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Grossman, W.I. (1991). Pain, Aggression, Fantasy, and Concepts of Sadomasochism. Psychoanal Q., 60:22-51.

(1991). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 60:22-51

Pain, Aggression, Fantasy, and Concepts of Sadomasochism

William I. Grossman, M.D.


Traumatized infants and children may exhibit syndromes of aggressive, pain-seeking, and self-destructive behavior resembling the so-called sadomasochism seen in adults. Three hypotheses are offered to account for the repetition of sadomasochistic phenomena in childhood and later character disorders: 1) pain and painful affects are sources of aggression; 2) the need to control aggression plays an important role in the development of psychic structure; 3) child abuse and trauma impair the ability to use fantasy for the mastery of impulses. Difficulty in expression and control of aggression are central issues in character disorders.

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