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Meyer, J.K. Levin, F.M. (1990). Sadism and Masochism in Neurosis and Symptom Formation. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 38:789-804.

(1990). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 38:789-804

Sadism and Masochism in Neurosis and Symptom Formation

Jon K. Meyer, M.D. and Fred M. Levin, M.D.

MEYER NOTED THAT FREUD (1905) felt the basis of sadomasochism was the organism's capacity to experience any intense stimulation as sexually exciting. Through his early works, Freud considered masochism secondary to sadism; however, beginning with Beyond the Pleasure Principle(1920) Freud changed his mind and considered masochism to be primary. To Meyer, the major statement Freud made on the subject of the central position of masochism in neurosis was in "The Economic Problem of Masochism" (1924) in which Freud stated that "… contrary to all theory and expectation … a neurosis which has defied every therapeutic effort may vanish if the subject becomes involved in the misery of an unhappy marriage, or loses all his money, or develops a dangerous organic disease" (p. 166). Freud described three forms of masochismerotogenic, feminine, and moral. The erotogenic form can be traced as follows: "The fear of being eaten by the totem animal (the father) originates from the primitive oral organization; the wish to be beaten … from the sadistic-anal phase which follows it; castration, although it is later disavowed, enters into … masochistic phantasies as a precipitate of the phallic stage … and from the final genital organization there arises … the situations of being copulated with and of giving birth, which are characteristic of femaleness" (p. 165). Feminine masochism (in men) derives from the wish to be a woman in intercourse or childbirth. Moral masochism involves those "wrecked by success" (Freud, 1916), and is notable for the loosening of its connection "with what we recognize as sexuality" (p. 165).

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