In Freud’s teaching on the duality of the life and death instincts, a clear distinction must be drawn between the philosophical and the psychological aspects. On the philosophical concept, no opinion can at present be expressed. As a sychological tenet, it can be tested (introspectively in the normal individual and by analytical elucidation of the pathological existence). Testing in this way confirms the hypothesis in every respect, although in an appropriately modified form. Introspection reveals in every wish, in addition to the desire for satisfaction in the sense of the pleasure and reality principle, two possible methods of dealing with the wish beyond the pleasure principle: namely the search for obliteration of the wish, i.e. the Nirvana principle, and the desire for increase of the displeasure, the need for suffering. These two unworldly forms of satisfaction imply biological death only indirectly, as possible means of attaining the end. They are normally extremely weak, however, and transfer the whole of their energy to the more direct means of satisfaction of the desire. Only where they are constitutionally or otherwise abnormally intensified do they come into conflict with the latter and give rise firstly to Freud’s ‘translation’ of the neurotic process and secondly to melancholia. Two examples of such neurotic ‘translation’ are adduced to show in greater detail the two psychopathological layers. In the neurotic layer, the conflicts and problems of attainment and the fictive attempts to solve them are found. The second layer, however, is dominated by an elementary compulsion to suffer, lending fresh substance to the self-accusations proceeding from the first layer and rendering the condition resistant to therapy. In melancholia, the patterns inimical to life emerge much more strongly, since the disease process itself is constituted here by the conflict between them und the desire for real satisfaction. Just as there are two forms of negative fulfilment, there are also two forms of melancholia: one which may be called melancholia in the strict sense, and another which constitutes a bridge to the schizophrenias and which is here called ‘nirvanosis’. The nature of this latter is illustrated by the description of a case.

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