CHAPTER V

The coldness of death

The following account of the experiences of a thirty-four-yearold woman, shortly after the birth of her third child, covers a period of five months. During these months the blend of phantasy, dream, and imagination constituted a puerperal psychosis which was, clinically speaking, not unusual.

Although her doctor had been unable to find any organic illness, Mrs A was still unable to get up from bed three weeks after her third baby had been born. After her two previous pregnancies she had felt something of the same exhaustion, a complete disinclination to do anything, and no interest in the familiar people and things of her life.

One night ‘a terrible storm’ raged in her head. Sails seemed to crackle and tear in the wind. Although this may have been what we call a dream, she was convinced that she had not slept for a moment. When her husband came home the following day from a business trip, she accused him of having ruined her by her repeated pregnancies and said he was callous and cruel. She had never expressed any feelings of this kind before. She was completely exhausted and was unable to carry on with the care of the baby or in any way look after the other two children. The doctor was called and, although he could find no physical signs, diagnosed cystitis and prescribed pills. She did not take these pills until the following night, because she was afraid that they might

-53-

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Self and Others
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to Second Edition ix
  • Preface to First Edition xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Part One - Modes of Interpersonal Experience 1
  • Chapter I - Phantasy and Experience 3
  • Chapter II - Phantasy and Communication 18
  • Chapter III - Pretence and Elusion 29
  • Chapter IV - The Counterpoint of Experience 39
  • Chapter V - The Coldness of Death 53
  • Part Two - Forms of Interpersonal Action 63
  • Chapter VI - Complementary Identity 65
  • Chapter VII - Confirmation and Disconfirmation 81
  • Chapter VIII - Collusion 90
  • Chapter IX - False and Untenable Positions 107
  • Chapter X - Attributions and Injunctions 132
  • Appendix 154
  • Selected Bibliography 161
  • Index 165
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