Mourning for the Self: A Therapeutic Process of Recovery

Mourning for the self is a relatively new technique in accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP). Learn about it here.
Mourning for the Self: A Therapeutic Process of Recovery
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

The technique of mourning for the self allows you to process difficult kinds of emotions ranging from trauma to mood disorders. In fact, it’s a valuable psychological task of various stages. Through these, you deal with your wounds and suffering to shape a more resilient and healthy self.

Many people have gone through trauma. Therefore, there’s a good possibility that you too will have to face such an experience at some point. They’re experiences in which realities that are difficult to assume and understand intermingle. Events that generate anger, fear, and extreme pain.

Mourning for the self helps you to name each experience, identify your emotions, and mitigate your emotional injuries in a more effective way. Gradually, you’ll start to accept what happened. Then, you can include it in your psychological narrative without the weight of suffering that tends to suffocate and paralyze you.

Mourning for the self doesn’t require you to understand why certain things happened to you. It involves transforming your emotions to heal your wounds and allow you to regain control of your life.

man thinking about self-grief

Mourning for the self

Occasionally, you might notice that you’re not the same person as you were a few years ago. Furthermore, you realize that you’re dealing with a kind of internal mourning for the self that you’ve left behind. In fact, as a human being, you either mature or evolve naturally or something happens that changes you by force. Indeed, fate can be cruel, and it likes to make you experience events for which you’re not prepared.

For instance, painful relationships, workplace bullying, personal disappointments, assaults, childhood or adult traumas… Stressful experiences maintained over time leave scars and alter your personality. In addition, they dampen your ability to look to the present and the future with hope. Even worse, they carry with them mental problems and unhappiness.

Mourning the self is a tool used in accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP). This integrative model, oriented to the treatment of trauma, eating disorders, and relationship problems, was created by Dr. Diana Fosha in 2000. Since then, given its effectiveness, it’s become quite famous.

The University of Ochanomizu (Japan) and the Department of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College (USA)  conducted research that assessed the effectiveness of AEDP in treating a wide variety of psychological symptoms associated with trauma.

Let’s take a look at the strategy of mourning the self within this therapeutic model.

‘Transformation’: from suffering to freedom

Mourning the self is healing in motion and involves an act of courageous transformation. It means you feel the emotions that make up your wound of trauma, describing them, sharing them, and accepting them. Dr. Fosha points out that one of the purposes of this therapy is for the patient to go through a series of stages. Consequently, you finally reinvent yourself as a more authentic self.

With this therapy, you must understand that you have, within you, an innate drive for growth and healing. It implies moving with your own being through a series of phases to explore your wound, appease the pain, and understand that you, yourself, aren’t the suffering. In fact, you must realize that you have the right to freedom and well-being.

You’re a being whose emotional disorders have a specific origin that must be appeased, resolved, and healed. Once your wound is cauterized, you’ll reveal yourself as a more resilient self. Mourning for the self is a resource of experiential dynamic therapy that seeks to make you ‘bloom’ again.

Mourning for the self and positivity

AEDP doesn’t only seek for you to experience compassion for yourself. In fact, it goes much further. It demonstrates that it’s okay for you to be kind to yourself and speak to yourself with affection. However, what you really need in order to achieve psychological empowerment, is for your strengths to be awakened.

Mourning the self accompanies you through corrective emotional experiences. It helps you challenge your beliefs and pathological attitudes. Furthermore, it guides you into contacting more positive emotional states by remembering your worth and inner potential.

Everyone eventually flourishes after pain. Therefore, even if you’re not the same person you were yesterday, you can, with this therapy, once again, look at the present with positivity. That’s because you’ve healed those emotional fractures that previously disabled you.

Woman in field with yellow flowers thinking about self-grief

Psychological resilience: the self left behind giving way to a stronger version

One interesting aspect of the AEDP model is that it seeks to awaken human resilience. It’s a non-pathologizing approach. It also doesn’t focus as much on childhood problems or subconscious aspects as psychoanalytic therapy does.

ADEP is oriented toward healing and looks for the positive capacities of the patient. These are the kinds of resources that you can develop to give your best and heal your problems, fears, and anguish. In effect, you get in touch with your positive emotions and expand them to facilitate change.

Finally, mourning for the self should lead you, little by little, to the celebration of a new self. What happened and left behind isn’t forgotten, but you can learn to live again, without suffering and with renewed hope.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bremner J. D. (2006). Traumatic stress: effects on the brain. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience8(4), 445–461.
  • Fosha, D., Siegel, D., Solomon, M. (2009). The Healing Power of Emotion: Affective Neuroscience, Development & Clinical Practice (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology). New York: W.W. Norton
  • Fosha, D. (2000). Meta-therapeutic processes and the affects of transformation: Affirmation and the healing affects. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration. 10, 71–97.
  • Fosha, D. (2002). The activation of affective change processes in AEDP. In J. J. Magnavita (Ed.). Comprehensive Handbook of Psychotherapy. Vol. 1: Psychodynamic and Object Relations Psychotherapies New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Fosha, D. (2003). Dyadic Regulation and Experiential Work with Emotion and Relatedness in Trauma and Disordered Attachment. In M. F. Solomon & D. J. Siegel (Eds.). Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body, and Brain. New York: Norton.
  • Stein, D. J., Herman, A., Kaminer, D., Rataemane, S., Seedat, S., Kessler, R. C., & Williams, D. (2000). Ethical aspects of research on psychological trauma. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience2(1), 31–36.
  • Iwakabe S, Edlin J, Fosha D, Gretton H, Joseph AJ, Nunnink SE, Nakamura K, Thoma NC. The effectiveness of accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP) in private practice settings: A transdiagnostic study conducted within the context of a practice-research network. Psychotherapy (Chic). 2020 Dec;57(4):548-561. doi: 10.1037/pst0000344. Epub 2020 Sep 24. PMID: 32969670.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.