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Deutsch, F. (1947). Analysis of Postural Behavior. Psychoanal Q., 16:195-213.

(1947). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 16:195-213

Analysis of Postural Behavior

Felix Deutsch, M.D.

Gesell defines posture (1) as the positions assumed by the body, as a whole or by its parts, in order to execute a movement or to maintain an attitude. In these postures voluntary and involuntary, conscious and unconscious motivations are always involved. During analysis the motor behavior of patients can be observed to be motivated by underlying and coördinated psychological processes. When a patient is invited to lie on a couch and relax, his posture illustrates not muscular relaxation but a pattern of behavior related to the situation and to a basic psychosomatic pattern.

Freud (2) has stated that the muscular movements of the body, face, fingers, hands and arms are motor discharges of psychic tensions that have become superfluous. He explains these movements as concomitant manifestations of emotional processes and as reactions to former experiences associatively stimulated. They represent also pleasurable gratification and may be a sensitive means of detecting conscious and unconscious psychic processes. Specifically, they may betray changes of affect, sensations of pleasure, ambivalence or the reappearance in consciousness of repressed fantasies and memories. Restlessness is an attempt to get rid of psychic tension, to overcome anxiety, or it may be regressive in content. Prolonged motor restlessness produces habitual motor reactions, inhibitory mechanisms, rhythmic voluntary movements, compulsive gestures and purposeless substitutive activities.

Freud (2) suggested that an impulse for forbidden gratification may lead to a restriction of movement of a hand, for example, as a partial denial of the motor pleasure. Motor gratification is easily susceptible to repression.

Abraham (3), in a paper on locomotor anxiety, states that during analysis patients show inhibitions of those bodily movements which derive from a repressed erotic pleasure in movement.

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