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Brenner, C. (1959). The Masochistic Character: Genesis and Treatment. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 7:197-226.

(1959). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 7:197-226

The Masochistic Character: Genesis and Treatment

Charles Brenner, M.D.


1. The views of Freud and those of later authors relative to masochism have been briefly reviewed.

2. It is suggested that it is useful to view the problem in the following way. (a) Masochism is a normal component or characteristic of the human personality, as witness the part it plays in superego formation and functioning. (b) The difference between the normal and the masochistic character is one of degree rather than of kind. (c) Masochistic character traits and masochistic tendencies may be associated with many sorts of neurotic symptoms and a variety of other character disturbances. (d) In practice masochistic fantasies and character traits are always associated with sadistic ones; the label "sadomasochistic" would really be more appropriate than the label "masochistic." (e) Masochistic character traits and fantasies exhibit a multiple function and are multiply determined; this multiple function is most conveniently expressed in terms of coexisting tendencies of the ego, superego, and id. (f) Though there are similarities in the functions and

genesis of masochistic traits and fantasies from case to case, there are also differences; not all cases are identical. (g) Masochistic character traits and fantasies are a legacy of infantile sexual conflicts, principally of oedipal conflicts in most cases. (h) As such they are related to the principal danger situations of early childhood, which are typically the dangers of object loss, of loss of love, and of castration, but the importance of each of these dangers as a motive for defense will vary from one masochistic patient to another. (i) The analysis of a patient with masochistic character traits is no different in principle from any other character analysis. The special difficulties presented by such analyses lie in the handling of the sadomasochistic transference relationship and of the related negative therapeutic reaction. (j) Like any other transference relationship which serves the function of resistance, a sadomasochistic transference may or may not be analyzable. If a suitably objective attitude is maintained and if the analyst persists in analyzing the patient's reactions rather than himself reacting to them in any other way, a successful result is attainable more often than would appear to be generally recognized.

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