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Riesenberg-Malcolm, R. (1996). ‘How Can We Know The Dancer From The Dance?’*: Hyperbole In Hysteria. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 77:679-688.

(1996). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77:679-688

‘How Can We Know The Dancer From The Dance?’*: Hyperbole In Hysteria

Ruth Riesenberg-Malcolm

In this paper the author discusses histrionic or hyperbolic behavious, which she regards as specific to a certain type of hysterical character. Histrionic hysteria she sees as a pathological organisation. With the use of two clinical examples she examines the phenomenon of hyperbole or exaggeration and suggests that they convey a picture of the patient's internal objects and his relationship to them. Exaggeration can also be used by the patient to distance himself from what is going on in his mind and yet to make the object—the analyst in the session—aware of unrecognised emotions. To study hyperbolic behaviour the author constructs a model in which she divides manifestations of this type of behaviour into three parts; ‘the observing self, the acting self and the audience’ and examines the different identifications that are at the basis of each part. She considers that these areas of the personality encapsulate fragmenting processes that are continually active and threatening the patient. An exploration of this division into three areas should facilitate and deepen understanding of the processes involved in histrionic behaviour.

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