The Place of Acting Out in Psychoanalysis: From Freud to Lacan

Within psychoanalysis acting out is, today, a contested concept, both in terms of its theoretical underpinnings and with regard to its clinical application. In light of this the present paper presents a review of the concept which begins with Freud and moves on to trace the various discussions and controversies which have surrounded the term. It is argued that acting out is a valid and clinically important psychoanalytic concept, though one which retains its value only in virtue of unpacking its relation to the transference. Furthermore it is contended that this relation was initially made clear by Freud, and that this notion has been successfully built on and elaborated by, in particular, Lacan. In the context of discussing acting out, the related concepts of acting in and enactment are examined. The former is seen as representing instances of expressive actualisation, while the latter is found to be wanting in conceptual clarity. Also discussed are the position of the analyst in relation to the transference, and more specifically the problems associated with countertransference based interventions, highlighted by Lacan.

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A Question of Ethics: Dream Interpretation and the Danger of Acting Out

There is a reluctance to talk about the actuality of the clinic. As a clinician, I remain convinced that it is useful to do so. One has to be clear, however, about one’s motive. Quite apart from issues of confidentiality, a clinical account often does not translate well for the reader. In this paper, my motive runs to using the example of a dream, coupled with a potential crisis in the form of an acting out, to illustrate the psychoanalytic act as an ethical act. In addition, I am challenging a critique of the so-called Lacanian clinic. Through this challenge, I am attempting to define, while working within the confines of a circumscribed clinical example, what it is that allows me say, in as much as anyone can say such a thing, that, as an analyst, my actions are ethical. I realise that this precludes other types of intervention, in particular, transference interpretation.

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The language of violence

This article deals with the question of violence within the context of a school. The central idea is that a tension exists between an experience and the language for that experience, an idea which is brought to the fore by both Freud and the Russian psychologist Vygotsky. Violence is considered as the expression of a missed meeting between experience and language. By means of a number of psychoanalytic concepts this idea is developed and illustrated with a clinical fragment.