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Shapiro, L.N. (1992). Masochism: Current Psychoanalytic Perspectives: Edited by Robert Glick and Donald I. Meyers. Hillsdale, N. J.: Analytic Press, 1988, 238 pp., $29.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 40:853-856.

(1992). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 40:853-856

Masochism: Current Psychoanalytic Perspectives: Edited by Robert Glick and Donald I. Meyers. Hillsdale, N. J.: Analytic Press, 1988, 238 pp., $29.95.

Review by:
Leon N. Shapiro, M.D.

Freud (1924) gave the dual instinct theory a wonderful explanatory simplicity when he redefined masochism as a primary aspect of the death instinct. However much its meaning has changed since then, masochism retains its instinctual flavor. It traces our various self-defeating behaviors to biological givens, and makes it possible to categorize these behaviors along a continuum, depending on admixtures of love and hate. Although it was originally used by R. Krafft-Ebing to denote the perversion of seeking pleasure through pain, the term masochism has since been used and misused to describe almost anything that someone does that seems to be against his or her interest.

But drive-related terminology (e.g., sadism, masochism, libidinal cathexis) seems awkward when applied to developments in ego psychology and more recent concerns with self-esteem regulation and object relations. Our technical and theoretical concerns have shifted toward the analysis of resistance and transference phenomena with increasing study of the two-person analytic process. While we still try to help our patients to come to terms with the fundamental irrationality of human experience, we spend less time discovering the irrational than helping them to bear it. As we change our emphasis and increase our understanding of the formidable complexity of the analytic enterprise, much of the drive-related language seems both archaic and reductionistic and tends to fall into disuse. It is timely then to reexamine its utility.

Masochism: Current Psychoanalytic Perspectives presents papers from a 1983 conference on the difficult character.

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