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Kanefield, L. (1985). Psychoanalytic Constructions of Female Development and Women's Conflicts About Achievement—Part II. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 13(3):347-366.

(1985). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 13(3):347-366

Psychoanalytic Constructions of Female Development and Women's Conflicts About Achievement—Part II

Linda Kanefield, M.S.

The Masochistic Defense and Women'S Conflicts About Achievement

Many modern psychoanalysts diverge dramatically from earlier theorists who associated the emergence of femininity with the awareness of defect, disappointment, envy, and inferiority—an association that laid the groundwork for a supposition of inherent female masochism. More recent developmental models replace the equation of femininity and instinctual masochism with the proposition that masochism in women is not destined by nature, but instead serves a defensive function in the service of the ego (Horney, 1934, 1937b; Bieber, 1953; Menaker, 1953; Schecter, 1981; Blum, 1977a; Parkin, 1980). Conceptualization of masochism as a defense offers a framework for comprehending the role of masochism in women's achievement-related conflicts.

What are the more unconscious fears associated with women's achievement, and how are fears of social rejection and unfemininity reconstructed intrapsychically? In what ways are masochistic dynamics central to women who undermine or disqualify their own accomplishments? Schecter (1981) provides a useful telescopic view of masochism for this study when she notes that masochistic defenses against the fear of success “may surface as the precondition for successful performance; they may function in the service of prohibiting the attainment of success, or they may appear as a necessary sequel of success” (p. 170).

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