Depression reconsidered in Fairbairn’s object relations theory

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This paper joins in the psychoanalytic discussion of depression from the perspective of Fairbairn’s object relations theory, something Fairbairn did not himself undertake. It aligns with Rubens’ view (1994, 1998) that an extension of Fairbairn’s theory beyond Fairbairn’s original theory to understand depression is not only advantageous but also necessary. Through a revisit of the significant divergences between the classical theory and the relational theory, it contextualises the potential of a Fairbairnian framework of depression as distinctive from the classical propositions. This paper complicates psychoanalytic knowledge of the nature of depression in response to the relational turn, concluding that, framed in Fairbairn’s system, depression should be understood as an actively organised psychic manoeuvre to defend against changes to the endopsychic structure, and most importantly, against the disintegration of a particular sense of self sponsored by internal object relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-33
Number of pages14
JournalPsychodynamic Practice
Issue number1
Early online date21 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • depression
  • Fairbairn
  • object-relations
  • endopsychic structure
  • relational theory


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