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Morrison, G.C. (1975). Masochistic Character Development and Infantile Amnesia: A Consideration of the Infantile Roots of Masochism. Psychoanal. Contemp. Sci., 4(1):159-186.

(1975). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Science, 4(1):159-186

Masochistic Character Development and Infantile Amnesia: A Consideration of the Infantile Roots of Masochism

Gilbert C. Morrison, M.D.

With children it is easy to observe that they are often ‘naughty’ on purpose to provoke punishment, and are quiet and contented after they have been punished. Later analytic investigation can often put us on the track of the guilty feeling which induced them to seek punishment [Freud, 1916, p. 333].


There is an extensive literature concerning the clinical and theoretical concept called masochism, but the topic is just as significant today as when it was first delineated and named 90 years ago (Krafft-Ebing, 1882). The purpose of this paper is fourfold: (a) to follow the development of Sigmund Freud's clinical understanding of and theoretical and metapsychological views on masochism; (b) to review the major trends in the literature on masochism; (c) to relate adult masochistic behavior (patterns, styles, modes, defenses, perversions, etc.) to infantile experiences and distortions veiled by the amnesia of infancy and childhood; and (d) to demonstrate with clinical case histories the lifting of the infantile amnesia that allows a beginning understanding of the childhood anlagen of masochism in its various manifestations.


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