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Spiegel, L.A. (1954). Acting out and Defensive Instinctual Gratification. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 2:107-119.

(1954). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 2:107-119

Acting out and Defensive Instinctual Gratification

Leo Angelo Spiegel, M.D.

In "Recollection, Repetition and Working Through" Freud (4) formulated the reciprocal relation between memory and acting out: "… the patient reproduces instead of remembering." This repetition or acting out is itself a kind of primitive memory; in this way the patient shows us his past life without recollecting it.

Indeed the earliest formulation of unconscious memories is linked with the phenomenon of acting out. When the subject of a hypnotic experiment performed a suggested action during the state of posthypnotic amnesia, he was acting out an aspect of the hypnotic transference. The latter, by virtue of its relative simplicity, illustrates the reciprocal relation between true memory and acting out. Furthermore, the posthypnotic action will always be rationalized by the hypnotic subject in essentially the same way that the acting-out analysand finds reality reasons for his repetitive actions.

In view of the relation between acting out and memory, it is clear that a basic understanding of acting out cannot be achieved without having at hand a psychoanalytic theory of memory—a theory which would formulate, in metapsychological terms, the difference between the global reactivation of memory traces in acting out and the process of recollection as they both occur and interact during analytic treatment (10). Lacking this theory, the genetic approach of Fenichel (2), Greenacre (8), and A.

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