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Lampl-De Groot, J. (1950). On Masturbation and its Influence on General Development. Psychoanal. St. Child, 5:153-174.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 5:153-174

On Masturbation and its Influence on General Development

Jeanne Lampl-De Groot


In 1912, the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society published a symposium on the topic of "Onanism" (4). Professor Freud concluded his own contribution with the statement: "We all are of the same opinion, that the subject of onanism is inexhaustible." Today, after a lapse of thirty-eight years, I think this statement is still valid. However, we may be able to contribute some additional information to some of the outstanding points in the 1912 discussion.

Freud summarizes, among other things, those points on which there existed a general consensus among the discussants and those on which opinions differed.

The discussants agreed:

a. on the importance and meaning of the fantasies, accompanying or replacing masturbation,

b. on the importance of the guilt feelings connected with onanism.

Today we can confirm these findings; moreover, we are now better informed concerning the origin, development, and fate of the fantasies.

One of the points, on which at that time opinions differed, concerned the origin of the guilt feelings. This particular uncertainty has since disappeared; the various sources of the guilt feeling are now rather well known to us.

The rest of the differences in opinion at that time centered, to be exact, around the one question: "Can the masturbatory activity per se be harmful?" This question was answered, more or less passionately, by some discussants in the affirmative; by others in the negative as regards any direct somatic impairment.

To Freud, who belonged to the first group, this problem was intimately connected with his concept of the "actual neurosis." Freud maintained his first conception that a number of neurotic symptoms were caused by the toxic effects of undischarged or inadequately discharged quantities of instinctual energy, and thus created a nucleus for the p psychoneuroses, caused by psychological conflicts.

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