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In a patient of about twenty-one years of age the products of unconscious mental activity became conscious not only in obsessive thoughts but also in obsessive images. The two could accompany each other or appear independently. At one particular time, whenever he saw his father entering the room, there came into his mind in close connection an obsessive word and an obsessive image. The word was ‘Vaterarsch’ [‘father-arse’]; the accompanying image represented his father as the naked lower part of a body, provided with arms and legs, but without the head or upper part. The genitals were not indicated, and the facial features were painted on the abdomen.


It will help to explain this more than usually absurd symptom if I mention that the patient, who was a man of fully developed intellect and high moral ideals, manifested a very lively anal erotism in the most various ways until after his tenth year. After this had been got over, his sexual life was once again forced back to the preliminary anal stage by his later struggle against genital erotism. He loved and respected his father greatly, and also feared him not a little; judged by his own high standards in regard to asceticism and the suppression of the instincts, however, his father seemed to him a person who stood for debauchery and the pursuit of enjoyment in material things.


‘Father-arse’ was soon explained as a jocular Teutonizing of the honorific title of ‘patriarch’. The obsessive image is an obvious caricature. It recalls other representations which, with a derogatory end in view, replace a whole person by one of his organs, e.g. his genitals; it reminds us, too, of unconscious phantasies which lead to the identification of the genitals with the whole person, and also of joking figures of speech, such as ‘I am all ears’.1


The placing of the facial features on the abdomen of the caricature struck me at first as very strange. But I soon remembered having seen the same thing in French caricatures.¹ Chance then brought to my notice an antique representation, which tallied exactly with my patient’s obsessive image.

According to the Greek legend, Demeter came to Eleusis in search of her daughter after she had been abducted, and was given lodging by Dysaules and his wife Baubo; but in her great sorrow she refused to touch food or drink. Thereupon her hostess Baubo made her laugh by suddenly lifting up her dress and exposing her body. A discussion of this anecdote, which was probably intended to explain a magic ceremonial which was no longer understood, is to be found in the fourth volume of Salomon Reinach’s work, Culte, Mythes, et Religions, 1912. In the same passage the author mentions that during the excavations at Priene in Asia Minor some terracottas were found which represented Baubo. They show the body of a woman without a head or chest and with a face drawn on the abdomen: the lifted dress frames this face like a crown of hair (ibid., 117).


¹ Cf. ‘L’impudique Albion’, a caricature of England drawn in 1901 by Jean Véber, reproduced in Fuchs, 1908.2




Experience in the analysis of dreams has sufficiently well established the hat as a symbol of the genital organ, most frequently of the male organ. It cannot be said, however, that the symbol is an intelligible one. In phantasies and in numerous symptoms the head too appears as a symbol of the male genitals, or, if one prefers to put it so, as something standing for them. It will sometimes have been noticed that patients suffering from obsessions express an amount of abhorrence of and indignation against punishment by beheading far greater than they do in the case of any other form of death; and in such cases the analyst may be led to explain to them that they are treating being beheaded as a substitute for being castrated. Instances have often been analysed and published of dreams dreamt by young people or reported as having occurred in youth, which concerned the subject of castration, and in which a round ball was mentioned which could only be interpreted as the head of the dreamer’s father. I was recently able to solve a ceremonial performed by a woman patient before going to sleep, in which she had to lay her small top pillow diamond-wise on the other ones and to rest her head exactly in the long diameter of the diamond-shape. The diamond had the meaning that is familiar to us from drawings on walls [graffiti]; the head was supposed to represent a male organ.


It may be that the symbolic meaning of the hat is derived from that of the head, in so far as a hat can be regarded as a prolonged, though detachable head. In this connection I am reminded of a symptom by means of which obsessional neurotics succeed in causing themselves continual torments. When they are in the street they are constantly on the look-out to see whether some acquaintance will greet them first by taking of his hat, or whether he seems to be waiting for their salutation; and they give up a number of their acquaintances after discovering that they no longer greet them or do not return their own salutation properly. There is no end to their difficulties in this connection; they find them everywhere as their mood and fancy dictate. It makes no difference to their behaviour when we tell them, what they all know already, that a salutation by taking off the hat has the meaning of an abasement before the person saluted - that a Spanish grandee, for example, enjoyed the privilege of remaining covered in the king’s presence - and that their own sensitiveness on the subject of greeting therefore means that they are unwilling to show themselves less important than the other person thinks he is. The resistance of their sensitiveness to explanations such as this suggests that a motive less familiar to consciousness is at work; and the source of this excess of feeling might easily be found in its relation to the castration complex.


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