This contribution presents a reconstruction of the way the concept of sadism was introduced and anchored in psychoanalytic metapsychology. It focusses on the first two editions (1905 and 1910) of Freud’s Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Freud’s singular indebtedness to Krafft-Ebing is emphasized. Subsequently, it is argued that Freud’s selective reading of Krafft-Ebing is determined by his model of hysteria. Freud seems unable to give an adequate account of sadism in his Three Essays and in his later work, sadism remains a conceptual “problem child” becoming an oversimplified passe-partout concept used to discuss the theme of human aggressiveness.
This contribution proposes that Freud, in “Instincts and their Vicissitudes” (1915c), develops a separate metapsychology of hate for the first time. Freud does not only distinguish hate from sadism and masochism, but also renounces his former opinion about hate as a transformation of love. We analyse Freud’s views on hate in line with his “The Disposition to Obsessional Neurosis” (1913i) and according to the matrix of obsessional neurosis. We also draw attention to the constitutive importance of the ego-development and the ego-instincts as put forward in “On Narcissism: An Introduction” (1914c). In this way Freud’s plea for an original hate is one of the rare locations in the Freudian corpus where there is room for an original, non-sexual aggressivity.
This contribution focuses on Freud’s elaboration of the genesis of sadism and masochism in “Instincts and their Vicissitudes” (1915c). We first briefly recap the standard reading of this text by Jean Laplanche which relies on Freud’s concept of “anaclisis”. In our opinion, Laplanche’s reading implicitly presupposes that Freud’s discussion of sadism and masochism questions the sexualisation of an originally non-sexual aggressivity. In contrast, we argue that Freud’s argumentation starts from the question how the aggressivity that is inherent in sexuality relates to sadism and masochism qua perversion. The matrix of obsessional neurosis and the development of the ego discussed in the same context are of crucial importance for the systematic development of Freud’s answer to this last question.
It is widely known that Freud gives Oedipus a central place in both his psychoanalytic theory and praxis. Freud introduces the Oedipus myth as the crucial key for understanding the tragedy of human life. One of the most problematic issues innate to the human condition is aggression. This paper argues: (1) that Freud’s insights into human aggression can at the very least be viewed as one-sided and problematic; and (2) that the heuristic potential of the Oedipus myth, correspondingly, is limited. It considers how the Hungarian psychiatrist and analyst, Lipót Szondi, tries to bridge this gap using the myth of Cain and Abel. The aim of this paper is to explore how Szondi’s interpretation of this myth offers a much more subtle approach to human aggression. Szondi’s alternative and distinctive look at aggressive phenomena offers an exciting and fruitful addition to Freud’s interpretation as exclusively referring to sadism and/or the death drive. This contribution wants to highlight Szondi’s amendment to Freud’s Oedipus and aims to show that psychoanalysis can benefit from taking into account the mythical figures of Cain and Abel as its ‘prodigal sons’.