Judith Hamilton - Therapist & Educator

Psychoanalyst - Freudian and Lacanian Orientation

Freud (1919) "A child is being beaten" - summary of text and teaching notes: - study of an infantile perversion in neurotic adults. These patients were not actually beaten as children; rather, these were fantasies that were sexually exciting to them as children and were part of masturbation. They may persist into adulthood. 

6 cases; 4 women, 2 men; two obsessional neuroses, 1 with marked obsessive traits, 1 hysteric, 1 "psychaesthenic"(almost normal).

The beating phantasy, a child is being beaten, started very early, not later than the fifth or sixth year; called up again or reinforced by witnessing children being beaten by a teacher after which time it was 'an indefinite number' of children that were being beaten. Added to by novels, "a wealth of situation and institutions, in which children were beaten, or were punished and disciplined in some other way, because of their naughtiness and bad behaviour."..." a condition of the more sophisticated phantasies of later years that the punishment should do the children no serious injury."(p. 180)

[Clinically, look for a derivative of the beating fantasy in any analogous fantasy that involves subjugation and humiliation, over-dependence or enthrallment and shame, the theme of an innocent victim. The person, through the suffering of the "beating" may be achieving reunion with the primary idealized object.]

Cause: "One of the components of the sexual function has, it seems, (because of constitution, not necessarily a traumatic event) developed in advance of the rest (the sadistic component), has made itself prematurely independent, has undergone fixation and in consequence been withdrawn from the later processes of development, and has in this way given evidence of a peculiar and abnormal constitution in the individual...need not persist for a whole lifetime...can be subject to repression, to reaction formation, or sublimation, or may persist to maturity as perversion." The infantile perversion (the beating phantasy as a source of sexual satisfaction) arises in the context of a forced direction of the Oedipus complex which leaves a particular residue behind. Perversions in adults are derived from the precipitates (eg. a beating phantasy or other perverse fixations) of the Oedipus complex (pp. 192-193).  

Masochism - an instinct (sadism) with a passive aim; also unpleasure; due to the influence of the sense of guilt which takes part in the act of repression. Repression: renders the consequences of the genital organization unconscious, it compels that organization itself to regress (because of its weakness) to the earlier sadistic-anal stage, and it transforms the sadism of this stage into masochism, (because the guilt objects to sadism as much as to incestuous object-choice genitally conceived) which is passive and again in a certain sense narcissistic. (p. 194) 

In girls the fantasies are: sadistic - masochistic - sadistic

cs - uncs - cs

The first phase (p. 185) - the idea or actual witnessing of a sibling being beaten by the father. Younger child is despised; the beating is humiliating. Its pleasure was also egoistic as well as erotic and stemmed from jealousy and rivalry. "My father is beating the child whom I hate." It meant, "he loves only me", but not in a genital sense.

The second phase - always unconscious and had to be constructed; "I am being beaten by my father." - a wish to be beaten by the father, which developed under the impact of incestuous Oedipal love. Originally a genital wish, it was transformed into a beating wish as a result of guilt, repression, and regression to the pregenital anal libidinal organization. A convergence of guilt and sexual love, it represented "not only the punishment for the forbidden genital relation, but also the regressive substitute for that relation....Here for the first time we have the essence of masochism" (p.189).

The third phase - conscious, sexually stimulating, final form - the hazily imagined scene of a child or children (usually boys, in girls' phantasies) being beaten by some authority. "I am probably looking on." Although it was sadistic in form, the satisfaction derived from it is masochistic. "Its significance lies in the fact that it has taken over the libidinal cathexis of the repressed portion (ie. the repressed phase) and at the same time the sense of guilt which is attached to that portion" (p.191).

This paper demonstrates characterological (manifestly non-sexual) behaviour traceable to an underlying erotic, Oedipal-engendered beating fantasy:

"People who harbour phantasies of this kind develop a special sensitiveness and irritability towards anyone whom they can include in the class of fathers. They are easily offended by a person of this kind, and in that way (to their own sorrow and cost) bring about the realization of the imagined situation of being beaten by their father" (p. 195)

Male masochistic sexual perverts (p.196-197): either obtained their sexual satisfaction exclusively from masturbation accompanied by masochistic phantasies; or were able to bring about erection and emission or to carry out normal intercourse by masochistic performances, or under similar conditions. They transform themselves into the part of a woman, a feminine attitude; also the person who performs the chastisement is a woman. [Thus, it might be more accurate to say that for masochists, pain is a condition for sexual pleasure rather than to say that it gives rise to it directly. Brenner, p. 198)

In male patients, there was not found the preliminary sadistic phase in the beating fantasies as children; in the second, unconscious phase, the person doing the beating is the father, and the phantasy means, "I am loved by my father." Thus it derives from the inverted attitude in the Oedipal phase, the fantasies are "passive from the very beginning", derived from a feminine attitude toward the father within the Oedipus complex. The person doing the beating in the third, conscious phase, is the mother or mother substitute, and she is beating "myself"; thus, the situation remains masochistic in the boy, and shows a greater resemblance to the original phantasy with its genital significance. 

The boy evades his homosexuality by repressing and remodeling his unconscious phantasy; his later conscious phantasy shows a feminine attitude without a homosexual object-choice. The girl, on the other hand, escapes from the demands of the erotic side of her life altogether. She turns herself in phantasy into a man, without herself becoming active in a masculine way, and is no longer anything but a spectator of the event which takes the place of a sexual act." (p.199)