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Buie, D.H. Meissner, W.W. Rizzuto, A. Sashin, J.I. (1983). Aggression in the Psychoanalytic Situation. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 10:159-170.

(1983). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 10:159-170

Aggression in the Psychoanalytic Situation

Dan H. Buie, W. W. Meissner, Ana Maria Rizzuto and Jerome I. Sashin


Aggression remains an uncertain concept in contemporary psychoanalysis. This paper approaches the problem from the point of view of the phenomenology of aggression as it manifests itself in the psychoanalytic situation. After a brief discussion of the present state of the theory of aggression, the authors present clinical examples illustrating instances of aggression during analytic hours. They discuss the functions aggression serves during these hours, and they present understanding of the patients' behaviours in motivational terms. They also describe the analysts' aggressive moves in motivational terms. The authors attempt to answer the questions of what allows one to say that an action, a thought, a feeling is aggressively motivated, and what is the essential motive for aggressive behaviour. The ultimate goals of various aggressive behaviours are diverse, both constructive and destructive in nature; so they do not define an action as aggressive. Similarly, aggressive behaviours are independent of any specifiable or concomitant affects. It is the introduction of internally or externally operative obstacles to achieving goals that calls forth behaviours which hold in common a particular motivational quality that can be called aggressive. It is the motivation involved in effort to overcome an obstacle to goal attainment that defines a behaviour as aggression.

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