Melancholia, the Pain of Existence and Moral Cowardice : October 1988 : Éric Laurent

by Julia Evans on October 1, 1988

Translated from the French by Philip Dravers and Samya Seth

This article first appeared in Ornicar?, Issue No. 47, Oct-Dec 1988.

This translation appeared in Hurly-Burly Issue 12 : January 2015: p141-154 : the print copies have been lost.

Available at  /Laurent or authors by date

An excerpt appeared in April 2020, within texts about Coronavirus, See

References from Sigmund Freud

– Establishing the unity of a pathological field on the basis of a trait of repetition is truly ironic. Where Freud saw the death drive at play in the repetition of the game with the bobbin and the fort/da, contemporary psychiatry finds the minimal cell of a pure movement of life. : This game is described in Chapter 2 of Beyond the Pleasure Principle :1920 : A version of this text with the German on one side and the English (James Strachey translation) on the other is available

from :


– Mourning and Melancholia: 1915 : Sigmund Freud : Quotes :

[p2376] ‘But the free libido was not displaced on to another object; it was withdrawn into the ego. There, however, it was not employed in any unspecified way, but served to establish an identification of the ego with the abandoned object. Thus the shadow of the object fell upon the ego, and the latter could henceforth be judged by a special agency, as though it were an object, the forsaken object. In this way an object-loss was transformed into an ego-loss and the conflict between the ego and the loved person into a cleavage between the critical activity of the ego and the ego as altered by identification.’

[p2379] The analysis of melancholia now shows that the ego can kill itself only if, owing to the return of the object-cathexis, it can treat itself as an object – if it is able to direct against itself the hostility which relates to an object and which represents the ego’s original reaction to objects in the external world.¹ Thus in regression from narcissistic object-choice the object has, it is true, been got rid of, but it has nevertheless proved more powerful than the ego itself. In the two opposed situations of being most intensely in love and of suicide the ego is overwhelmed by the object, though in totally different ways.

You will find Freud’s paper in English with the original German text laid out in the right hand column : published by : available here  : Reference found by Bruno de Florence

– Civilization and its Discontents: 1929: Sigmund Freud : Available at Richard G. Klein’s site : See here

– Draft G – Melancholia. Extracts from the Fliess Papers”, Vol. 1, p. 201.
: Jan 1895  Available Draft G Melancholia : probably 7th January 1895 : Sigmund Freud or here

P149 Laurent : Thus, the Freud of 1915 follows the flash of inspiration of January 1895: Die Melancholie bestünde in der Trauer über den Verlust der Libido (melancholia consists in mourning over loss of libido) – it “consists in loss of libido as such”.

P103 Freud : So it would not be far wrong to start from the idea that melancholia consists in mourning over loss of libido.

– The Ego & the Id : 1920: Sigmund Freud & Chapter V “The Dependant Relationships of the Ego” : Published by Richard G. Klein at and available here

– Chapter Seven of Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego : 1921 : Sigmund Freud : You will find Freud’s paper in English with the original German text laid out in the right hand column : published by : available here

– Metapsychology, A Phylogenetic Fantasy: Overview of the Transference Neuroses : 1915 : published 1985 : Availability given  A Phylogenetic Fantasy: Overview of the Transference Neuroses : 28th July 1915 : Sigmund Freud or here

Also published as : Overview of the Transference Neuroses : 1915 : You will find Freud’s paper in English with the original German text laid out in the right hand column : published by : available here

p149 Laurent : In one of the manuscripts from his Metapsychology, A Phylogenetic Fantasy: Overview of the Transference Neuroses, which remained unpublished until very recently, he could say [p18-19 Freud] : “The mourning about the primal father proceeds from identification with him, and such identification we have established as the prerequisite for the melancholic mechanism”

P150 Laurent : In his Phylogenetic Fantasy, Freud explicitly places paranoia, schizophrenia and melancholia under the rubric of narcissistic neuroses.

P32(German) p12 (English) Freud : The narcissistic neuroses, however, go back to phases before the finding of object; dementia praecox regresses as far as auto-erotism; paranoia as far as narcissistic homosexual object-choice; melancholia is based on narcissistic identification with the object.

– Sigmund Freud ‘Wolf Man’ : From the History of an Infantile Neurosis (1918[1914]) : published in German & English at as

 References to Jacques Lacan

–  The Position of the Unconscious (Bonneval Hospital): 31st October 1960: Jacques Lacan : Availability given here : See also Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here

– Ey, H., Hallucination et Délire, Alcan, Paris, 1934, cited in “Presentation on Psychical Causality”: 28th September 1946 : Availability given in Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here

– Family Complexes in the Formation of the Individual: 1938: Jacques Lacan :Availability here  : p81 of Autres Écrits: 2001 : Jacques Lacan : Availability here

– The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis (Rome) : 26th September 1953 : Jacques Lacan :Availability given here : p262 & 263 of Bruce Fink’s translation : See also Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here

– Seminar X: The Anxiety (or Dread): 1962-1963: begins 14th November 1962: Jacques Lacan: Text in English & References :Availability given here :p335-6 of Adrian Price’s translation : probably Session of 3rd July 1963, Chapter XXV, p236 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation

– Seminar II: The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis: 1954-1955: begins 17th November 1954 : Jacques Lacan :Availability given here : p238 of John Forrester’s translation.

– Television: 1974: Jacques Lacan : Availability given here : p22 of D. Hollier, R. Krauss and A. Michelson’s translation, p26 in October publication

– The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire (Royaumont): 19th to 23rd September 1960: Jacques Lacan : Availability here  : p694 of Bruce Fink’s translation : See also Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here

– Kant with Sade: April 1963: Jacques Lacan : available here : p655 & p656 of Bruce Fink’s translation : See also Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here


Related texts

Melancholia, the Pain of Existence and Moral Cowardice : October1988 : Éric Laurent or here

Gay Knowledge, Sad Truth: 1997: Serge Cottet  or  here  

Some Moral Failings Called Depressions: February 1997: Pierre Skriabine or here

COVID Sadness, The New Sorrow : 4th November 2020 : José Ramón Ubieto Pardo  or  here


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Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, London


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