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Motz, A. (2020). Sadism: Psychoanalytic Developmental Perspectives edited by Amita Sehgal. Published by Routledge, Abingdon, 2018; 178 pp, £25.99 paperback. Brit. J. Psychother., 36(2):347-350.

(2020). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 36(2):347-350

Sadism: Psychoanalytic Developmental Perspectives edited by Amita Sehgal. Published by Routledge, Abingdon, 2018; 178 pp, £25.99 paperback

Review by:
Anna Motz

This excellent collection of essays explores an important, disturbing and often neglected aspect of human behaviour and psychic reality. Perhaps because the topic remains taboo it has not received the kind of attention that it requires, and basic psychoanalytic tenets have not been made accessible to a wider audience. Even amongst psychoanalytically informed psychotherapists the topic of sadism is considered the specialist domain of forensic psychotherapy, the application of psychoanalytic ideas to a forensic (offender) population, with perverse and deviant predilections.

This brave and insightful volume testifies to the presence of sadism across the lifespan, in different groups, and charts its development in early life experiences and disturbed object relationships. As Amita Sehgal suggests ‘Sadism may, perhaps, prove to be an essential component of human nature’ (p. xxvi). If this is the case, this book goes some way to helping us understand its origins, manifestations and receptivity to psychotherapeutic treatment.

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