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Blum, H.P. (1976). Acting Out, the Psychoanalytic Process, and Interpretation. Ann. Psychoanal., 4:163-184.

(1976). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 4:163-184

Acting Out, the Psychoanalytic Process, and Interpretation

Harold P. Blum, M.D.

Acting out has been the subject of considerable scrutiny and re-evaluation in recent years. It has been discussed at two symposia (Rexford, 1966; Symposium, 1968) and at a recent Panel (1970) of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Although Freud had introduced the concept of acting out in relation to the psychoanalytic process, it has subsequently been applied diffusely and sometimes indiscriminately to all types of symptomatic acts, irrational behavior, and inappropriate action and inaction. Disparaging attitudes sometimes appear toward acting out and acting-out patients, accompanied by the blurring of the distinction between action and acting out. Any behavior opposed to analysis, or which the analyst opposed, is sometimes labeled acting out, but this hardly makes for precise definition.

Analytic understanding of acting out has deepened, and a neutral, objective understanding has reappeared with this re-examination of the entire concept. Frequent or serious acting out raises major obstacles to psychoanalysis and questions of analyzability. Interpretations may face insurmountable obstacles with persistent acting out. Acting out should be seen as a major behavior disorder, representing a severe psychic disturbance that will usually also have other manifestations.


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