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Int J Psychoanal. 2014 Aug;95(4):613-27. doi: 10.1111/1745-8315.12177. Epub 2014 Apr 29.

On 'the fear of death' as the primary anxiety: how and why Klein differs from Freud.

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Heythrop College, 23 Kensington Square, London, W8 5HN, UK.


It is well known that Melanie Klein held the view that 'fear of death' is the primary source of anxiety and that her position is explicitly opposed to that of Sigmund Freud, who maintained that that fear cannot in any way or form be a source of anxiety. In a previous article on Freud's Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (Blass, 2013), the author argued that, counter to what is commonly portrayed in the literature, Freud's considerations for rejecting the fear of death as a source of anxiety were based on relational and experiential factors that are usually associated with Kleinian psychoanalysis. In light of this affinity of Freud with Klein a question arises as to the actual source of their differences in this context. The present paper offers an answer to this question. The author first presents some of her earlier findings on what led Freud to reject the fear of death as a source of anxiety and then turns to investigate Klein's considerations for accepting it. This takes us beyond her explicit statements on this matter and sheds new light on the relationship of her views regarding death and anxiety and those of Freud. In turn this deepens the understanding of the relationship of Freud and Klein's conceptualizations of the psyche and its internal object relations, pointing to both surprising common ground and foundational differences.


Freud; Inhibitions; Klein; Symptoms and Anxiety; anxiety; death; fear of death; mind; object relations; primary anxiety

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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