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Psychoanal Rev. 1987 Winter;74(4):465-86.

The psychopathology of nostalgia.


Nostalgia is distinguished from depression, of which it was originally considered a variant. It is described as a pleasurable affect involving warm memories of the past. For nostalgia to be normal, it must contain a depressive component that is related to the recognition that the past is irrevocable. In its pathological form, the mood contains only the elated aspects without the acceptance of loss, or what could be described as bittersweet sentiment. The pathological form serves mainly denial and functions like a screen affect. I have attempted to show how particular developments play a role in pathological nostalgia, namely, screen affects, ego ideal formation, and rescue and family romance fantasies. The patients that were described enlisted their nostalgic pursuits as a way of remaining close to the past. These pursuits served both a defensive function, as a way of avoiding the humiliation of oedipal and later defeats, as well as offering them instinctual gratification through fantasy.

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