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Commentary (GW) on Chapter Three: Failure to mourn and melancholia

ByJonathan Pedder

Pedder offers an account of the way in which psychoanalytic theory has progressed from the idea that “cathexis”, or “libidinal withdrawal”, is the basis of healthy mourning to the notion that internalization of the lost loved one is necessary to complete the task of mourning. Pedder tackles first Freud’s main theoretical anchors in his theory of mourning. Freud is not easy here, and Pedder notes the shadows and illuminations along the way. He then takes Klein to task over the terminology and the finer tunings of her theory of infant development, and especially the concept of the depressive position. Apart from debating the veracity of the Kleinian assertion of the sophisticated ego at birth, he asks why the idea of the depressive position, in spite of its centrality in modern psychoanalytic theory, has failed to take root in everyday psychological practice among all professionals. Compared with the idea of “defence mechanisms”, for instance, which is accepted in general parlance across a number of schools of practice, Pedder thinks the idea of the depressive position does not easily work because the terms of reference remain problematic. Pedder pins his colours to the mast, and, in Winnicott, he locates a likeminded critic.