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Leider, R.J. (1998). In the Belly of the Beast: The Vicissitudes of Aggression. Psychoanal. Inq., 18(1):8-20.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 18(1):8-20

In the Belly of the Beast: The Vicissitudes of Aggression

Robert J. Leider, M.D.

My task is to provide a historical overview of aggression—intended to provide a background and basic orientation from which to view the theoretical and clinical perspectives elaborated by Drs. Fosshage, Harris, Mitchell, and Raphling in their discussion of the case material presented by Dr. Ornstein.

This task is, however, more complex than is immediately apparent, for the word aggression has multiple meanings. It may, of course, refer to concrete descriptions of feelings and emotions such as: “that person is angry,” or “she is in a rage,” or “he is hostile.” But the word aggression is also used in psychoanalytic discourse in a more abstract sense to refer to a myriad of theoretical ideas. In that usage it may then refer to an affect, an instinct, or a drive—concepts central to most psychoanalytic theories of motivation, development, organization, and function.

Why such current interest in aggression? In our work it looms large; it plagues our patients and those around them. They turn to us for help in ameliorating their distress, and we, in turn, are concerned about our ability to provide the help they seek.

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