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18 Two Contributions to the Study of Symbols (1923)

Karl Abraham Karnac Books ePub

1. Observations on the Symbolic Meaning of the Triad

THE frequent occurrence of the triad in the various products of human phantasy has long been familiar. We know that its symbolical meanings vary. There is the well-known use of the number three as a representation of the male genitalia, and as an allusion to the triad of father, mother, and child. In the dreams of my patients I have several times met with the triad where it has another, less familiar meaning. It is not my intention to consider here any of the numerous possible meanings for the individual of the symbolical significance of numbers; but rather to formulate a generalised interpretation based on common cultural concepts.

There are three orifices of the human body which principally attract the child’s attention. Their attraction is due not only to the fact that they serve for the intake of food and for evacuation, but also because they possess an erotogenic significance of the highest importance. They are the oral, anal and uro-genital orifices. It is apparent that these orifices are represented in dreams by the number three, particularly when the establishment of genital primacy has failed and when the three erotogenic zones are competing for primacy. A neurotic patient of mine, whose dreams very clearly revealed to me the significance of the number three, harboured in her unconscious an abundance of wish-phantasies, partly of an oral-cannibalistic and partly of an anal character.

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VII. A COMPLICATED CEREMONIAL FOUND IN NEUROTIC WOMEN (1912)

Abraham, Karl Karnac Books ePub

SEVERAL years ago Freud published a short paper 2 in which he discussed the relation between obsessional neurosis and religious practices. Ordinary observation shows us that very many neurotics—and not only obsessional ones—carry on in private a cult which in its various forms reminds us of religious rites and ceremonies, and that they repeat some of these practices day by day with the same regularity and fixed procedure with which a religious community will repeat its prayers every morning -and evening.

Although there is a very wide scope for individual difference in a private cult of this kind, we often find persons making use of the same or of very similar neurotic ceremonials, notwithstanding that they come from entirely different social circles, and differ completely in their way of life, the circumstances in which they are placed, their intellectual abilities, and their opinions. This applies particularly to the simplest forms of ceremonial. For example, there is the very prevalent compulsion of having to step in a certain way on the flagstones of the pavement; and there is the equally frequent compulsion to count one’s steps in walking or going upstairs and to end up with an even number. This compulsion has to do with ideas of fairness, and is also an over-compensation for certain forbidden impulses. But this is a subject we cannot enter into any further in this place.

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8 Some Remarks on the Role of Grandparents in the Psychology of Neuroses (1913)

Karl Abraham Karnac Books ePub

IN my work as a psycho-analyst I have always been struck by the fact that some neurotic and psychotic patients would always return to speaking of their grandfather or grandmother. Yet in no single case of this kind had the grandparents exercised a decisive influence upon the course of the patient’s life. However much these cases differed from one another, their analysis invariably led to one uniform conclusion: the special emphasis given to the grandfather or grandmother was always rooted in a violent rejection of the father or mother.

The deeper causes of this singular manifestation, like many other characteristics of the neurotic, become comprehensible to us if compared with the behaviour of children. Two examples from the life of a normal or only slightly abnormal boy may serve to illustrate this.

This boy indulges in the typical day-dream of being the prince of an imaginary kingdom. He ascribes to the king of this realm just those qualities which he most respects in his own father. Later he endows this king with a father, thereby himself acquiring a grandfather, to whom he attributes the power of creating things by his command, that is to say, divine omnipotence. The result is clear: the father who in the eyes of the small child had been omnipotent, is in turn subjected to a higher power which he, too, must respect. In this way the omnipotence previously ascribed to his father is challenged. It should be noted that the boy knew neither of his grandfathers and therefore he had created the grandfather-figure in his phantasy-kingdom mainly from his own imagination.

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I. THE EXPERIENCING OF SEXUAL TRAUMAS AS A FORM OF SEXUAL ACTIVITY (1907)

Abraham, Karl Karnac Books ePub

FREUD’S original theory of the aetiology of hysteria has undergone important alterations in the course of time. As he himself has pointed out,2 however, two important points remain unchanged in it, namely, sexuality and infantilism, the significance of which he has investigated more and more deeply,

Among other things, the problem of sexual traumas in youth has been affected by the alterations that the general theory of sexuality and of the neuroses has undergone. For some time Freud regarded those traumas as the ultimate source of hysterical phenomena, and assumed that they were discoverable in all cases of hysteria. But he has not been able to maintain this view in its original form. In the paper referred to he assigns a secondary role to sexual traumas in youth and assumes the presence of an abnormal psycho-sexual constitution as the primary cause of a neurosis. This view accords with the fact that not all children who experience a sexual trauma suffer later on from hysteria. According to Freud, children who are disposed to hysteria react in an abnormal manner to sexual impressions of all kinds in consequence of their abnormal disposition. I recently showed that infantile sexual traumas occurred in the psychoses 3 as well; and I put forward the view that the trauma could not be regarded as the cause of the disease, but that it exercised an influence on the form taken by it. I agreed with Freud’s assumption of an abnormal psycho-sexual constitution in the patient.

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14 Psycho-analysis and the War Neuroses ( 1921)

Karl Abraham Karnac Books ePub

DURING the war academic neurology has come more and more to regard the aetiology of the traumatic neuroses from the psychological point of view. Despite the rapprochement referred to by Ferenczi, however, there are two respects in which it continues to differ from our way of thinking. It takes account almost exclusively of the reaction of the ego-drives to the trauma, and it confines itself to the obvious manifestations of the neurosis. The object of this paper is to emphasise the importance of the unconscious and of sexuality in addition to the recognised factors.

When, before the war, psycho-analysis proclaimed the sexual aetiology of the neuroses, the case of traumatic neuroses was said to disprove this theory. Some people still maintain that the origin of the war neuroses refutes our theories. Shock, the fear of repeated exposure to situations of danger, the wish for a pension, and a predisposition the nature of which was far from clear, were held to be adequate causes of this illness. The great number of neuroses which broke out during the war were thought to demonstrate the unimportance of the sexual aetiology.

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