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Ghent, E. (1990). Masochism, Submission, Surrender—Masochism as a Perversion of Surrender. Contemp. Psychoanal., 26:108-136.

(1990). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 26:108-136

Masochism, Submission, Surrender—Masochism as a Perversion of Surrender

Emmanuel Ghent, M.D.

SURRENDER, IN STRIKING CONTRAST TO masochism, is a word that is seldom encountered in the psychoanalytic literature, and even then it often bears an ambiguous meaning. My goal in this paper is to give the term a certain clarity of definition and to study its relation to submission and masochism, which I regard as antitheses to surrender. In order to span the full compass of the meaning I give to surrender, my plan is to broaden the scope implied by the title and touch on some other issues that are related to surrender: object usage (Winnicott, 1969) and its perversion in the form of sadism, creativity, and the apperception of threatening meaning.

Let me say at the outset that by masochism I mean all that is customarily intended by the term including both its sexual and characterological meanings. By perversion I mean something akin to distortion, corruption, diversion, misconstruction. The meaning I will give to the term "surrender" has nothing to do with hoisting a white flag; in fact, rather than carrying a connotation of defeat, the term will convey a quality of liberation and expansion of the self as a corollary to the letting down of defensive barriers. I hope the meaning of surrender, in its most inclusive sense, will gradually reveal itself as we encounter it in a variety of contexts. Nor am I convinced that "surrender" is the right word for what I would like to convey. Alternative words will crop up from time to time and perhaps help give form to the conception.

The thrust of this paper is not to challenge or discredit the vast literature on masochism and the ever sharpening insight into its


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Copyright © 1990 W. A. W. Institute

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Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Vol. 26, No. 1 (1990)

1 First presented at new York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis, December 2, 1983.

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