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Bond, A.H. (1967). Sadomasochistic Patterns in an 18-Month-Old Child. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 48:596-603.

(1967). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 48:596-603

Sadomasochistic Patterns in an 18-Month-Old Child

Alma H. Bond


The early establishment of a sadomasochistic relatedness in an 18-month-old child is presented as a means of coping with a sudden traumatic loss of the symbiotic "object", as a revengeful defence against this loss, and a distorted means of restoring the symbiosis.

Hilary was a child who ignored the presence of her mother and other women, and concentrated much of her libido on autoerotic rocking, which she watched in the mirror, When her mother persisted in trying to force some contact, Hilary would run out of the room, provoking her mother, who felt noticeably rejected by the child, to chase after her.

Hilary, for some unknown reason, approached the writer, who responded in a manner acceptable to the child. Then she was able to permit and sustain a warmly positive relationship for several meetings. The intimacy was suddenly severed when the writer opened a door for another child, at which moment Hilary darted away, refused any further contact, and reverted to her former narcissistic behavior. The

writer found herself tempted to pursue the child, in a manner reminiscent of Hilary's mother, whose behavior no doubt contributed to a vicious sadomasochistic circle. The writer resisted the temptation, enabling Hilary to return to and deepen the former intimate relationship, and to reach out to and try once more with her own mother.

The author speculates and gives evidence that the closeness severed by the door slamming incident was to Hilary a direct repetition of the symbiotic state with her mother which ended in an abrupt "dump" at weaning, when Mrs S behavior changed from much fuss, stimulation and affection to a detached state of unrelatedness. The author further postulates that to ward off the resulting panic, flooding, chaos and ego disorganization, and to prevent the recurrence of an unbearable dilemma, Hilary had to withdraw and to "tune out" any vestiges of the "good mother". By identifying with the traumatic mother and initiating the chase, she reverses the roles, masters the shock of her loss, and thereby gets her revenge. In addition, by keeping her mother in anxious pursuit, she perpetuates a distorted version of the symbiosis.

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