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Myerson, P.G. (1969). The Hysteric's Experience in Psychoanalysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 50:373-384.

(1969). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 50:373-384

The Hysteric's Experience in Psychoanalysis

Paul G. Myerson


In this study I have considered the hysterical modes of functioning as more fundamental for delineating the hysterical syndrome than hysterical traits and symptoms. I have also placed more emphasis upon how the hysteric functions when he is coping in a relatively adequate fashion than upon how he reacts under great stress. I have attempted to define the hysterical mode of functioning in a way that takes into consideration the hysteric's subjective experience.

I have used Wisdom's concept that the hysteric is

characteristically preoccupied with symbolic phallic interests even as he carries on an ordinary conversation, as a point of departure for my discussion of the hysteric's modes of functioning and the mechanisms that underlie them, and of the genetic factors that may contribute to their origin. I have suggested that the basic mechanism underlying this form of substitute gratification involves an acceptance of castration felt to be threatened by a key object for primitive urges, but also includes a sense that this object or another important one himself accepts, permits or even encourages a substitute, if symbolic, type of pleasure—a basic hysterical bargain. I have further suggested that a broader view of the hysteric's behaviour reveals his tendency, when under instinctual tension, to anticipate that someone will be helpful or someone can be maneouvred into being helpful in relieving tension.

I have utilized clinical material to demonstrate how the hysteric tends to accept the limits set upon direct instinctual gratification, yet with the proviso that the analyst accepts or approves of substitute forms of gratification indigenous to the analytic situation. When the analyst disrupts this hysterical bargain, either by clarifying its nature or through interpretative remarks which indicate that he does not just accept the hysteric's thoughts and behaviour, the hysterical analysand reacts either regressively, particularly if considerable anger is mobilized, or progressively, particularly if a longstanding helpful relationship has been established between the patient and his analyst. The new progressive relationship relates to the kind of therapeutic alliance that exists between the hysteric and his analyst and warrants careful evaluation to recognize the extent and the way it limits analytic progress.

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