Absolute zero: a man who doubts his own love....

  • Phillip Roth
  • Published 1999 in The International journal of psycho-analysis


In this paper the author explores the relationship, first formulated by Freud, between depression and the experience of losing one's feeling of being able to love. She emphasises the narcissistic organisation underlying depression and depressive anxieties, and argues that the defences used to protect against such anxieties frequently produce the very states of mind they are supposed to be defending against. Using clinical material from a patient in analysis, she describes the way in which a combination of idealisation and a subtle, pervasive contempt for objects creates a brittle, sham relationship with the analyst, and that when this sham relationship is threatened, the patient can feel a catastrophic sense of desolation. Such events threaten the analysis, and often create correspondingly great anxiety in the analyst. At such times the analyst may be tempted to return the analytic relationship to the earlier, seemingly less disturbing state. The author argues that this would be a mistake, because it perpetuates the patient's despair about being able to engage only in fraudulent, ultimately empty relationships, and his fear that the analyst is unable to recognise this despair and to help him with it.

Cite this paper

@article{Roth1999AbsoluteZA, title={Absolute zero: a man who doubts his own love....}, author={Phillip Roth}, journal={The International journal of psycho-analysis}, year={1999}, volume={80 ( Pt 4)}, pages={661-70} }