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Joseph, B. (1959). An Aspect of the Repetition Compulsion. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 40:213-222.

(1959). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 40:213-222

An Aspect of the Repetition Compulsion

Betty Joseph

In this paper I want to discuss one aspect of the repetition compulsion which Freud first introduced in 1920 (3), The question of the repetition compulsion as a whole has been discussed in a number of papers. I would refer especially to those of Kubie, Hendrick, and Bibring (8), (4), (1).

Freud (3) showed how neurotics, and, as he put it, 'some normal people' could be seen to be constantly, as if under pressure of a compulsion, re-experiencing situations in their lives which brought them only unhappiness, and the repetition of which therefore seemed to 'override the pleasure principle'. He spoke of such people as giving the impression of being possessed by a daemonic compulsion, adding however, 'but psycho-analysis has always taken the view that their fate is for the most part arranged by themselves and determined by early infantile influences'; however, later in the same paragraph, he adds the following interesting point:

This "perpetual recurrence of the same thing" causes us no astonishment when it relates to active behaviour on the part of the person concerned and when we can discern in him an essential character trait which always remains the same and which is compelled to find expression in a repetition of the same experiences. We are much more impressed by cases where the subject appears to have a passive experience, over which he has no influence, but in which he meets with a repetition of the same fatality.

It seems to me that we all, in our analytic practices,

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