Zoophobia

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Freudian Dictionary

ZOOPHOBIA, INFANTILE

The relation of the child to animals has much in common with that of primitive man. The child does not yet show any trace of the pride which afterwards moves the adult civilized man to set a sharp dividing line between his own nature and that of all other animals. The child unhesitatingly attributes full equality to animals; he probably feels himself more closely related to the animal than to the undoubtedly mysterious adult, in the freedom with which he acknowledges his needs.

Not infrequently a curious disturbance manifests itself in this excellent understanding between child and animal. The child suddenly begins to fear a certain animal species and to protect himself against seeing or touching any individual of this species. There results the clinical picture of an animal phobia, which is one of the most frequent among the psychoneurotic diseases of this age and perhaps the earliest form of such an ailment. The phobia is as a rule in regard to animals for which the child has until then shown the liveliest interest rnd has nothing to do with the individual animal. In cities the choice of animals which can become the object of phobia is not great. They are horses, dogs, cats, more seldom birds, and strikingly often very small animals like bugs and butterflies. Sometimes animals which are known to the child only from picture books and fairy stories become objects of the ;enseless and inordinate anxiety which is manifested with these phobias; it is seldom possible to learn the manner in which mch an unusual choice of anxiety has been brought about. I an indebted to Dr. Karl Abraham for the report of a case in "which the child itself explained its fear of wasps by saying that the colour and the stripes of the body of the wasp had nade it think of the tiger of which, from all that it had heard, it might well be afraid.

The animal phobias have not yet been made the object of careful analytical investigation, although they very much merit it. The difficulties of analyzing children of so tender an age have probably been the motive of such neglect. It cannot therefore be asserted that the general meaning of these illnesses is known, and I myself do not think that it would turn out to be the same in all cases. But a number of such phobias directed against larger animals have proved accessible to analysis and have thus betrayed their secret to the investigator. In every case it was the same: the fear at bottom was of the father, if the children examined were boys, and was merely displaced upon the animal.[1]

In infantile zoophobias, the ego must intervene against a libidinal object-cathexis of the id (that of the positive or negative redip us complex, namely), because of the recognition that to yield to it would entail the danger of castration .... The castration anxiety is given another object and a distorted expression-namely, that of being bitten by a horse (or eaten by a wolf) instead of being castrated by the father .... The anxiety in zoophobia is thus an affective reaction of the ego to danger, the danger which is in this case warned against being that of castration.[2]