Acting Out

In Psychoanalysis

Freud considered that patients in analysis tended to act out their conflicts in preference to remembering them – repetition compulsion.  The analytic task was then to help "the patient who does not remember anything of what he has forgotten and repressed, but acts it out"  to replace present activity by past memory.

Otto Fenichel added that acting out in an analytic setting potentially offered valuable insights to the therapist; but was nonetheless a psychological resistance in as much as it deals only with the present at the expense of concealing the underlying influence of the past. Lacan also spoke of "the corrective value of acting out", though others qualified this with the proviso that such acting out must be limited in the extent of its destructive/self-destructiveness.

Annie Reich pointed out that the analyst may use the patient by acting out in an indirect countertransference, for example to win the approval of a supervisor.


The interpretation of a person's acting out and an observer's response varies considerably, with context and subject usually setting audience expectations.

In Parenting

Early years, temper tantrums can be understood as episodes of acting out. As young children will not have developed the means to communicate their feelings of distress, tantrums prove an effective and achievable method of alerting parents to their needs and requesting attention.

As children develop they often learn to replace these attention-gathering strategies with more socially acceptable and constructive communications. In adolescent years, acting out in the form of rebellious behaviors such as smoking, shoplifting and drug use can be understood as "a cry for help." Such pre-delinquent behavior may be a search for containment from parents or other parental figures. The young person may seem to be disruptive – and may well be disruptive – but this behaviour is often underpinned by an inability to regulate emotions in some other way.

In Addiction

In behavioral or substance addiction, acting out can give the addict the illusion of being in control. Many people with addiction, either refuse to admit they struggle with it, or some don't even realize they have an addiction. For most people, when their addiction is addressed, they become defensive and act out. This can be a result of multiple emotions including shame, fear of judgement, or anger. It's important to be patient and understanding towards those with addiction, and to realize that most people want to break free from the symptoms and baggage that come with addiction, but don't know how or where to start. There are many preventative measures and programs than can help those who personally struggle with addiction, or for those who have a friend or family member that has an addiction.

In Criminology

Criminologists debate whether juvenile delinquency is a form of acting out, or rather reflects wider conflicts involved in the process of socialization.


(Wikipedia excerpt)

How Big is Enough?

by Hal Lindsey

Even Christians fret and worry. Joy can seem remote and fear ever-present. Peace can feel like a thing of the past. When we experience these things, we wonder why.

For the most part, it happens when we take over God’s role in our lives. We make ourselves the final ruler, chief protector, and ultimate provider. Yes, God gives us decisions to make. He instructs us to protect our loved ones to the extent we can. And He implores us to work to provide for our needs and theirs.

But we should never take on God’s role of Final Ruler, Chief Protector, and Ultimate Provider.

Fear and worry can rule us to whatever extent that we take these jobs from God. We fret because we are inadequate to His tasks. We struggle to feel joy because when everything is up to us, we know that things can fall apart at any moment. The greatest example of people taking over a job only God can do is when people think they can be good enough to save themselves from sin.

Romans 8:5 (NASB) says, “Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”

The process of walking according to the flesh usually happens gradually. It can be subtle, and full of small, hardly noticeable steps. We still pray, read the Bible, and go to church, but over time we take onto ourselves things that belong to God. 

Let me give an example most of us can relate to. Your children and/or grandchildren plan a trip by air. They will fly in bad weather, and you feel concerned for their safety. What starts as a prayer for their protection can sometimes cease being a prayer at all. It can turn into pure worry. You feel helpless. You think somehow that if you were there, everything would be okay. But your presence would not keep the plane in the air. God’s presence is the key. And He is with them.

Some people trust God’s ability, but not His wisdom. Experience tells them that He sometimes allows things to happen that they would not allow if they were Almighty. When things happen that they think are not best, they begin to trust their wisdom over His.

Is that you? Let me ask you this. How big and how wise and how good must God be in order to earn your trust? Revelation 19:6 (KJV) calls God “omnipotent.” That’s means He’s all powerful. Romans 11:33 speaks of His unlimited wisdom. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” Psalm 34:8 speaks to His goodness. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

How strong, how wise, and how loving does He have to be to earn your trust? He has all power, so you can trust His ability. There are no limits to His wisdom, so you can trust His decisions. And because He is good and He loves you, His choices and power will work in your best interest. In other words, He’s big enough, knowledgeable enough, and good enough for you to give Him your complete trust.

1 Peter 5:7 says to cast “all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.”

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