Warning message

This content is filtered. APPPAH membership is required for full access to journal articles.
-A +A
Publication Date: 
March, 1995
Page Count: 
Starting Page: 

This paper describes how marked positive changes occurred in two male patients when feelings of dread of tunnels, bridges and interpersonal relationships were found to be transferential derivatives of an underlying dread of being aborted and a wish to be aborted. Both of these men had a proneness to act out by sanctioning the abortion of their own and others' unborn children. Associations and dreams were characterized by a fear of annihilation in holes or containers and a mental imagery and mental processes of formlessness and timelessness similar to that seen in borderline conditions and psychoses. They were drifting through life, alive but not alive. Little movement had occurred from addressing symptoms in terms of post-natal separation and individuation issues of self, or psychosexual conflicts of desire despite many years of analysis with myself and prior analysts. The long delay in connecting the word abortion to feelings of dread raises questions about counter-transference blind spots in seemingly interminable analyses, and the need for models of therapy and of the mind that include a consideration of pre-natal mentation and communication, and the registering of pre-natal experiences as important influences in later life. These issues will be explored in a companion paper (Sonne, 1995) "The Relevance of the Dread of Being Aborted to Models of Therapy and Models of the Mind, Part II: Mentation and Communication in the Unborn."


Abraham, H. (1969). New aspects of the psychopathology of patients presenting for termination of pregnancy: Abortion of psychiatric grounds. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 33: 265-268.

Binstock, W. A. (1973). On the two forms of intimacy. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 21:93-107.

Bion, W. R. (1970). Attention and interpretation. Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson.

Bloch, D. (1974). Fantasy and the fear of infanticide. Psychoanalytic Review, 61: 5-31.

Calef, V. (1968). The unconscious fantasy of infanticide manifested in resistance. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 16: 197-710.

Calef, V. (1969). Lady Macbeth and infanticide: Or "How many children had Lady Macbeth murdered?" Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 17: 528-548.

Cheek, D., and LeCron, L. (1968). Clinical Hypnotherapy. New York: Grune and Stratton.

Devereux, G. (1955). A Study of Abortion in Primitive Societies. New York: International Universities Press, Inc.

Devereux, G. (1956). The cannibalistic impulses of parents. Psychoanalytic Forum, 1; 114-124.

Fenichel, O. (1924). The Collected Papers of Otto Fenichel, Vol I, pp. 27-31, 57, 58, 65. New York: W. W. Norton, 1953.

Fischer, N. (1974). Multiple induced abortion: A psychoanalytic case study. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 22: 394-407.

Grof, S. (1985). Beyond the Brain. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Grof, S. (1988). Adventures in Self Discovery. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Johnson, A., and Szurek, S. (1952). On the genesis of anti-social acting out in children and adults. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 21: 323-343.

Kohut, H. (1977). The Restoration of the Self. New York: International Universities Press.

Little, M. I. (1990). Psychotic Anxieties and Containment. Northvale, New Jersey and London: Jason Aronson, Inc.

Milner, M. (1950). A note on the ending of an analysis. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 31: 191-193.

Pines, D. (1982). The relevance of early psychic development to pregnancy and abortion. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 63: 311-319.

Pines, D. (1990). Pregnancy, miscarriage and abortion. A psychoanalytic perspective. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 71: 301-307.

Pines, D. (1990). Emotional aspects of infertility and its remedies. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 71: 561-568.

Rank, O. (1929). The Trauma of Birth. New York: Harper and Row, Torch Books, 1973.

Reik, T. (1953). Men, women and the unborn child. Psychoanalysis, 2: 3-9.

Rossi, E., and Cheek, D. (1988). Mind-Body Therapy: Methods of Ideodynamic Healing in Hypnosis. New York: W. W. Norton.

Seligman, E. (1985). The half active ones. In: The Father: Contemporary Jungian Perspectives, ed. A. Samuels. London: Free Association Books, 1989, pp. 69-75.

Sonne, J. C. (1966). Feticide as acting out. Voices, 2: 49-53.

Sonne, J. C. (1967). Entropy and family therapy. In: Family Therapy and Disturbed Families, eds. G. H. Zuk and I. Boszormenyi-Nagy. Palo Alto: Science and Behavior Books.

Sonne, J. C. (1975). Pregnancy, abortion and the unconscious. Marriage and Family Newsletter, 6 (1,2,3,): 1-24.

Sonne, J. C. (1976). The analysis of an unconscious wish to abort in a male. Paper presented to the Philadelphia Psychoanalytic Society, February 18, 1976.

Sonne, J. C. (1992). The relevance of the dread of being aborted to models of therapy and models of the mind, Parts I and II. Paper presented to the staff of the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital, April 14, 1992.

Sonne, J. C. (1995). The relevance of the dread of being aborted to models of therapy and models of the mind. Part II: Mentation and communication in the unborn. The Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Journal, 9(3): 221-258.

Steele, B. F. (1970). Parental abuse of infants and small children. In: Parenthood: Its Psychology and Psychopathology, eds. C. J. Anthony and T. Benedek. Boston: Little Brown.

Stoltz, L. M. et al. (1954). Father Relations of War Born Children. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Verny, V., and Kelly, J. (1981). The secret Life of the Unborn Child. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.

Winnicott, D. W. (1949). Birth memories, birth trauma, and anxiety. In: Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis, D. W. Winnicott. New York: Basic Books, Inc.

John C. Sonne, M.D.

John C. Sonne, M. D., a psychoanalyst and family therapist, has had a long standing interest in models of mentation and communication, with a particular focus on how these models operate in the family, in prenatal and neonatal stages of life, and in therapy. He is also a musician, has done isotopic tracer research on purine synthesis in biochemistry, and has a particular interest in physics. In addition to being in private practice, he is currently Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and Senior Attending at the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Address correspondence to 443 Shady Lane, Moorestown, NJ 08057.

The masculine gender is used for convenience, but with the recognition that statements apply to both genders.

A paper on one of the patients presented here, George, titled "The Analysis of an Unconscious Wish to Abort in a Male" was presented to the Philadelphia Psychoanalytic Society February 18, 1976 (Sonne, 1976). A preliminary version of Parts I and II of this paper, titled "The Relevance of the Dread of Being Aborted to Models of Therapy and Models of the Mind" was presented to the staff of the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital April 14, 1992 (Sonne, 1992).

Part II of this paper will appear in Volume 9, Number 4, Summer 1995.