Battling the Life and Death Forces of Sadomasochism: Clinical Perspectives
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This book examines the forces of sadomasochism in the clinical domain where transference and countertransference reside. Psychoanalysts write in depth about cases where sadomasochism is present for both analysand and analyst. Four cases present the unfolding analytic exchange where life and death forces collide. Each case is accompanied by three discussions illuminating the complex phenomena that often include lifelong perversions and painful narcissistic difficulties. Through the case presentations and discussions, psychoanalytic therapists will find maps for guiding their own work with sadomasochistic processes. Treatments where sadomasochism is prominent abound with dramas containing control and denigration, domination, and submission. Often there is a history of over stimulation and under stimulation from infancy and childhood influencing the formation of object relations and unconscious fantasy.
Since Freud first introduced the concepts of component instincts and psychosexual development, psychoanalysts have been exploring sadomasochism in its various forms. The belief that togetherness involves tormenting pain creates a sense of life and death struggle that is imbued with powerful instinctual gratification. Unconscious sexualized scenes of both dyadic and triadic forms carry humiliation and conquest. These analysands employ a variety of defenses, especially disavowal. The analyst's affective responses to the negation and attacks provide an opportunity to recognize conflicts and repetitions, and to move them into a symbolizing process. Contributions to the book come from a variety of psychoanalytic perspectives. Understanding of these sadomasochistic phenomena highlight psychoanalytic thinking about conflict, instinctual life, object relations, trauma, narcissistic vulnerability, primitive states, and perversion.
Reviews and Endorsements:
‘Containing clinical examples of working in analysis with patients who need to experience pain in their intimate relationships, and cause pain in anyone who gets close to them, this book explores the feelings that can prevent people from finding comfort in their human relationships. Better yet, it shows how sensitive and experienced therapists have helped such difficult patients and by doing so provides a model of how to treat patients with this excruciating pathology. The differing theoretical perspectives provided by colleagues who have read the clinical material add ways to understand what happened in the testaments and ways to generalize the outcomes.’
- Arlene Kramer Richards, training and supervising analyst at the Contemporary Freudian Society, and author of Psychoanalysis: Listening to Understand
‘Exploring masochism and sadism, two of the most controversial and still partially enigmatic areas of the human pathological mind, this book utilizes contemporary psychoanalytic tools for a much more universal investigation at the boundaries between life and death. The space where analyst and patient interact daily becomes here the most advanced place for studying the roots and the ways of the painful human vicissitudes regarding violence, humiliation, cruelty, failure, sacrifice and hopelessness. Can two people, working together, give a new voice, from the profound to the eternal tragedies which affect the world? Yes, they can. This wonderful book shows how psychoanalysis today can help us in understanding many kinds of intrapsychic and interpersonal violence, from the most evident to the most subtly hidden and masked of them.’
- Stefano Bolognini, President of the Italian Psychoanalytic Society, and author of Secret Passages: The Theory and Technique of Interpsychic Relations
‘Dread lurks whenever one approaches the dark danse macabre where Love and Hate wear each other’s mask. To practice analysis is to attend such a ball, and no theory can spare an analyst the horrors of sadomasochism. In this uncommonly engaging work, analysts gifted as both writers and clinicians illuminate the subject, candidly detailing clinical struggles when facing malevolent forces. With discussants of widely varied theoretical approaches, they cast new light on sadomasochism, indeed on the analytic process itself. To read this volume of rare depth and breadth is to join a fascinating and moving conversational master class where clinical experience provides the data and open inquiry prevails. The subject is pain; the reading, a pleasure.’
- Warren S. Poland, Poland, MD, psychoanalyst, author of Melting the Darkness, and recipient of the 2009 Sigourney Award
Notes about the author(s):
Harriet I. Basseches, PhD, ABPP, is a training and supervising analyst in the Contemporary Freudian Society (CFS), formerly the New York Freudian Society, and the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA), and a member of the CFS Permanent Faculty. She is a diplomate in psychoanalysis certified by the American Board of Psychoanalysis in Psychology (ABPsaP), and has held the following positions: president of the New York Freudian Society; president of the Confederation of Independent Psychoanalytic Societies (CIPS); and trustee of the IPA. She has written and presented in the areas of femininity and female psychology, listening, enactment, terror, and sadomasochism. She has a private practice in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis in Washington, DC.
Paula L. Ellman, PhD, ABPP, FIPA, is a training and supervising analyst in the Contemporary Freudian Society (CFS) and the IPA. She is the institute director of the Washington Program of the Contemporary Freudian Society, in addition to being on the permanent faculty. She is a diplomate in psychoanalysis certified by the American Board of Psychoanalysis in Psychology (ABPsaP) and assistant clinical professor of psychology at The George Washington University Center for Professional Psychology. She has held the following positions: Chair, Central Concepts Psychotherapy Training Program, Washington School of Psychiatry, Washington, DC; Member-at-large, Board of Directors of the Confederation of Independent Psychoanalytic Societies of the IPA (CIPS). She has written and presented in the areas of femininity and female psychology, listening, enactment, terror, and sadomasochism. She has a private practice in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis in North Bethesda, Maryland and Washington, DC.
Nancy R. Goodman, PhD, is a training and supervising analyst with the Contemporary Freudian Society, Washington DC Program and the IPA. She is interested in unconscious fantasy, witnessing of individual and mass trauma, enactments, and psychoanalysis and film. She is the leader of a CIPS study group on enactments. Her most recent publications include: The Power of Witnessing: Reflections, Reverberations, and Traces of the Holocaust—Trauma Psychoanalysis, and the Living Mind (co-editor/writer with Marilyn B. Meyers), 'Enactment: Opportunity for Symbolising Trauma' (Ellman & Goodman) in Absolute Truth and Unbearable Psychic Pain: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Concrete Experience (ed. A. Frosch), as well as being editor of Psychoanalysis: Listening to Understand--Collected Papers of Arlene Kramer Richards. She maintains a psychoanalytic practice in Bethesda, MD.
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