These terms refer to the idea of punishment or retaliation in kind: the “lex talionis.” This is the primitive and usually unconscious belief in retribution, as expressed in the early Biblical injunction, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”The talion principle has an important place in psychoanalysis. It includes both the general idea of retribution for defying the superego, and the specific fear that all injury, whether actual or intended, will be punished in kind. Freud applied the “idea of the talion,” for example, to the visual disturbances which sometimes afflict peeping Toms (voyeurs). He said it is “as if an accusing voice had uplifted itself within the person concerned, saying ‘Because you have chosen to use your organ of sight for every indulgence of the senses, it serves you quite right if you can see nothing at all now.’” (Collected Papers, Volume 2, 1924). In cases of this kind,he believed that the superego imposes the disability as a punishment for violation of its behests. In similar vein, an unconscious wish for the death of another person may give rise to a neurotic fear of death or a hysterical attack during which the patient feels he is dying.Psychoanalysts believe that the fear of retribution, or “talion dread,” is a significant neurotic symptom. Individuals who harbor unconscious incestuous wishes are particularly likely to develop this fear. They are frequently beset with anxieties that represent the unconscious fear of being punished by castration—for example, a fear of accidents or a phobia for sharp instruments.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "TALION LAW," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/talion-law/ (accessed August 9, 2022).


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