PSYCHOANALYSIS 2 SEMINARS ON HYSTERIA Student Outlines
Sex, sexuality, sexual excitement
Summary of Freud's case of Dora
the psychical processes and the organic determinants of hysteria. Typical in a case of hysteria:
The history is indistinct, with gaps unfilled, riddles unanswered;
The father, a dominating figure, intelligent
was most tenderly attached to the father.
The daughter's affection
was increased by the father’s many severe illnesses.
The mother was
described at uncultivated, foolish, by father and daughter.
between the girl and her mother had been unfriendly for years.
brother, 1 1/2 years older, was the model of her early ambitions; he was close
Beginning age 8,
subject to chronic dyspnoea
The first onset
– after a short expedition in the mountains; put down to “over-exertion”. Regarding usual
childhood illness, her brother would get it first, slightly, then she would get
severe form of it.
Age 12 – 18 -
unilateral migraine headaches, which grew rare, plus attacks of nervous
coughing, tussis nervosa.
During the attacks, she developed a complete loss of voice. During many
investigations and treatments which had no benefit, she had grown to laugh at
efforts of doctors, to resist seeing another doctor. Only the authority of her father got
to see Freud.
although intelligent, with engaging looks, the patient was low in spirits with
alteration in her character.
Fatigue, lack of concentration. One day parents came across
a suicide note; then she
had a loss of consciousness – subsequently covered by amnesia – and
brought her to Freud for treatment.
A case of petite
hystérie with the commonest of somatic and mental symptoms. No cutaneous
sensitivities, no visual
In all cases of
hysteria, Freud had found the psychological determinants postulated in the Studies,
namely, a psychical trauma, a conflict of affects, and, in 1896, a disturbance
in the sphere of sexuality. In
this case too were all the determinants.
History to Freud of the Presenting
had formed an intimate relation with a married couple, Herr K and Frau K.
Frau K had
nursed father during his long illness. (Dora was aged 12)
Herr K had been
most kind to Dora – going on walks with her, giving her small presents.
Dora had taken care of the K’s two
little children, being almost a mother to them.
At age 16, Dora
and her father traveled to visit the K’s who were spending their summer at a
lake in the Alps. Suddenly
Dora insisted on going home with her father. Some days later she told her mother that Herr K had had the
audacity to make her a proposal while they were on a walk after a trip upon the
lake. She slapped his face
before he finished and walked away.
The father confronted Herr K on their next meeting, but Herr K denied
emphatically having made any advances which could have been open to such a
construction. He threw suspicion
on the girl saying that he’d heard from Frau K that Dora took no interest in
anything but sexual matters.
Father considered that this incident, which he did not believe took
place, was responsible for Dora’s depression and irritability and suicidal
ideas. She kept pressing him to
break off relations with Herr K and more particularly with Frau K, whom she
used to worship formerly. Father
could not do this.
Father explained to Dora that he "gets nothing" out of his own wife.
Dora had her last attack after one of these conversations pressing him
to break off with them. Father
wanted Freud to “bring her to reason”.
Freud noted that at other times, father blamed Dora’s impossible
behaviour on mother’s peculiarities.
with Herr K would seem to be the psychical trauma that is the indispensable
prerequisite for the production of a hysterical disorder. However, it does not explain or
determine the particular character of the symptoms. Also, some of the symptoms had appeared in the patient years
before the trauma, since age 8.
Hence must look earlier for influences or impressions which might have
had an analogous effect.
an earlier episode with Herr K, when she was 14 - he suddenly clasped her to
him and pressed a kiss upon her lips. Freud thought that this should have called up sexual excitement in Dora, but Dora felt violent
disgust, tore herself from Herr K, and hurried out. She continued to meet him and neither spoke of it
again. Nor did she tell anyone
else until Freud. However, she
avoided being alone with Herr K., and refused to go along with the K.’s on an
expedition, which was to last for some days.
Thus, at 14,
Dora was already hysterical – Freud considers a person hysterical in whom an
occasion for sexual excitement elicited feelings that were preponderantly or
exclusively unpleasurable, whether or not the person were capable of producing
somatic symptoms. This he called a reversal
of affect -
As well she had a displacement
of sensation, from the genital to the mucous membrane of the alimentary tract
(disgust). (She had always been a
poor eater and had a disinclination for food.)
She had a sensory hallucination
(during the telling of her story) of the pressure on her upper body of Herr K’s embrace.
Another symptom – Dora was unwilling to walk past any man whom she saw engaged in eager or affectionate conversation
with a lady. Freud postulated that during the embrace, she had felt the pressure of
the man’s erect member (sic) against her body; this was revolting to her, it was
dismissed from her memory, repressed, and replaced by the innocent sensation of
pressure upon her thorax – a displacement upward from the lower part of the
body. She avoided any man who she
thought was in a state of sexual excitement because she wanted to avoid seeing for
a second time the somatic sign which accompanies it.
