Little Hans

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The fort/da game that the nephew played, in Freud's account, is in Lacan's view a marker of the entry into the Symbolic, because Hans is using language to negotiate the idea of absence and the idea of Otherness as a category or structural possibility. The spool, according to Lacan, serves as an "objet petit a," or "objet petit autre"--an object which is a little "other," a small-o other. In throwing it away, the child recognizes that others can disappear; in pulling it back, the child recognizes that others can return. Lacan emphasizes the former, insisting that Little Hans is primarily concerned with the idea of lack or absence of the "objet petit autre."


Analysis of little Hans

He was a patient of Freud’s even if they just had one appointment. It allowed Freud to develop his conception of children’s sexuality:the Oedipian complex and the castration complex… The father carried out the boy’s treatment in the view of such interpretation. Hans had anxiety attacks so intense that he couldn’t go out. At the beginning he didn’t reveal he was afraid of being bitten by a white horse.

The fear came from horses’big penis and from his mother who told him once she might cut his sex, which triggered a castration complex. Castration can mean more than mutilation. The phobic object was horses.


Little Hans: a case study by Freud

"Little Hans" was a young boy who was the subject of an early but extensive study of castration anxiety and the Oedipus complex by Freud. Hans' neurosis took the shape of a crippling phobia of horses (Hippophobia). Freud wrote a summary of his treatment of Little Hans, in 1909, in a paper entitled "Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-year-old Boy." This was one of just a few case studies that Freud published.

Hans' fear and anxiety were thought to be the result of several factors, including the birth of a little sister, his desire to replace his father as his mother's mate, conflicts over masturbation, and other issues. Freud saw this anxiety as rooted in an incomplete repression of sexual feelings and other defense mechanisms the boy was using to combat the impulses involved in his sexual development. Hans' behavior and emotional state did improve when he was provided with information by his father, and the two became closer.

Hans, himself, was unable to connect the fear of horses and the desire to get rid of his father. George Serban, in a more modern commentary, says

This assumption was suggested to him by his father. Furthermore, Freud himself admitted that 'Hans had to be told many things that he could not say himself'; that 'he had to be presented with thoughts which he had so far shown no signs of possessing'; and that 'his attention had to be turned in the direction from which his father was expecting something to come.' (Serban 1982)


Freud, Sigmund. The Standard Edition.... Two Case Studies. (Vol. 10) Translated by James Strachey. London: The Hogarth Press, 1955.

Vol. 10\Little Hans\Obsessive Neurosis\Phobias\Two Case Studies\Rat Man\ Anxiety Hysteria\ I: Analysis of a Phobia in a Five Year Old Boy.

Much of the reported case histories have been left out for reasons of brevity and to allow for concentration on the theoretical aspects of phobias and obsessional neurosis respectively.

Hans's anxiety: Freud claims that much of Hans's anxiety

  1. corresponds to a repressed longing for his mother; (27)
  2. comes out of his struggle to rid himself of his infantile masturbatory habit (a state of things that fits in well notion of Repression and the generation of anxiety) (28)
  3. Hans acquired at least some of the anxiety from his concerns over the size of his 'widdler,' i.e., he perceived it as being too small and this distressing influence conflicted with the pleasure he achieved via masturbation.
  4. The final point of his anxiety is out of a fear of and for his father, i.e., the conflict emerged out the ambivalence felt towards father. The precipitating cause came from witnessing seeing a horse fall down. When Hans saw this, he thought of his and thus associated his father to the activity of falling down and dying.

