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First, in Chrome or Safari, depending on your platform, open PEP-Easy from pepeasy.pep-web.org. You want to be on the default start screen, so you have a clean workspace.
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Fenichel, O. (1945). Neurotic Acting Out. Psychoanal. Rev., 32(2):197-206.
(1945). Psychoanalytic Review, 32(2):197-206
Neurotic Acting Out
In most cases it is not very purposeful to start an analytic investigation with an exact definition of the phenomenon to be investigated. The exact definition should rather be the result of the research, not its starting point. But an inexact definition, as an approximative description, is necessary to make clear what one is going to talk about. Obviously, all “neuroticacting out” has the following in common: It is an acting which unconsciously relieves inner tension and brings a partial discharge to warded off impulses (no matter whether these impulses express directly instinctual demands, or are reactions to original instinctual demands, f.e. guilt feelings); the present situation, somehow associatively connected with the repressed content, is used as an occasion for the discharge of repressed energies; the cathexis is displaced from the repressed memories to the present “derivative”, and this displacement makes the discharge possible.
This definition is certainly correct; but it is insufficient. If a person, who was unable to express an anger against his boss, is in a general angry mood against everybody,—or if a person after having repressed an infantile sexual temptation, produces a neuroticsymptom as a distorted expression of his repressed wish,—or if a person develops feelings towards his analyst which he once had towards his father,—all these phenomena are also in accordance with the above definition,—but they are no “acting out”. What is the relation of “acting out” to “displacement”, “symptom formation”, and “transference” ?
All these phenomena have in common that the pressure of repressed forces towards discharge disturbs the function of reality testing and the ability of the ego to react adequately. But “acting out”, as distinguished from the other phenomena, is an acting, not a mere feeling, not a mere thinking, not a mere mimic expression, not a mere single movement. This fact distinguishes it from symptom formation.
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