Three symptoms and their theorized causes:
Disgust is the symptom of repression in the erotogenic oral zone which had been
over-indulged in Dora’s infancy by the habit of sensual sucking. The excitement of the second erotogenic
zone, her clitoris, was referred by a process of displacementto the thorax and
became fixed there. She was phobic
with respect to seeing a sexually excited man.
consciously felt done with Herr K, but she was angry at her father for what she
took to be his love-affair with Frau K.
She had detailed memories of many occasions, ever since she was 12, that
confirmed this view.
Overcome by the idea that she had been handed over to Herr K by her
father as the price of Herr K's tolerating the relations between Dora's father and Herr K's wife. Her father would have been
horrified at any such suggestion, but he was one of those men who know how to
evade a dilemma by falsifying their judgement upon one of the conflicting
alternatives. Father would have
denied that anything untoward was happening between Herr K and his
daughter. Thus it was possible for
Herr K to send Dora flowers every day for a whole year while he was in the
neighbourhood, to take every opportunity of giving her valuable presents, and
to spend all his spare time in her company, without her parents noticing
anything in his behaviour that was characteristic of love-making.
A string of
reproaches against other people leads one to suspect the existence of a string
of self-reproaches with the same content.
For example, while Dora was very
critical of her father’s not wanting to look too closely into Herr K’s
behaviour to his daughter, for fear of being disturbed in his own love-affair
with Frau K, Dora had done the same thing for years – giving every possible
assistance to her father’s relations with Frau K.
Dora did not at first or
completely assent to Freud’s interpretation that she had for all these years
been in love with Herr K.
second reproach against her father was that he exploited his illness for his
own purposes, but she did the same, for example regarding developing gastric
pains in identification with her female cousin (whom Dora thought of as a
malingerer, who had gastric pains to be able to leave home where she felt
envious of her younger sister’s engagement). She knew that Frau K used illness whenever her husband
returned home to be able to escape the conjugal duties which she detested. And Dora herself had developed periods
of “aphonia” when Herr K was away from home.
symptoms involve the participation of both somatic and psychical
functions. There must be a degree of
somatic compliance offered by some normal or pathological process in or
connected with one of the bodily organs. The hysterical symptom does not carry
meaning; meaning is lent to it, soldered to it, as it were; and in every
instance the meaning can be a different one, according to the nature of the
suppressed (unconscious) thoughts, which are struggling for expression.
The clearing up of a symptom is
achieved by looking for its psychical significance; but also it is useful to
indicate the organic factor that was the source of the “somatic compliance”
that enables the meaning to be expressed.
This factor is essential for the hysterical symptom of conversion to take place.
Primary gain of
illness – falling ill involves a saving of psychical effort.
motives of illness (or external
primary gain) – serves as a resistance to recovery.
malingering – a reproach which Dora brought against her father. Freud told her that she had a motive similar
to that of Frau K – to detach her father from Frau K – either out of fear (her
suicide note), or out of pity (her fainting fits) or, if all this failed, get
her revenge on him.
against father for not believing her story about Herr K; what is the
corresponding self-reproach? Also,
why did she respond so negatively after having given Herr K many signs of
affection over the years?
reproach and her cough continued.
symptom signifies the representation – the realization – of a phantasy with a
sexual content; it signifies a sexual situation; that is, at least one of its
meanings, because it will have many unconscious meanings. It is not necessary for the various
meanings of a symptom to be compatible with one another. A symptom may also be used to express
successive meanings over a number of years.
cough represented her unconscious picturing to herself the nature of the sexual
act between her father (whom she knew to be impotent) and Frau K.
It is typical
of a hysteric that they know a lot about sexuality without knowing that they
know it (i.e. unconsciously) or how they came to know it. It is necessary to speak of sexual things
with a hysteric: ‘pour faire une omelette il faut casser des œufs.’ There is never a danger of corrupting
an inexperienced girl, for where there is no knowledge of sexual processes even
in the unconscious, no hysterical symptom will arise, and where hysteria is
found there can no longer be any question of ‘innocence of mind’ regarding
psychoneurotics are persons with strongly marked perverse tendencies which have
been repressed in the course of their development and have become unconscious. Consequently their unconscious
phantasies show precisely the same content as the documentarily recorded
actions of perverts.
Psychoneuroses are, so to speak, the negative of perversions. They continue in their unconscious the
undifferentiated sexual disposition of every child.
Example of symptom
formation: Dora could
remember a scene from her early childhood in which she was sitting on the floor
in a corner sucking her left thumb and at the same time tugging with her right
hand at the lobe of her brother’s ear as he sat quietly beside her. The mucous membrane of the lips and
mouth is to be regarded as a primary “erotogenic zone”, which is preserved in
the act of kissing. An intense
activity of this erotogenic zone at an early age thus determines the subsequent
presence of a somatic compliance on the part of the tract of mucous membrane
which begins at the lips. At a
time when the sexual object proper, the male organ, has become known, circumstances
may arise which once more increase the excitation of the oral zone, whose
erotogenic character has been retained.
Substitute the sexual object of the moment (the penis) for the original
object (the nipple) or for the finger which does duty for it, and you place the
current sexual object in the situation in which gratification was originally
obtained. In most instances a
cow’s udder has aptly played the part of an image intermediate between a nipple
and a penis.