Aggression and Destructiveness: Psychoanalytic Perspectives

Aggression and Destructiveness: Psychoanalytic Perspectives

Aggression and Destructiveness: Psychoanalytic Perspectives

Aggression and Destructiveness: Psychoanalytic Perspectives

Synopsis

Why, when and how does aggression go wrong?

How can we make sense of apparently meaningless destructiveness and violence

Aggression is a part of human nature that energises our relationships, acts as an impetus for psychic development, and enables us to master our world. More often, we focus on its more destructive aspects, such as the violence individuals inflict on themselves or others and overlook the positive functions of aggression.

In Aggression and Destructiveness Celia Harding brings together contributions from experienced psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic psychotherapists to explore the roots of aggression and the clinical dilemmas it presents in psychotherapy. Beginning with accounts of aggression and destructiveness from a range of developmental and theoretical perspectives, the book provides useful insights into subjects including:

  • Bullying and abusive relationships
  • Male and female violence and destructiveness
  • Depressive, perverse and psychotic states of mind
  • Attacks on therapeutic treatment

This book makes a valuable contribution to the attempt to make sense of human aggression, destructiveness and violence perpetrated against the self, others and reality. It will be of great interest to trainee and qualified psychodynamic counsellors, psychoanalytic psychotherapists and psychoanalysts.

Excerpt

Now and then an act of violence explodes into our lives and we are shockingly reminded of the human capacity for destructiveness. At that moment our reality feels violated and fragmented. ‘Who is responsible?’ Uderstanding that could contain our destructive reactions. Unable to think, we violently repudiate the violent act: terrorists fly aircraft into the Twin Towers and war is declared on the ‘axis of evil’; a child is found dead and public outrage is violently unleashed on paedophiles; brutal murders activate demands to reinstate the death penalty. All too often the tragedy is seen as the product of an evil rather than disordered mind. Our fear of human violent and destructive capabilities paradoxically prompts us to react punitively, destructively.

This book contributes to the attempt to make sense of human aggression, destructiveness and violence perpetrated against the self, others and reality. After defining aggression, destructiveness and violence this introductory chapter outlines some of the psychoanalytic theories of aggression and explores the roots of aggression and its pathological development into destructiveness and violence; its use to disguise vulnerability and conversely, the disguises we adopt to hide, while expressing, our aggressive impulses. It ends with an exploration of some of the technical and clinical dilemmas that destructiveness may present in psychotherapy.

Defining aggression, destructiveness and violence

The Collins Concise Dictionary defines aggression as an attack, a harmful action, an offensive activity, a hostile or destructive mental attitude. In everyday parlance also, ‘aggression’ usually refers to its destructive aspect, overlooking its necessary and positive functions. In contemporary idiom ‘aggressive’ is sometimes used more positively to mean forceful and compelling.

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