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Taylor, G.J. (2016). Varieties of Castration Experience: Relevance to Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy. Psychodyn. Psych., 44(1):39-67.
   

(2016). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 44(1):39-67

Varieties of Castration Experience: Relevance to Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Graeme J. Taylor, M.D.

Although Freud considered castration to be one of the two major anxieties of human life, the castration complex has been relatively neglected in contemporary psychoanalytic writing and is insufficiently discussed in presentations of clinical cases. This article discusses the relevance of the concept to contemporary psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy, in particular the important contributing role of castration conflicts in the pathogenesis of a wide range of clinical symptoms. The author begins by briefly reviewing some classical and contemporary psychoanalytic ideas about castration to show how the concept has broadened and is currently used not only to signify fear of damage to or loss of the genital, but also metaphorically to indicate a threat to or loss of any valued human characteristic or function. He outlines Brenner's distinction between castration anxiety and castration depression, and reviews the role of childhood trauma in intensifying castration conflicts. He then illustrates the clinical application of these ideas by describing aspects of his psychotherapeutic work with three male patients who presented with a variety of symptoms and distressing psychological experiences that were gradually resolved through the analysis of underlying castration anxiety and/or castration depression. Although castration anxiety is frequently intermingled with separation anxiety, the author concludes that with many traumatized patients castration conflicts are in the foreground and the therapist needs to focus on the patient's proneness to humiliation, powerlessness, and shame.

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