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Lane, R.C. (2002). Anorexia, Masochism, Self-Mutilation, and Autoerotism: the Spider Mother. Psychoanal. Rev., 89(1):101-123.

(2002). Psychoanalytic Review, 89(1):101-123

Anorexia, Masochism, Self-Mutilation, and Autoerotism: the Spider Mother

Robert C. Lane, Ph.D., ABPP

This paper will present a psychoanalytic view of eating disorders and their treatment, particularly anorexia, and its relationship to other self-harm problems, such as masochism and self-mutilation. According to this view, anorexia originates in the childhood relationship with the mother, which leads to difficulties through the psychosexual stages in separating from the mother and developing an autonomous self. The individual becomes self-punishing and self-controlling, expressing her feelings and inner conflicts through her body, either in symbolic meaning, or as a way to discharge tensions, comfort herself, displace mental pain onto the body, purify herself of bodily impulses, or as a way to passive-aggressively seek revenge on parental figures.

The Soma

The body and its parts lend themselves to representation and expression, imagery, symbolization, the use of metaphor, and symptom formation. Shilder (1935) believed that “Conflicts choose for their expression organs which have to do with the functions involved in the conflict” (p. 137). How one chooses an organ or part of the body to later hypercathect for use of symptom formation seems to be dependent upon one's constitution, life's experiences, the parents, trauma, illness, identification, and the like.

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