Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Report a Data Error | About
Tip: To sort articles by author…

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

While performing a search, you can sort the articles by Author in the Search section. This will rearrange the results of your search alphabetically according to the author’s surname. This feature is useful to quickly locate the work of a specific author.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Sperling, O.E. (1963). Exaggeration as a Defense. Psychoanal Q., 32:553-548.

(1963). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 32:553-548

Exaggeration as a Defense

Otto E. Sperling, M.D.

Heinrich Heine introduced a device in his poems of expressing emotion with great passion and genuine feeling, and then surprising the reader with a prosaic or even cynical last line. This device in poetry is called romantic irony. Some may feel that Heine was insincere from the beginning, but others (with better reason) conclude that the poet has expressed the contrary aspects of his personality. The expression of passion always precedes the sobering countertheme. This sequence seems illustrative of a conflict in which the ego gains control of an id derivative. This is a tenable hypothesis for poetry. It is possible, however, to come to a definite conclusion from the analysis of a similar clinical phenomenon, namely, the sequence of exaggerated passion and sudden sobriety.

The first three patients to be described had an awareness that their feelings were not genuine, and they often accused themselves of hypocrisy. None was a schizophrenic.


The first group of examples stems from the analysis of a twenty-eight-year-old piano teacher who suffered from obsessional brooding and vacillation in her ability to work. She was intelligent, fanatically truthful, and a good observer of herself. Her pupils liked her and she made a good impression on most people. On closer observation, it was apparent that her vivacity was an overcompensation for her inhibitions. Her speech was hurried with the intent of preventing the analyst from saying anything that she might not like.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

Copyright © 2018, Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing, ISSN 2472-6982 Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Download PEP Bibliography | Report a Data Error | About

WARNING! This text is printed for personal use. It is copyright to the journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to redistribute it in any form.