Repetition Compulsion

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On the one hand, there were 'Repetitions of traumatic events for the purpose of achieving a belated mastery . . . seen first and most clearly in children's games', although the 'same pattern occurs in the repetitive dreams and symptoms of traumatic neurotics and in many similar little actions of normal persons who . . . repeat upsetting experiences a number of times before these experiences are mastered. Such traumatic repetitions could themselves appear in active or passive forms. In a passive form, one chooses his or her most familiar experiences consistently as a means to deal with problems of the past, believing that new experiences will be more painful than their present situation or too new and untested to imagine. In the active, participatory form, a person actively engages in behavior that mimics an earlier stressor, either deliberately or unconsciously, so that in particular events that are terrifying in childhood become sources of attraction in adulthood. For instance, a person who was spanked as a child may incorporate this into their adult sexual practices; or a victim of sexual abuse may attempt to seduce another person of authority in his or her life (such as their boss or therapist): an attempt at mastery of their feelings and experience, in the sense that they unconsciously want to go through the same situation but that it not result negatively as it did in the past.

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