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Pfeifer, S. (1930). A Form of Defence. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 11:492-496.

(1930). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 11:492-496

A Form of Defence

Sigmund Pfeifer

Freud mentions in Hemmung, Symptom und Angst that before the sharp delimitation between the ego and id takes place forms of defence will be found which differ from those that appear after this stage has been reached. In my opinion he supported this assertion by an example when he spoke of the conversion of the death instinct into sadism and masochism by fusion with the life instincts. Perhaps we shall not be unduly extending the idea if we include this process under the concept of defence and consider it as a defence against an instinct—here, the death instinct—by the process of fusion. The opposite kind of defence would be effected by defusion of instincts, a process which, according to Freud, takes place in regression to the sadistic stage. Possibly the first kind of defence is the more primitive and present, as such, before development of the ego. The ability to bind the death instinct by libido, once acquired, is never lost; it operates in various ways, from the healing of wounds to the incorporation of neurotic symptoms into the structure of the ego and is always accompanied by the tendency to convert pain into pleasure.

The prototype of all this is, of course, masochism, and it is no accident that the cases I have in mind either practise this perversion or show traits more or less characteristic of it. Specially striking was the effect of this kind of defence, to be described below, in peculiar chronic neurotic conditions which owed their existence to the predominance of this mechanism. In these one could observe a chronic state of erotic excitation which was not allowed to be disturbed. During such conditions masochistic erotic phantasies were continually being formed, or else actions constituting a substitute for onanism and representing erection were carried out, often by the strangest muscular activity. The symptoms obviously provided a narcissistic-erotic gratification, as was also evidenced by the more or less ecstatic condition which accompanied them.


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