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Grinberg, L. (1968). On Acting out and its Role in the Psychoanalytic Process. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 49:171-178.

(1968). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 49:171-178

On Acting out and its Role in the Psychoanalytic Process

León Grinberg

There are some terms in the psychoanalytical literature the mere mention of which awakens a penumbra of associations tinged with a specific significance. This meaning sometimes overshadows any other content implicit in the context. The term acting out happens to be one of them and it often carries a pejorative connotation denoting the so-called "bad" behaviour that characterizes some patients in analysis. There is a whole spectrum which extends from those who stress the harmful and destructive nature of acting out to those who lay emphasis on its communicative and adaptive nature (Blos, 1962; (Ekstein, 1965); (Kanzer, 1957); (Limentani, 1966); (Rosenfeld, 1965).

The theoretical knowledge and experience that result from many years of analytic work are not always enough for the analyst to attain the necessary understanding and perspective to deal technically with acting out. Just the opposite: there are times in the treatment of these patients when our armoury is of little use before those massive acting out phenomena that stir strong countertransference reactions in us.

This is one of the topics I wish to elucidate here. Naturally there are other important aspects involved in the concept of acting out. But I prefer to limit my discussion to a more specific aspect in the hope of throwing some light on a number of technical problems—at times rather hard—which are often present in the treatment of acting out. That is why I have endeavoured to give my paper a mainly clinical approach.

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