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Fenichel, O. (1928). The Clinical Aspect of the Need for Punishment. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 9:47-70.

(1928). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 9:47-70

The Clinical Aspect of the Need for Punishment

Otto Fenichel

Since Freud's work The Ego and the Id made profounder investigation of the psychology of the ego possible, this question has become the centre of analytical interest. In particular the psychology of the sense of guilt has claimed special consideration, on account of its outstanding clinical and theoretical importance. Recognition of the importance of the sense of guilt is by no means confined to recent times. Apart from the part played by the conscious sense of guilt in manifestly neurotic forms of disease, Freud's doctrine of repression virtually implied that a sort of guilt-feeling acted as a criterion for the decisions of the repressing faculty; in his description of the reaction-formations of the obsessional neurotic, in his conception that every symptom complies with the repressing force as well as with the claims of the repressed instinct, the idea of self-punishment was already contained. What is novel is simply our insight into the importance of the unconscious elements of feelings of guilt, and of the resultant penalties. We know that this insight formed the starting-point of those of Freud's investigations which revealed the differentiation of the super-ego from the ego, the creation of the former by introjection of the objects of the Oedipus-complex, and the genesis of the sense of guilt from the discrepancy between the super-ego and the ego. According to Freud's latest doctrine of instincts, the Cs and Ucs feelings of guilt owe their distinctive position to the circumstance that they are representatives of the destructive instincts; and these have lost some of their neutralising, libidinal components as a result of the instinctual defusion that goes on pari passu with introjection.

Once more it is only in extreme cases that the clinical significance of this fact becomes evident. Freud has at various times drawn attention to such cases; long before his latest works he described in 'Those wrecked by Success' and in 'Criminality from a Sense of Guilt' two neurotic types of person who become so enraged against themselves that they are driven either to self-destruction or, in order to avoid that, to the destruction of their surroundings.

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