melancholia cont…


Freud’s psychoanalytical and intrapsychic paper appears quite different to the presented interpersonal theories on depression. Delving deeper though to the presented meanings and ideas, important theoretical connections were discovered, with the main ‘common ground’ between the two perspectives being that depression or melancholia can be understood as a relational phenomenon. While Freud emphasised the internal relationships, representations and identifications of the melancholic, interpersonal theories focus more on the interactive patterns of one’s social and private environments.

In many ways both perspectives appear complementary to each other, highlighting the value of flexible and diverse enough approaches towards complex and confusing questions in the mind of a depressed one: Who am I and who is the other? What is going on in/with me? What is going on with the others? Private and intimate relationships appear to be the processes where self and other, and what is felt internal and external become even more blurred and intertwined; life feels lost in a chaos or void between rigid love and hate.  Freud emphasised that loosing a significant loved one is like loosing oneself in some ways in melancholia. As he suggested, a person experiencing depression might know what is lost in the world or ‘whom he has lost but not what he has lost in him’ (Freud: 245).

What appear as somehow outdated in Freud’s writing is his observation that there is an overall lack of shame when melancholics present themselves; on the contrary, contemporary writings express the role of shame as a strong maintaining factor in depression, especially as part of our ‘I-must-only-be-successful-and-happy’ western world, from a man’s point of view (Solomon, 2001). On the other hand, Freud is very relevant today with his almost a century old insights, in relation to the dangers of someone thinking of knowing exactly what is going with patients, while contradicting and treating them.

Perhaps such attitudes could contribute interpersonally and internally to their helplessness and desperation, to depressive manipulations or withdrawals, in keeping also with mutually maintaining relationships in depression (Coyne, 1985). As Freud and Klein suggested, depressive elements might be more part of our human being and less part of a psychopathology that could be rigidly based on clear and fixed lines between mental health and illness. Redressing the power imbalances involved in all these, while clarifying meanings and intentions as psychotherapists, appear today as relevant as ever before.


online therapy


online therapy