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Berliner, B. (1947). On Some Psychodynamics of Masochism. Psychoanal Q., 16:459-471.

(1947). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 16:459-471

On Some Psychodynamics of Masochism

Bernhard Berliner, Ph.D.

I

Of the two forms of masochism, the sexual and the moral, the latter is by far the more important. It represents a definite and frequent character structure, participates in the symptomatology of all neurotic conditions, and plays a fundamental part in Western culture. Indeed, moral masochism is so universal in human life that it was not recognized as an entity until the description of the sexual masochistic perversion sixty years ago threw a sharp spotlight upon it and gave it its name. The concept of moral masochism had, historically, a bad start. The analogy with the sexual perversion obscured the fact that moral masochism is the general and basic form that furnishes the ground upon which, in a minority of persons and under certain circumstances in psychosexual development, the perversion may evolve (1).

Freud assumed masochism to be the manifestation of a death instinct. Prior to this theory Freud had stated that masochism is the sadism of the individual turned back upon himself. Most of those who are not inclined to accept the theory of the death instinct resort to this earlier definition. Freud said little about how and why this reversal occurs. The explanation given in his great paper, A Child Is Being Beaten, namely, that it is motivated by a sense of guilt from the Oedipus complex, fits some cases and does not fit a great many others.

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