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Wilson, E., Jr. (1992). Psyche. XL, 1986: On the Problem of Sadism and Masochism. Judith Le Soldat. Pp. 617-637.. Psychoanal Q., 61:137-138.

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Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Psyche. XL, 1986: On the Problem of Sadism and Masochism. Judith Le Soldat. Pp. 617-637.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 61:137-138

Psyche. XL, 1986: On the Problem of Sadism and Masochism. Judith Le Soldat. Pp. 617-637.

Emmett Wilson, Jr.

The author puzzles over what seems to her the relative repression and suppression of recognition of Freud's views on aggression, sadism, and the death instinct, in contrast to the seemingly unending discussions of sexuality. Even Freud noted the resistance that he found in himself, which long postponed the discovery of what he later came to call "obvious." The author sees this resistance that Freud found in himself as still operative among contemporary psychoanalytic theoreticians, in particular in their failure to recognize Freud's equation of aggression and the death instinct. There is a tendency to regard the death instinct as a theoretical construct without a necessary link to aggression. Not only is this theoretically worthless, confusing Freud's basic insight, but it also utilizes the notion of an unconscious self-destructive force to disavow the emotional experience of things closer to hand. If we had a patient with such behavior, we would call the process a counterphobic defense. For those to whom her thesis about the collective resistance of the psychoanalytic guild seems exaggerated, the author suggests that they examine the literature on the denial of the dangers of nuclear war. She cites examples of this literature in which themes of aggression and aggressive instinct are meticulously avoided. But the repressed returns as masochism. The masochist, who willingly does what everyone unconsciously must do, makes a truly extraordinary demand on the strength and capacity of our defenses. Freud in his earlier discussions viewed masochism as economically and genetically a derivative of sadism. Le Soldat reviews Freud's discussions, beginning with dreams that seem not to express wish fulfillment, to the


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development of a concept of dreams expressing masochistic wishes, to the development of the concept of masochism in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), and ultimately to its development in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) and "The Economic Problem of Masochism" (1924). In the later stages of the theory we are confronted with a quite different representation, in which masochism is not derived from sadism, but is original. And finally, Freud's thesis of the death instinct and the concept of structural conflict only become fully meaningful when the intrinsic potential for conflict between the nirvana, the reality, and the pleasure principles is recognized. This conflict potential of the abstract principles has often been neglected; it is scarcely mentioned, for example, in the writings of Hartmann, Rapaport, and Eissler. Though Freud did not discuss masochism directly after the 1924 monograph, subsequent passages in other works indicate that he continued to believe that the aggressive or destructive instinct derives ultimately from the death instinct. The historical development of Freud's theory of masochism can be read as the history of a struggle concerning the conscious recognition of the ubiquity of the aggressive instinct. The path from the original idea of masochism as a defense against sadistic impulses to the theory of a genuine masochism involved in the theory of the death instinct may also be seen as the struggle against the recognition that the operation of the death instinct itself may bring instinctual satisfactions.


WARNING! This text is printed for the personal use of the PEPWeb subscriber and is copyright to the Journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to copy, distribute or circulate it in any form.
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Article Citation

Wilson, E., Jr. (1992). Psyche. XL, 1986. Psychoanal. Q., 61:137-138

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WARNING! This text is printed for the personal use of the subscriber to PEP Web and is copyright to the Journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to copy, distribute or circulate it in any form whatsoever.