In the years between 1920 and 1924, after Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud began to deal theoretically with the aggressive instinct that he had so long left out of his metapsychology, but which was quite evident in his clinical practice and in his reflections on collective psychology, civilization, and war. The enigma of self-destruction brought into evidence the ego in its most ambiguous aspects, not only as the source of self-preservation, but also as susceptible to preferring painful repetition, illness, and death. Biological references became important at this time, because the previous theoretical explanatory principles, the economic point of view, and the sexual instinct, were no longer adequate to account for the clinical realities forced into consideration by the failure of the dream work in a traumatic neurosis, or the failure of the grieving process in melancholia. The theory of narcissism of 1914 was not explicitly revised after 1920, but there was an implicit revision in the series of texts between 1920 and 1924, in which Freud's work on group psychology reintegrated hypnosis and suggestion, to place the ego and its cathexes in intersubjective exchanges and in the process of identification. The repetitionprinciple was considered by Freud in a system of linkages independent of and more primitive than the pleasureprinciple. This enables the survival of the ego and its identifications, even at the price of suffering. Masochism then appears not only as the destiny of the sexual impulse, but also as the guarantee of internal bonds with past relations
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constitutive of the ego, and as an alternative to the destruction of these bonds. The notion of the deathinstinct opens several lines of reflection of which the complexity and the sometimes contradictory aspects are particularly creative. It focuses attention on the principles of binding and unbinding of the instinctual representations (affects, word- and thing-presentations) in which the relations between primary and secondaryprocesses are manifest. But the degree of unbinding is more radical, and can lead to the disruption of the relationship between the somatic and the psychic. Feminine masochism, placed by Freud between primarymasochism and moral masochism, seems to the author to represent something of a lost union with the past, maintaining a link with the primaryrelation and early identifications, as well as maintaining the after-effects of the infantile and pubertal neurotic organization. The masochistic ego is caught between the desire for union that effaces difference, and the desire for separation that intensifies it. Specifically, feminine masochism is linked to the passive relation with the father.
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Wilson, E., Jr. (1992). Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLIX, 1985. Psychoanal. Q., 61:149-150