distressing sensations of pollutions: she thus had a motive for awakening as soon as she felt the first sign of genital excitation. There had been a ‘knock’ in her clitoris. In the case of our paranoic patient, I should substitute for the accidental noise a similar process of projection. I certainly cannot guarantee that in the course of our short acquaintance the patient, who was reluctantly yielding to compulsion, gave me a truthful account of all that had taken place during the two meetings of the lovers. But an isolated contraction of the clitoris would be in keeping with her statement that no contact of the genitals had taken place. In her subsequent rejection of the man, lack of satisfaction undoubtedly played a part as well as ‘conscience’.


Let us consider again the outstanding fact that the patient protected herself against her love for a man by means of a paranoic delusion. The key to the understanding of this is to be found in the history of the development of the delusion. As we might have expected, the latter was at first aimed against the woman. But now, on this paranoic basis, the advance from a female to a male object was accomplished. Such an advance is unusual in paranoia; as a rule we find that the victim of persecution remains fixated to the same persons, and therefore to the same sex to which his love-objects belonged before the paranoic transformation took place. But neurotic disorder does not preclude an advance of this kind, and our observation may be typical of many others. There are many similar processes occurring outside paranoia which have not yet been looked at from this point of view, amongst them some which are very familiar. For instance, the so-called neurasthenic’s unconscious attachment to incestuous love-objects prevents him from choosing a strange woman as his object and restricts his sexual activity to phantasy. But within the limits of phantasy he achieves the progress which is denied him, and he succeeds in replacing mother and sister by extraneous objects. Since the veto of the censorship does not come into action with these objects, he can become conscious in his phantasies of his choice of these substitute-figures.


These then are phenomena of an attempted advance from the new ground which has as a rule been regressively acquired; and we may set alongside them the efforts made in some neuroses to regain a position of the libido which was once held and subsequently lost. Indeed we can hardly draw any conceptual distinction between these two classes of phenomena. We are too apt to think that the conflict underlying a neurosis is brought to an end when the symptom has been formed. In reality the struggle can go on in many ways after this. Fresh instinctual components arise on both sides, and these prolong it. The symptom itself becomes an object of this struggle; certain trends anxious to preserve it conflict with others which strive to remove it and to re-establish the status quo ante. Methods are often sought of rendering the symptom nugatory by trying to regain along other lines of approach what has been lost and is now withheld by the symptom. These facts throw much light on a statement made by C. G. Jung to the effect that a peculiar ‘psychical inertia’, which opposes change and progress, is the fundamental precondition of neurosis. This inertia is indeed most peculiar; it is not a general one, but is highly specialized; it is not even all-powerful within its own field, but fights against tendencies towards progress and recovery which remain active even after the formation of neurotic symptoms. If we search for the starting-point of this special inertia, we discover that it is the manifestation of very early linkages - linkages which it is hard to resolve - between instincts and impressions and the objects involved in those impressions. These linkages have the effect of bringing the development of the instincts concerned to a standstill. Or in other words, this specialized ‘psychical inertia’ is only a different term, though hardly a better one, for what in psycho-analysis we are accustomed to call a ‘fixation’.

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