In this paper Freud states that mourning and melancholia share common features, such as inhibition of activity, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of capacity to love etc. One prominent factor that distinguishes melancholia is loss of self regard, which is absent in case of mourning.

Mourning most often is a reaction to loss of an object due to death, loss of an abstraction such as one’s country, liberty, an ideal etc.

The person had invested libidinal energy in the lost object, which has to be withdrawn and ego should be freed from attachment with the lost object.  This process happens bit by bit at the expense of tie and cathectic energy. The person flips through the memories and expectations in which the libido is bound to the object and detachment of libido is accomplished.

In case of melancholia, the object has not died but lost as an object of love(e.g a breakup in a love relationship). The loss in terms of reality is that of the loved object, yet the patient is not able to clearly see what it is that has been lost. The patient cannot consciously perceive the loss either.

The melancholic displays extreme diminution in his self-regard and represents himself as worthless. He describes himself as petty, egoistic, dishonest; but unlike a person who is crushed by remorse and self-reproach the melancholic lacks any feeling shame of abasing himself in front of others. This shows the presence of an opposite trait that find satisfaction in self-exposure. The analogy with mourning tells us what he has lost is an object, and what he tells us points to a loss regards to this ego.

One part of the ego sets itself against the other, judges it critically and as it were, takes it as its object. The critical agency that has split off the ego, critically judging it can be commonly called ‘conscience’. The dissatisfaction with ego is the most outstanding feature of melancholia.

Thus there is firm ground to assert that the self-accusations of a melancholic are hardly aimed at himself, but it fits someone whom the patient loved. Thus we perceive the self-reproaches are reproaches against the loved object. They are not ashamed as everything derogatory they say about themselves is at the bottom said about someone else.


The object in which libido attachment was made had to be abandoned owing to disappointment. The result is not displacing of libido another object but, the libido is withdrawn into the ego. This establishes an identification of the ego with the lost object. This identified object is judged and criticized by the special agency.  Thus conflict between the ego and the loved person is transformed into the conflict between ego and ego as altered by identification.

The object choice has been effected on narcissistic basis, so that the object cathexis when obstacles come in its way, can regress to narcissism. The narcissistic identification with the object saves the love-relation from ending, though the object is abandoned in reality. Ego picks out an object and wants to incorporate the object itself, accordance to oral phase of libidinal development, so by devouring the object. This attributes for the connection with refusal of nourishment with severe form of melancholia.

Thus the distinguishing features of melancholia arises from the process of regression from narcissistic object-choice to narcissism, therefore it can be called “pathological mourning”.

The situations of being slighted disappointed, neglected gives rise to ambivalence in the love-relationship.The opposed feelings love and hate make itself effective as conflict due to ambivalence upon the loss of the loved object. Where there is a disposition to obsessional neurosis, the conflict due to ambivalence expresses itself in the form of self-reproaches, the mourner himself is blaming for the loss the loss of the loved object, i.e he has willed it.

Thus though the loved object is lost in reality, the love for the object cannot be give up and therefore lead to narcissistic identification of the object. The identified object is tormented by critical agency by abusing and debasing it, thereby deriving sadistic satisfaction. Thus the hate for an object in the outside world turned upon oneself. Through self punishment the patients succeeds in taking revenge on the original object, avoiding the need to express their hostility openly.

The object-cathexes has digressed into two pathways, a part into identification with loved object and the other part as under the influence of the conflict due to ambivalence, as sadism. It is this sadism alone is the reason for tendency to suicide, thereby leading to the release of narcissistic libido. Ego can kill itself, if it can direct the hostility which relates to an object in the external world, owing to the return of object-cathexis.

Melancholia acts like an open wound drawing in  the cathexes necessary for sleep. The anti-cathexes proves resistant to ego’s wish to sleep.

The melancholy turns into mania, upon completion of ego’s work. It may be because a large amount of energy has at last become unnecessary and is available for ego numerous applications and possibilities of discharge – for instance, some poor wretch, by winning a large sum of money, is suddenly relieved from chronic worry about his daily bread. Thus mania is the sign of a triumph that the subject has finally got rid of the loved object, here again what it is triumphing over remain hidden from it. The whole of anticathexis which the painful suffering of melancholia had driven to itself from the ego have become available.

In normal mourning too the energies are absorbed from the ego and ego feels impoverished. Why then mania doesn’t occur once it has run its course? Each memories where libido has made attachment is withdrawn. This work of severance is slow and gradual that by the time it has been finished the expenditure of energy necessary for mania is dissipated.

The work ego have to be accounted in case of melancholia. What part mental process is stil take place in connection to unconscious object-cathexes that have been given up and what part in connection with their substitute, by identification, in the ego?

The withdrawal of libidinal attachment with the object is not accomplished in a moment, but must be gradual as in case of mourning. The ego work of detaching the libidinal investment from the object occur bit by bit, which is evident from the fact lamentation, though monotonous roots from a different unconscious source. Thus the characteristic of detaching of libido is alike in mourning and melancholia.

As we have seen, however melancholia contains something more than the normal mourning, the relation with the object is complicated with the conflict of ambivalence. The ambivalence which is the element of every love-relation proceed precisely from the threat of losing the object. This gives rise to struggles over the object, in which of love and hate contend with each other, the one seek to detach from the object, the other to maintain the position of the libido. In mourning too the effort to detach the libido are made in the same system; but nothing hinders the process from proceeding. Constitutional ambivalence by its nature is repressed. Thus everything to do with these struggles due to ambivalence remains withdrawn from consciousness, until the outcome characteristic of melancholia has set in. After this regression of libido the process can become conscious and it is represented to the consciousness as a conflict between one part the ego and the critical agency.

Just as mourning asks the ego to give up the object to be dead and offering the ego the inducement to live so does each struggle of ambivalence loosen the fixation of the libido to the object by disparaging it, and even as it were killing it.

The process in Ucs may come to end either after the fury has spent itself or after the object has been abandoned as valueless. The ego may find itself as the better of the two, towards the end of the process. Thus we assumes that the economic condition for mania which appears at the culmination of melancholia is to be found support in the ambivalence.

The preconditions of melancholia – loss of the object, ambivalence and regression of libido into the ego.

The first two are found in obsessional reproaches after the death of a person. Thus The third factor must be the reason for manic state of mind. The bound libido due to narcissistic identification of the object is at first bound and when the ego’s work is finished, becomes free, giving rise to mania.

The conflict within the ego, over the object, must act like a painful wound.






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