1st Edition

The Story of Original Loss Grieving Existential Trauma in the Arts and the Art of Psychoanalysis

By Malcolm Owen Slavin, PhD Copyright 2024
    260 Pages 30 Color & 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    260 Pages 30 Color & 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    260 Pages 30 Color & 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores the universal human existential trauma of "original loss," a trauma the author describes as arising from our primal, human evolutionary loss of experiencing ourselves as innately belonging to, and instinctively at home within, the larger natural world.

    In this trauma arose our existential awareness of impermanence and mortality along with the need to mourn that loss in order to create a sense of belonging and identity. The book describes how the invention of art and group ritual became the collective ways we mourn our shared existential loss. It describes as well how it is the art within the psychoanalytic practice that enables both patient and analyst to grieve their individual versions of our shared original loss. Drawing on the work of Winnicott, Loewald and Ogden, as well as art theory and religion, this book offers a new perspective on the intersection of metaphorical artistic thinking and psychoanalysis.

    This book will appeal to psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, and scholars of poetic, visual and muscial metaphor, creativity, evolution and history of art.

    1. The Enigma of Cave Art  2. Original Loss and the Emergence of Existential Anxiety  3. Surviving Original Loss  Part 1: Envisioning Winnicott’s “Transitional Creativity” and “Object Use” in Evolutionary-Existential Terms  4. Surviving Original Loss  Part 2: Envisioning Loewald’s Dynamic Unconscious as an Evolved-Existential Structure  5. Original Loss in Everyday Life, Part I: A Developmental Story  6. Original Loss in Everyday Life, Part II: Existential Grieving in Development and Clinical Process  7. Original Loss and Original Sin  8. After the Fall: From Sin to Loss  9. Why Do We Need Art?  10. How Art Works  11. Traveling with Metaphor  12. Metaphor, Playing and Pretending  13. The Art of Losing  14. The Art of Losing and the Presence of Absence in Metaphor  15. Mourning Versus Melancholia in the Arts  16. From Melancholia to Mourning in The Arabian Nights  17. Loss Made Visible  18. The Music Knows  19. Epilogue: Home for a Hybrid, Divided Species


    Malcolm Owen Slavin, PhD, is a founder, faculty and supervisor at the Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis, and a director of the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and the Council for Psychoanalytic Self Psychology. A Yale graduate, with a PhD in psychology from Harvard, he has authored many papers, including "Why the Analyst Needs to Change," and a book (with D. Kriegman), The Adaptive Design of the Human Psyche: Psychoanalysis, Evolutionary Biology, and the Therapeutic Process.

    'This fantastic book offers a unique perspective. It reminds us that the study of the psyche is much broader than any strictly psychoanalytic or psychotherapeutic approach. Intimately linked to evolutionary anthropology, visual arts and music, the book connects the wisdom of these disciplines to our theoretical and clinical work in a way that we will refer to for many years.'

    Gianni Nebbiosi, president, ISIPS, Institute for Self Psychology and Relational Psychoanalysis, Rome, Italy

    'This brilliant, artistic book takes us into the original loss of our prehuman, visceral, innate ways of knowing and defining ourselves and our world. Slavin argues that the loss meant our psychological survival as a species depended upon a vital, new creative capacity to build human subjectivity—including building meaning around what became a new awareness of life’s finitude and our mortality. Through the invention of visual, verbal and musical metaphors, the arts carry the process of creating meaning around connection and loss that is closely akin to the art of psychoanalysis.'

    Beatrice Beebe, PhD, clinical professor, Columbia University Medical Center

    'Original Loss offers the Reader a powerful, finely presented view of how our contemporary human consciousness originated and became active. The author merges three perspectives: the evolutionary, the psychoanalytic and the existential. Beautifully conceived and precisely delivered, from early hominids to the theories of Freud and Winnicott, Slavin demonstrates that it is loss and grief that generate the human ability to create metaphor as the vehicle of consciousness of ourselves as both agents and as objects. This masterpiece is a radical and innovative book that will change both contemporary psychoanalytic thinking and our understanding of aesthetic language.'

    Kevin McGrath, Associate of the Department of South Asian Studies and Poet Laureate at Lowell House, Harvard University; author of Raja Yudhisthira (2017), Vyasa Redux (2019), Fame, (2023) and several other volumes on Bronze Age literature and metaphor

    'Both new and seasoned readers of Mal Slavin’s work will be enriched by this profound book. Drawing from his decades of thinking and writing along with his clinical acumen, this book is novel, evocative and compelling. Slavin ignites our imagination, stirs our minds and offers a balm for navigating and grieving our abiding existential angst. He probes our ongoing struggles with mortality, loss, longing, finding, losing again, along with our need to land in places beyond words. He sees the arts—visual, musical and indeed psychoanalytic—as crucial places where we can express and find expression for complex and contradictory struggles. Reading this book is an experience that goes well beyond the words it contains.'

    Hazel Ipp, PhD, Editor in Chief Emeritus, Psychoanalytic Dialogues: International Journal of Relational Perspectives; founding director and past president of the International Association of Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy; founding director of the Toronto Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis

    'The Story of Original Loss is a revolutionary new version of the mythical account of original sin and the Fall from Eden. Freudian drive-based psychoanalysis unfolded within the framework of the “sins” of Eros and Thanatos as the origin of human emotional suffering. Relational psychoanalysis shifted towards the traumatic effect of relationships. Here, Slavin takes a new step towards a psychoanalysis in which all trauma is actually a re-traumatization of the Original Loss that shaped us as a species. Brilliantly, he evokes the immediacy of trauma in the arts and in being psychologically understood. It is thus warmly recommended for both literary and psychoanalytic readers.'

    Ramon Riera, MD, has translated and introduced Self Psychology and Relational Psychoanalysis to the Spanish- and Catalan-speaking psychoanalytic worlds