Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Acting Out (Defense Mechanism)

  • Maria PonsiEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_1356-1

Synonyms

Definition

Acting out is a defense mechanism used when one is unable to manage a conflicted mental content by means of thought and by putting it into words. As some individuals have the tendency to express themselves by acting rather than by verbalizing their inner state, the term acting out has ended up referring to a wide range of behaviors directed either at the self or at others in which the discharge by means of action occurs without consideration of its negative consequences. It is often used as a synonym for impulsivity in the context of criminal, perverse, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, and suicidal behaviors.

Introduction

Freud first mentions acting out when one of his first hysterical patients suddenly interrupted treatment, thus acting out an unconscious fantasy instead of recalling a significant aspect of her past. He returned to the concept more extensively in 1914 in the essay “Remembering, repeating and working through” (Freud 1914...

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References

  1. Boesky, D. (1982). Acting out: A reconsideration of the concept. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 63, 39–55.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Filippini, S., & Ponsi, M. (1993). Enactment. Rivista di Psicoanalisi, 39, 501–518.Google Scholar
  3. Freud, S. (1912). The dynamic of transference. In J. Strachey (Ed. & Trans.), Standard edition of the complete works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 12). London: Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  4. Freud S. (1914). Remembering, repeating and working-through. In J. Strachey (Ed. & Trans.), Standard edition of the complete works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 12). London: Hogarth Press.Google Scholar
  5. Freud, A. (1967). Acting out – opening paper of main theme of the 25th International Psycho-Analytical Congress, Copenhagen, July 1967. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 49, 165–170.Google Scholar
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  8. Ponsi, M. (2012). Evoluzione del pensiero psicoanalitico. Acting out, agire, enactment. Rivista di Psicoanalisi, 58, 653–670.Google Scholar
  9. Roughton, R. E. (1993). Useful aspects of acting out: Repetition, enactment, and actualization. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 41, 443–472.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Società Psicoanalitica Italiana (Firenze, Italy), International Psychoanalytical AssociationLondonUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Simon Boag
    • 1
  1. 1.Macquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia