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'The term reparation was used by Melanie Klein (1921) to indicate a psychological process, something more than the making of amends...reparative gestures towards the damaged world'.[1] In object relations theory, it represents a key part of the movement from the paranoid-schizoid position to the depressive position: 'depressive pain leads to reparative urges'.[2]


Main article: Melanie Klein

Klein considered the ability to recognise our destructive impulses towards those we love, and to make reparation for the damage we have caused them, to be an essential part of mental health. For Kleinians, 'real reparation...means the acceptance of the idea of separateness - the differentiation of one's own self from one's parents, with all the conflicts that it implies'.[3] Acceptance of reality, inner and outer, formed a major part of this process; and 'acceptance of psychic reality...also involves, as part of reparation, allowing one's objects to be free, to love and restore one another without dependency on oneself'.[4]

Where the damage done to the internal world is felt by a patient to be extreme, 'to make reparation would be such an all-consuming task that an unending, fake analysis is preferable to "cure"'.[5]

From another angle, 'Reparation is an rescue the parents in whatever surviving condition', as part of the way 'the depressive position entails a steady, though painful, approximation towards the reality of oneself and others'.[6]

Manic reparationEdit

In Kleinian thought, 'the manic defences are of overwhelming importance, since they are primarily directed against the experience of psychic reality, that is, against the whole aim of the analytic process'.[7] Melanie Klein 'insisted that true reparation, unlike manic reparation, was not a reaction to guilt but an overcoming of guilt'.[8] By contrast, 'manic reparation...reparation done by magic, quickly...magical, based on a complete denial of guilt and concern'[9] refuses to abandon the omnipotent control of the object in question, and to allow it its separate existence. Thus manic reparation 'can never be completed, because, if it were complete, the object fully restored would again become lovable and esteemed, and free from the manic person's omnipotent control and contempt'.[10]


Main article: Donald Winnicott

Donald Winnicott made his own distinctive contribution to the role of reparation in the "personalising" of the individual, during what he called 'the change-over from pre-ruth to ruth'[11] in earliest life. Considering that at first 'the instincts can be as much external as a clap of thunder or a hit', Winnicott focused on the way 'at a certain stage of development a feeling of guilt or concern begins to appear after the wholehearted instinctual experience of a feed. But once the reparative gesture - a smile, a gift - has been successfully acknowledged by the mother, Winnicott writes: "The breast (body, mother) is now mended and the day's work is done. Tomorrow's instincts can be awaited with limited fear"'.[12]

If, on the other hand, 'the opportunity for reparation fails, it results in sadness or depressed mood of the infant':[13] even a sense of meaninglessness, a destruction of linking. 'By making reparation - by contributing - the child implicitly acknowledges its indebtedness to the mothering person, who not only survived the child's destruction, but allows for reparation'</ref> Gaitanidis, p. 84</ref>.


For Kleinians, 'the creative impulse itself (the specific phantasy of reparation) arises out of the need to repair and restore the loved object (mother)'.[14] Marion Milner in the Independent tradition also saw 'the work of art as symbolizing and itself constituting a way of making (inward) reparation'.[15]

The differences between the two groups centered largely around the question of omnipotence, to which the Independents arguably gave too wide a role - as opposed to the Kleinian ideal of 'the phantasy of creating and recreating (reparation) which no longer has omnipotent qualities'.[16]

See alsoEdit


  1. Lani A. Gerity, Creativity and the Dissociated Patient (1999) p. 20
  2. Robert Caper, Immaterial Facts (2000) p. 117
  3. Hanna Segal, Introduction to the Work of Melanie Klein (London 1964) p. 89
  4. Segal, p. 89
  5. Mary Jacobus, The Poetics of Psychoanalysis: In the Wake of Klein (Oxford 2005) p. 39
  6. Richard Appignanesi ed., Introducing Melanie Klein (Cambridge 2006) p. 106 and p. 131
  7. Segal, p. 70
  8. Hyam Sydney Klein/Joan Symington, Imprisoned Pain and its Transformation (London 2000) p. 19
  9. Segal, p. 84-5 and p. 88
  10. Segal, p. 83
  11. Quoted in Janet Malcolm, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession (London 1988) p. 34-5
  12. Adam Phillips, On Flirtation (London 1994) p. 17 and p. 62
  13. A. Gaitanidis/P. Curk, Narcissism: A Critical Reader (London 2007) p. 83
  14. Nicola Glover "Psychoanalytic Aesthetics: The British School"
  15. Lesley Caldwell, Winnicott and the Psychoanalytic Tradition (London 2007) p. 31
  16. Hinshelwood, Chapter 3 n54, in Glover
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