The anxiety over his father helps to make up the characteristics of Hans's case, which include:

  1. appearance of the anxiety state is sudden--i.e., appearing at the first sight of the fallen horse;
  2. prematurely aroused sexuality is also involved which is suddenly changed into anxiety.
  3. Hans' affection to his mother was attempted to be displaced onto the horse.
  4. There was an initial refusal to believe that women did not have a `widdler` (penis) lead to an increased concern to protect his own.
  5. several phantasies emerged, including: a) a giraffe which signified the transference of a wish to sleep with his mother; b) criminal phantasies are connected to the previous wish to take possession of his mom--i.e., symbolic phantasies of intercourse with her.
  6. There was a transference of fear of the father into a fear of horses.
  7. This fear of horses turned into a fear of horses falling down and anything that contributed to this.
  8. This was followed by Hans' remembering the precipating cause--a bus horse falling down--and being perceived as having died.
  9. The sudden appearance of the 'lumpf' phantasy, which was unfortunately ignored by Hans' father.
  10. The later admission of an association of the horse falling down and the case in which his friend (Fritzl) stubbing his foot and falling down, while playing at horses--i.e., Fritzl regarded as father as a substitute.
  11. Hans' father finally looks into the `lumpf complex` and finds the association with a loaded down cart--as equivalent to being loaded down with faeces.
  12. Plumber phantasies appear--as a remolded phenomena of procreation distorted by anxiety.
  13. Then followed a sudden fear of baths (communal) which was associated to Hans' that his sister might be dropped in one and die.
  14. Hans then alters the lumpf complex to his sister--i.e., there is an association made between the notions of a horse falling down and childbirth...therefore horse or lumpf complex takes on meanings of a) his father's death and b) his mother in childbirth.
  15. The previous point is connected to unexpected revelation that Hans himself figured out, in general terms, childbirth.
  16. There follows the appearance of various other phantasies--i.e., his sister's supposed procreative abilities is used for the purpose of getting back at his father for telling him the story of the stork as the origination of infants.

The synthesis of Hans's phobia accounts for:

  1. mental constitution,
  2. governing sexual wish,
  3. experiences till time of sister's birth which caused a) degree of privation & b) an experience of pleasures he enjoyed as an infant--i.e., recalled by observing his mother with the newborn baby and therefore his sexual life was intensified but of which he received insufficient satisfaction,
  4. appearance of Hans' sister forced him to deal with the thought of where babies come from, this is seen in his lumpf phantasy,
  5. Still Hans noted that his father had something to do with child birth and therefore hated him as a rival.

Freud employs three views with which he analyses this material. These views include the following: 1) sexuality--i.e., from Three Essays on Sexuality. 2) Second, Freud looks at how Hans's case contributes towards and understanding of phobias. 3) Finally there is the consideration of the light shed on the mental life of children.

One

In the first instance--i.e., Three Essays: Human sexual life is considered in terms of Hans' widdler. Furthermore there is a discussion of infantile sexual investigations, consideration of auto-eroticism--i.e., genital zones as providing the most pleasure and the excretory function as providing a secondary source of pleasure --both of which were severely repressed. (This was obviously written before Freud`s work on Narcissism appearing in his Metapsychological Papers in which Freud postulates a stage between auto-eroticism and object choice proper--i.e., Narcissism). A) Hans' development showed a marked polygamy (aim to sleep with his female playmates). In this we find the transference of affection from the mother to other objects but during times of scarcity, Hans' affection regressed back to the mother which lead to a breakdown into neurosis. B) Hans is also interpreted as a "little Oedipus"--he wanted his father out of the way and this is seen as progressing from the removal of his presence to permanent removal--i.e., dead. Hans' fear of this death wish towards his father is considered to be the chief obstacle in the analysis.

Two

The understanding of Phobias: a) Hans' sudden anxiety attack (upon the sight of a horse) exposed the motive for the illness--i.e., the advantage derived from it (the secondary gain of a neurosis). Freud classes anxiety attacks as a syndrome generally attributed to anxiety hysteria. The difference between phobias and anxiety hysteria is found in that Anxiety hysteria the libido liberated from pathogenic material is not converted to a somatic innervation but is freed and released as anxiety. In Studies on Hysteria, Freud suggests that anxiety hysteria comes out of somatic excitations and not psychical ones. Anxiety hysteria is "par excellence the neurosis of childhood." That is, it is the neurosis least dependent upon a constitutional predisposition. Anxiety hysteria tends to develop more and more into phobias--an sufferer of anxiety hysteria may rid himself or herself of the anxiety but this is done at the cost of all kinds of inhibitions and restrictions and therefore there is no alternative but to cut off every possible occasion which may lead to the development of anxiety by erecting mental barriers in the nature of precautions, inhibitions and prohibitions.

