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Spitz, R.A. (1941). Le Masochisme: Étude Historique, Clinique, Psychogénétique Et Thérapeutique. (Masochism: Its Historical, Clinical, Genetic and Therapeutic Aspects.): By Dr. S. Nacht. Paris: Editions Denoël, 1938. 124 PP.. Psychoanal Q., 10:326-329.
    

(1941). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 10:326-329

Le Masochisme: Étude Historique, Clinique, Psychogénétique Et Thérapeutique. (Masochism: Its Historical, Clinical, Genetic and Therapeutic Aspects.): By Dr. S. Nacht. Paris: Editions Denoël, 1938. 124 PP.

Review by:
R. A. Spitz

In the introduction to his well documented book, Dr. Nacht sets forth the thesis according to which a primary masochism seems to be contrary to clinical observations, particularly if conceived as an expression of autodestructive instinctual tendencies or as a manifestation of the death instinct. This leads him into contradictions, when he has to admit the existence of clinical manifestations of pain as a biological sexual stimulus. He circumvents this contradiction by stating that masochism, which in his definition is the acceptance of pain as a pleasure, can never be an aim in itself but only a means to achieve pleasure.

He gives a series of examples in which mental as well as physical suffering is endured for the sake of permitting oneself a certain degree of libidinal satisfaction. The function of masochism in these cases can be the neutralization of guilt. Suffering is endured to obviate greater suffering, for example, castration. A part is sacrificed to save what remains. This is a conception of masochism that has been propounded by Wilhelm Reich.

Another form in which masochism is put to use according to Nacht is the erotization of suffering. This mechanism he investigates in cases of perversion, limiting himself, however, to male patients. He sees the origin of the masochistic behavior in these cases in the sadistic conception of intercourse witnessed in early childhood. The fantasy and the desire to be chastised by the father is used as a means to safeguard virility with the help of the formula: 'Since father is content to beat me, I need not fear anything worse (viz., castration) from him.'

In the masochistic adult male's fantasies however, it is regularly a woman who inflicts chastisement. This is explained by the theory that the little boy, after having built up the father as the one who punished, turns his love to the mother. Consequently his anxiety is again increased; he now transforms the mother into a cruel punishing personality, into the phallic mother. This alleviates anxiety by neutralizing the guilt feeling according to the formula: 'Since she ill-treats me, she does not love me. Therefore I cannot be reproached (with having a love relation with my mother).

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