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Waska, R. (2006). Two Tales of Loss and the Search for a Solution: New Ideas on Acting Out, Sadomasochism, and Working Through. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 3(1):101-110.

(2006). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 3(1):101-110

Film and Theater Reviews and Commentary

Two Tales of Loss and the Search for a Solution: New Ideas on Acting Out, Sadomasochism, and Working Through

Robert Waska, Ph.D.

This paper examines two movies, Secretary and Mostly Martha. Using these seemingly disparate movies, the author draws a parallel between two stories of loss, focusing primarily on two women's struggle with troubled father-daughter relations. The case can be made for a simplistic profile of a healthy working-through process in Mostly Martha versus a pathological solution in Secretary. However, the author shows how normal mourning and aspects of paranoid-schizoid pathology can overlap, providing certain internal bargains that work adequately and serve to maintain a functioning ego. The corresponding psychoanalytic concepts of acting out, sadomasochism, and working through are reviewed.

Acting Out

Freud (1914) believed that patients, in the grip of unconscious wishes and fantasies, brought their conflicted internal state to life by some sort of immediate action, usually external. In the psychoanalytic setting, this acting out of psychological conflict was fortified by the patient's denial of its existence. Often aggressive in nature, acting out is directed at others or at the self. Freud thought this action was best understood as related to the transference and often served as a method to deny the transference.

Contemporary Kleinians have widened and deepened Freud's ideas concerning acting out. The term is now also know as “acting-in,” in reference to the transference aspect of it rather than the general acting out the patient may do outside the treatment setting. In addition, Kleinians note how this acting out which takes place outside sessions is often still a transference communication.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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