Feeling, Relating, Existing

On emotion and the human dimension

Pathologizing Grief

Pain is not pathology.

Psychiatry's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual's pathologizing of grief is but the latest installment of a lamentable tradition in Western civilization aptly chronicled by Philip Fisher in his book, The Vehement Passions (Princeton Univ. Press, 2002): "[T]he twin ideas of Christianity's eternal life and Stoicism's nature have for two thousand years ... pressed against the legitimacy of mourning and against the strong imagination of personal loss and mortality that grief sets in front of us, not as an idea, but as a profound physical and emotional experience " (p. 202).

"Pain is not pathology," I wrote in my book, Trauma and Human Existence (Routledge, 2007, p. 10. Link: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780881634679/). The traumatizing impact of human finiteness, as disclosed in the loss of a loved one, is not an illness from which one can or should recover.

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Copyright Robert Stolorow

Robert D. Stolorow, Ph.D. is one of the original members of the International Council for Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, which stems from the work of Heinz Kohut.


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