Freud brings up the notion of over determinism of the neurosis as discussed in Studies. He reminds us of 1) the convergence on several factors 2) via a series of provoking causes. He continues to note the impossibility to cure phobias via violent means--i.e., through the deprivation of the patient's defenses and putting him into a position from which he can not escape the liberation of his anxiety into expression. Freud calls this type of phobia "contingient"--i.e., it does not inspire fear in the normal people

Repression is next discussed as the "Essence of repression lies simply in turning something away and keeping it at a distance from the unconscious." ("Repression." p.147. 1915. Book 4-5 139ff.) Types of repression discussed include: 1) primal--the first phase of psychical repression appears as the instinct is denied entrance into consciousness--at this point a fixation is established--i.e., which represents unaltered form from then on as the instinct remains attached to it. 2) Repression proper--this form of repression effects mental derivatives of repressed representatives, originating elsewhere, which have come into associative contact with it. The result of such associations is that such ideas share the same fate as what had been primally repressed.

The types of things that are repressed:

  1. ideas;
  2. affects (quota of affect).

In the former case the vicissitude of ideas

  1. cause the disappearance of the ideas from consciousness;
  2. ideas that are held back from consciousness are about to become conscious--i.e., preconscious vicissitude of affect, which include the following:
    1. the instinct is altogether repressed,
    2. the instinct appears as affect, or
    3. the instinct is metamorphosed into anxiety.

The mechanisms of Repression include the following: 1) repression creates a substitutive formation; and, 2) repression leaves symptoms behind thereby allowing for the return of the repressed.

Thus, in Hans' case, an instinctual impulse is said to have been repressed (the libidinal attitude towards father appears as fear for the father which is coupled with fear of father (ambivalence)). After the repressed impulse had vanished from consciousness a substitute for the father was found which more or less devolved into an object for the boy's anxiety.

Freud continues to note that it is impossible to find the exact cause of anxiety in Hans's case. That is, the roots of Hans' anxiety is a) the inability to intellectually deal with the notion or phenomenon of child birth; or, b) a constitutional intolerance of masturbatory gratification in which he regularly indulged

Still, it is noted, Hans' phobia began at the instance of witnessing the collapse of the bus horse and this permitted the development that horses to become the symbolic object of his anxiety. This development is not sufficient but the association of the playmate Fritzl to Hans' father provided a sufficiently traumatic effect to start the neurosis, and from this moment the path was cleared for the return of the repressed (i.e., the ambivalence of the Oedipal wishes). The pathogenic material was then remodeled and turned into the horse complex.

Three

Mental life of Children: In terms of the mental life of children, Freud mentions the following: 1) hereditary is not seen to be a determining factor; 2) Hans is not a degenerate child; 3) the ultimate aetiology of all neurosis is said to be found in infantile sexuality

Summary

Background

One of the key themes of Freud’s work is the importance of the first few years of life in the subsequent development of personality. He also believed that children experience emotional conflicts, and their future adjustment depends on how well these conflicts are resolved.

Another theme within Freud’s work concerns the unconscious mind, which is the part of our mind which we are not aware of. Freud believed that the unconscious contains unresolved conflicts and has a powerful effect on our behaviour and experience. He argued that many of these conflicts will show up in our fantasies and dreams, but the conflicts are so threatening that they appear in disguised forms, in the shape of symbols.

The Oedipus complex is an important concept in Psychoanalysis and Freud believed that this case study of Little Hans supports this idea. Freud believed that children pass through five stages of development, known as the psychosexual stages because of Freud's emphasis on sexuality as the basic drive in development. These stages are: the oral stage, the anal stage, the phallic stage, the latency period and finally the genital stage. It is the first three stages which take place in the first five years of life of a child.

