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Metapsychology in Ferenczi: Death Instinct or Death Passion?

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In Freud's perspective the severe clinical phenomena related to repetition-compulsion depend on death instinct, while according to Ferenczi they depend on severe early traumas provoked by human actions. Concepts and ideas stemming from Ferenczi's posthumous notes seem to be especially relevant for understanding how trauma may result in devastating effects. If a traumatic assault occurs at an early developmental period, which might be described as a “mimetic period”, causing a displeasure that exceeds the capacity of tolerance of the ego, the ego tries to manage it by a mimetic reproduction of the aggressor's desires. This mimetic reaction leaves an imprint in the subject, which Ferenczi calls “alien transplant”. In line with the idea of an intrusive potential of the environment, Ferenczi also suggests, following Descartes, that the “passions” of the soul are created as a reaction to the suffering inflicted from outside. If we compare Freud's ideas with those of Ferenczi, we find that Ferenczi's concept of “alient transplant” is equivalent to Freud's concept of “death instinct”. In order to make this correspondence apparent, it is suggested to call it “death passion”. This point is illustrated with a clinical vignette.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 1998

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