Freud Essay Mourning And Melancholia

Freud's mourning theory has been criticized for assuming a model of subjectivity based on a strongly bounded form of individuation. This model informs “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917), in which Freud argued that mourning comes to a decisive end when the subject severs its emotional attachment to the lost one and reinvests the free libido in a new object. Yet Freud revised his mourning theory in writings concerned with the Great War and in The Ego and the Id (1923), where he redefined the identification process previously associated with melancholia as an integral component of mourning. By viewing the character of the ego as an elegiac formation, that is, as “a precipitate of abandoned object-cathexes,” Freud's later work registers the endlessness of normal grieving; however, it also imports into mourning the violent characteristics of melancholia, the internal acts of moralized aggression waged in an effort to dissolve the internal trace of the other and establish an autonomous identity. Because it is not immediately clear how Freud's text offers a theory of mourning beyond melancholy violence, his account of the elegiac ego is shown here to ultimately undermine the wish for an identity unencumbered by the claims of the lost other and the past, and to suggest the affirmative and ethical aspects of mourning.

In Sigmund Freud's "Mourning and Melancholia" (1917) he offers the notion that melancholy and mourning are two different responses to loss. For Freud, pathological melancholy, unlike normal mourning, is a process in which separation from an object of attachment remained incomplete for some reason. Instead of retracting the libido invested with the lost object and redirecting it to another object, the melancholic person directs its excess libido inwards. As a result a part of the person identifies with the lost person, resulting in a inner division. The internalization of the lost loved one forms a separate faculty in the psyche which is harsh, judgmental, angry and yet attracting. While mourning is associated with conscious thought, melancholia happens in the unconscious.    

In his famous and important article "The Ego and the Id" (1923) Freud expanded on "Mourning and Melancholia" arguing that the process is universal and normal and is in fact a part of the Oedipal Phase. The internalization of the parent is, according to Freud, the inner division that forms the "super-ego".  

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