The phallic stage, from three to five years old was the stage where the child's sexual identification was established. During this stage Freud hypothesised that a young boy would experience what he called the Oedipus complex. This would provide the child with highly disturbing conflicts, which had to be resolved by the child identifying with the same-sexed parent.

Freud thought that, during the phallic stage, the young boy develops an intense sexual love for his mother. Because of this, he sees his father as a rival, and wants to get rid of him. The father, however, is far bigger and more powerful than the young boy, and so the child develops a fear that, seeing him as a rival, his father will castrate him. Because it is impossible to live with the continual castration-threat anxiety provided by this conflict, the young boy develops a mechanism for coping with it, using a defence mechanism known as 'identification with the aggressor'. He stresses all the ways that he is similar to his father, adopting his father's attitudes, mannerisms and actions, feeling that if his father sees him as similar, he will not feel hostile towards him.

Aim

The aim of the study was to report the findings of the treatment of a five-year-old boy for his phobia of horses.

Procedure/Method

Freud used a case study method to investigate Little Hans’ phobia. However the case study was actually carried out by the boy’s father who was a friend and supporter of Freud. Freud probably only met the boy once. The father reported to Freud via correspondence and Freud gave directions as how to deal with the situation based on his interpretations of the father’s reports.

Freud noted that it was the special relationship between Hans and his father that allowed the analysis to progress and for the discussions with the boy to be so detailed and so intimate. The first reports of Hans are when he was 3 years old.

Findings/Results

As this was a very in depth case study there are many findings.

The first reports of Hans are when he was 3 years old when he developed an active interest in his ‘widdler’ (penis), and also those of other people. For example on one occasion he asked ‘Mummy, have you got a widdler too?’

Throughout this time, the main theme of his fantasies and dreams was widdlers and widdling.

When he was about three years and six months old his mother told him not to touch his widdler or else she would call the doctor to come and cut it off. Around the same time, Hans’ mother gave birth to his sister Hanna, and Hans expressed jealousy towards her though this disappeared after a few months.

Hans had considerable interest in other children, especially girls, and formed emotional attachments with them.

When Hans was almost 5, Hans’ father wrote to Freud explaining his concerns about Hans. He described the main problem as follows: ‘He is afraid a horse will bite him in the street, and this fear seems somehow connected with his having been frightened by a large penis’. The father went on to provide Freud with extensive details of conversations with Hans. Together, Freud and the father tried to understand what the boy was experiencing and undertook to resolve his phobia of horses.

Freud noted that Han’s fear of horses had developed just after the he had experienced some anxiety dreams about losing his mother, and around the time he had been warned about playing with his widdler. Freud argued that Hans, who enjoyed getting into bed with his mother, had a repressed longing for her, and had focused his libido (sexual energy) on her.

One month later, the correspondence revealed that the phobia (which Hans refers to as his ‘nonsense’) was much worse. Hans’ father made a connection between the phobia and Hans’ interest with his widdler, so he said to him ‘If you don’t put your hand to your widdler any more, this nonsense of yours’ll soon get better’.

Hans’ anxieties and phobia continued and he was afraid to go out of the house because of his phobia of horses. Hans told his father of a dream/fantasy which his father summarised as follows: ‘In the night there was a big giraffe in the room and a crumpled one: and the big one called out because I took the crumpled one away from it. Then it stopped calling out: and I sat down on top of the crumpled one’. Freud and the father interpreted the dream/fantasy as being a reworking of the morning exchanges in the parental bed. Hans enjoyed getting into his parents bed in a morning but his father often objected (the big giraffe calling out because he had taken the crumpled giraffe - mother - away). Both Freud and the father believed that the long neck of the giraffe was a symbol for the large adult penis. However Hans rejected this idea.

