Maternal Death Wishes: From Baby Murder To Psychological Infanticide

Organised by:

British Psychoanalytical Society (incorporating the Institute of Psychoanalysis)

02 October 2021

Time: 10:30 - 12:00

Price: £35

Location: online


Maternal Death Wishes: From Baby Murder To Psychological Infanticide
Brett Kahr

October 2nd 2021


A Zoom link will be sent in advance of the day.


Although Sigmund Freud wrote extensively about death wishes in the family, he devoted far more attention to the child’s desire to kill the parent of the same sex and, also, any unwanted siblings, rather than to the parent’s desire to murder the child. Donald Winnicott elaborated upon the concept of parental death wishes, especially in his classic essay, “Hate in the Counter-Transference”, albeit rather briskly. Building upon these foundational contributions, Professor Brett Kahr will draw upon his work with psychotic and forensic patients and, also, with normal-neurotic individuals, to explore the many ways in which maternal and paternal death wishes and death threats towards babies and children become internalised over time and, ultimately, contribute to the development of severe psychopathology.

Kahr will explore the concept of the “infanticidal attachment”, examining how early death threats can damage the very foundations of the ego structure, resulting in psychosis, suicidality, criminality, severe eating problems, life-threatening addictions, and a host of other extreme psychological states. Utilising extensive case material, he will consider how intensive, long-term psychoanalytically orientated treatment can contribute to the neutralisation of such toxic “infanticidal introjects”.

For more information or to book a place, please email us.

Professor Brett Kahr has worked in the mental health profession for over forty years. He is Senior Fellow at the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology in London and, also, Visiting Professor of Psychoanalysis and Mental Health at Regent’s University London. He is also Consultant in Psychology to The Bowlby Centre and, additionally, Consultant Psychotherapist at The Balint Consultancy, and works in independent psychoanalytical practice with individuals and couples in Central London.

Trained at the University of Oxford, the University of London, the University of Cambridge, and, at both the Tavistock Clinic and Portman Clinic and, also, at the School of Infant Mental Health, he has specialised, over the years, in treating psychotic, forensic, and disabled patients, as well as couples and families. He served for many years as Staff Psychotherapist at the Tavistock Young Abusers Project, helping to promote early intervention for severely mentally ill adolescents at risk of perpetrating crimes.

Over the years, Kahr has worked not only as a clinician but, also, as an academic and as a broadcaster. He served for several years as Resident Psychotherapist to the British Broadcasting Corporation, speaking to over 15,000,000 people weekly about mental health matters. He is also Chair of the Scholars Committee of the British Psychoanalytic Council, designed to improve dialogue between psychoanalysts and academics.

As an historian of psychoanalysis, Professor Kahr has maintained a long-standing relationship with Freud Museum London and served as a Trustee for many years. More recently, he has become the museum’s Honorary Director of Research.

He is the author of sixteen books on a range of topics and series editor of an additional seventy titles. His solo-authored books include the very first biography of Donald Winnicott – D.W. Winnicott: A Biographical Portrait (Karnac Books, 1996) – which received the Gradiva Award for Biography in 1997, as well as The Times best-seller Sex and the Psyche (Allen Lane / Penguin Books, 2007) – a study of the traumatic origins of over 20,000 adult sexual fantasies. His most recent books include: Bombs in the Consulting Room: Surviving Psychological Shrapnel (Routledge, 2020) and Dangerous Lunatics: Trauma, Criminality, and Forensic Psychotherapy (Confer Books, 2020).

His forthcoming book is entitled Freud’s Pandemics: Surviving Global War, Spanish Flu, and the Nazis (Karnac Books, 2021), which has drawn upon his archival research at the Freud Museum London, investigating how Sigmund Freud survived a lifetime of violent attacks.

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