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Kernberg, O.F. (1988). Clinical Dimensions of Masochism. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 36:1005-1029.

(1988). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 36:1005-1029

Clinical Dimensions of Masochism

Otto F. Kernberg, M.D.


In this paper, I propose a general classification of masochistic psychopathology and describe relations between this clinical domain and other types of psychopathology. My main objective is to provide an outline relevant for diagnostic, prognostic, and treatment considerations of masochistic pathology. This includes descriptions of and relations among a wide variety of masochistic phenomena from the depressive-masochistic personality to extreme forms of self-destructiveness.

Ego organization, object relations, superego development, narcissistic organization, and polymorphous perverse infantile sexuality are considered as codeterminants of the levels and clinical features of masochistic pathology. Finally, the relations between masochistic pathology and negative therapeutic reactions are reexamined.

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