When Hans was taken to see Freud, he was asked about the horses he had a phobia of. Hans noted that he didn’t like horses with black bits around the mouth. Freud believed that the horse was a symbol for his father, and the black bits were a moustache. After the interview, the father recorded an exchange with Hans where the boy said ‘Daddy don’t trot away from me!’;

Hans' became particularly frightened about horses falling over. He described to his father an incident where he witnessed this happening (later confirmed by his mother). Throughout this analysis the parents continued to record enormous examples of conversations and the father asked many leading questions to help the boy discover the root of his fear. For example:

Father: When the horse fell down did you think of your daddy?

Hans: Perhaps. Yes. It’s possible.

Hans also developed an interest in toilet functions, especially ‘lumf’ (a German word indicating faeces). Hans had many long discussions with his father including conversations about lumf, the birth of his sister, the colour of his mother’s underwear and his liking for going into the toilet with his mother or the maid.

Like many children Hans had an imaginary friend who he called Lodi after ‘saffalodi’, which is a German sausage. Hans’ father pointed out to Hans that saffalodi looked a bit like lumf, and his son agreed.

Hans’ fear of the horses started to decline and Freud believed that two final fantasies marked a change in Hans and lead to a resolution of his conflicts and anxieties.

Firstly, Hans had described a fantasy where he was married to his mother and was playing with his own children. In this fantasy he had promoted his father to the role of grandfather.

In the second fantasy, he described how a plumber came and first removed his bottom and widdler and then gave him another one of each, but larger.

At age 19 the not so Little Hans appeared at Freud’s consulting room having read his case history. Hans confirmed that he had suffered no troubles during adolescence and that he was fit and well. He could not remember the discussions with his father, and described how when he read his case history it ‘came to him as something unknown’

Explanation

Freud believed that the findings from the case study of Little Hans supported his theories of child development.

In particular, the case study provided support for his theory of Oedipus Complex in which the young boy develops an intense sexual love for his mother and because of this, he sees his father as a rival and wants to get rid of him. Freud believed that much of Hans’ problem came from the conflict caused by this wish. The final fantasy of being married to his mother supported this idea.

According to Freud the cause of Little Hans’ phobia was related to his Oedipus complex. Little Hans’, it was argued, was afraid of horses because the horse was a symbol for his father. For example the black bits around the horses face reminded the boy of his fathers moustache, the blinkers reminded him of his fathers glasses and so on. Freud believed that as Little Hans was having sexual fantasies about his mother he feared his father’s retaliation. Little Hans therefore displaced his fear of his father onto horses who reminded him of his father.

Freud argued that Hans was not in any way an abnormal child. He pointed out that unlike most other children of the time, Hans was able to communicate fears and wishes that many children do not have the opportunity to express. He argued that as a result Hans had been able to resolve conflicts and anxieties that would remain unresolved in other children. Freud also notes that there is no sharp distinction between neurotic and the normal, and that many people constantly pass between normal and neurotic states.


more

Little Hans was a young boy who was the subject of an early but extensive study of castration anxiety and the Oedipus complex by Freud. Hans' neurosis took the shape of a crippling phobia of horses (Hippophobia). Freud wrote a summary of his treatment of Little Hans, in 1909, in a paper entitled "Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-year-old Boy". This was one of just a few case studies that Freud published.

What he learned from Hans' situation backed up his theory.

Hans' fear and anxiety were thought to be the result of several factors, including the birth of a little sister, his desire to replace his father as his mother's mate, conflicts over masturbation, and other issues. Freud saw this anxiety as rooted in an incomplete repression of sexual feelings and other defense mechanisms the boy was using to combat the impulses involved in his sexual development. Hans' behavior and emotional state did improve when he was provided with information by his father, and the two became closer.

Hans, himself, was unable to connect the fear of horses and the desire to get rid of his father. George Serban, in a more modern commentary, says

This assumption was suggested to him by his father. Furthermore, Freud himself admitted that 'Hans had to be told many things that he could not say himself'; that 'he had to be presented with thoughts which he had so far shown no signs of possessing'; and that 'his attention had to be turned in the direction from which his father was expecting something to come.' (Serban 1982)

See Also

External links

Hearing the Case - Freud's Little Hans

References