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What is the "dead mother complex" described by Andre Green? How does it come about?

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French psycholanalyst André Green is the originator of the “dead mother complex.” The dead mother complex is sometimes not readily identifiable, as it “emerges during transference.” A repetition of infantile depression brings on transference depression; the subject is often not able to recall its origins. An object usually sparks the onset of depression, and causes mourning. The reasons for the mourning can be numerous. However, the causes are “not admitted by the maternal object.” Therefore, in analysis, the hypothesis must be deduced with a degree of uncertainty.

The psychoanalyst’s chief observable consequence is a coldness, something that seems hard and unfeeling when counter-transference occurs. This happens because of a withdrawal (decathexis) by the mother that the child is unable to comprehend and thus upsets his or her entire world. To cope with the pain, the child creates elaborate defense mechanisms. This is how the “dead mother complex” develops. Unable to...

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