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Kestenberg, J.S. (1968). Acting out in the Analysis of Children and Adults. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 49:341-344.

(1968). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 49:341-344

Acting out in the Analysis of Children and Adults

Judith S. Kestenberg

Acting-out patients use regressive stratagems to induce participation of one or more partners in a dramatic revival of interactions with a "lost" infantile object (Bird, 1957); (Fenichel, 1945).

Genetic Factors

Each developmental phase is characterized by a heightened cathexis of a dominant zone, a zone-specific discharge and a phase-specific body contact with the object of the drive (A. Freud, 1965). With the passing of a phase the poignant pleasurable qualities of the phase-specific zone and object are irretrievably lost. The child tends to condense the vanishing pleasure with objectloss, the loss of the dominant organ and its product. Once a common possession of mother and child, food and bodily excretions become devaluated when they are separated from the child's body. But they continue to be used as intermediate objects in stratagems designed to influence the mother to behave as she once did. People who assist in the care of the infant also form a link to the mother as accessory objects through whom she can be reached. Intermediate and accessory objects are discarded when they have served their purpose. In contrast, transitional objects (Winnicott, 1953) are permanent possessions, created to maintain the illusion of bodily continuity with the mother.

At first, sounds and even words are treated like objects that bridge the gap between mother and child. As physical contact diminishes, the qualities of the "feeding" mother of the "oral" child and the "training" mother of the "anal" child become modified, and verbal communication emerges from thoughts rather than directly from needs (Katan, 1961).

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