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Freud, A. (1968). Acting Out. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 49:165-170.

(1968). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 49:165-170

Acting Out

Anna Freud

Analytic Concepts and their Fate

When the Programme Committee for the Copenhagen Congress selected "Acting Out" as the subject for its main Symposium, it joined the ranks of those who are concerned with the history of psychoanalytic concepts in general and interested to trace the vicissitudes of their individual fates in detail. Varied as these fates are, it is not impossible to single out some distinctive trends and pursue them through the theoretical, clinical, and technical literature.

There are some terms and concepts without which psychoanalysis could not have done in its beginnings since they served to convey meaning in a simple manner to a public otherwise unprepared for the new findings. An example of this was the idea of complexes, an expression used to designate any cluster of drive-derivatives, thought-representations and affects, rooted in the unconscious, and from there giving rise to anxiety, defensive manoeuvres and/or character distortions and symptom-formations. This was a convenient way of describing, as it were in psychological shorthand, whatever people suffered from as a father complex, mother complex, guilt complex, inferiority complex, etc. Eventually, the very umbrella nature of the term militated against its usefulness and with increasing knowledge it was split up into a number of more precise notions, such as dependency (of the infant on the mother); internal conflict (between the agencies of the mind); severity of the superego (guilt feelings); depression; penis envy; etc.

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