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Hubback, J. (1984). Acting Out. J. Anal. Psychol., 29(3):215-229.

(1984). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 29(3):215-229

Acting Out

Judith Hubback, M.A.

The Old Saying, Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, is very well known. I suggest it may be a precursor, on the folk level, of the technical term and concept of acting out. Fools act, and act too quickly, whereas angels (and analysts usually) consider the matter carefully and may postpone comment or interpretation (which are forms of action) until the next day or session, or even the next week or month. Whether my speculation is apt or not I forgot both the saying and the moral behind it when I was invited to be one of the speakers at a Day Conference on Acting Out in September, 1983. I fell for the flattery of the invitation. But the purposive and adaptive aspects of acting out (of which I will say more later) are that I probably needed to put a lot of thought into what acting out means, and means to me as a Jungian. The term does not feature in the Index to the Collected Works of Jung, but it is used by modern Jungians. I did not realise that only very little written attention has been given to it by us. In twenty-eight years of the Journal of Analytical Psychology not a single paper has been wholly devoted to the phenomenon itself, to clinical descriptions of its manifestations, to dynamic or structural considerations, or to the theory of it—let alone a discussion of the now several conceptualisations. But even only a few of the recent annual indexes of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis revealed to me the existence of almost innumerable papers which either fully attend to several of the many aspects of the subject, or in which the concept is used and its meaning is assumed to be understood. Perhaps it features as a seminar topic of psychoanalysts in training? Analytical psychologists learn about it in supervision, that is, in clinical experience rather than from the theoretical angle. Some discover it during their own analysis. It has been pointed out to me by Dr J. Redfearn that the concept signifies a clinical judgment or a practical problem in handling, rather than an analytical attitude which takes account of the subjectivity of the analyst's feelings as well as of the patient's actions (personal communication).

For many Jungians, and especially in centres other than here in London, anything smacking of technique is suspect.

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