Malachi McCoy : Pre-phobic Anxiety *

“My dear Professor, I am sending you a little more about Hans-but this time, I am sorry to say, material for a case history.”[1]The boy woke up one morning in tears; asked why he was crying, he said to his mother: “When I was asleep I thought you were gone and I had no Mummy to coax with” [The child’s word for caress. It is therefore,] “An anxiety dream.”[2]

In 1909 the publication of the case-history “caused a great stir and even greater indignation”. Would the findings of a psychoanalysis of a suffering child meet with the same agitations and scorn as Freud’s case history of the analysis and recovery of Little Hans? Or, can we learn from it and find hope? It’s my hope that this paper, rather than giving a chronological account, can remind us of the mental activities driving the anxious and fearful child before calling up the intervention of his phobic object.

Freud writes: We must regard [this dream] as a genuine punishment and repression dream and, moreover, as a dream which failed in its function, since the child woke from his sleep in a state of anxiety. We can easily reconstruct what actually occurred in the unconscious[3].

Thanks to Freud’s monumental gift we remember that “The Interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind”.[4]

As the most common victims of anxiety dreams are children[5] how are we to understand Hans’s distress given that Freud asserts “Children’s dreams prove beyond a doubt that a wish that has not been dealt with during the day can act as dream instigator”[6] [?] “But it must not be forgotten that it is a child’s wish, a wishful impulse of the strength proper to children.”[7] 


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* This paper was presented at the conference What Is Anxiety? Treatment Challenges; Approaches In Dialogue in the Education and Research Centre at St Vincent’s University Hospital, Elm Park, Dublin 4, on 9th

   December 2016.    The paper has been sent for publication in the next edition of The Letter – Irish Journal for Lacanian Psychoanalysis.

[1] Freud, S. Analysis Of A Phobia In A Five-Year-Old Boy. (1909). The Standard Edition of the Complete

   Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume X, London, Hogarth Press. p. 22.

[2] ibid. p. 23.

[3] Ibid. p. 118

[4] Freud, S. The Interpretation of Dreams (Second Part) and On Dreams. (1900-1901). S.E. V. p. 608.        

[5] Freud, S. Ibid (First Part). (1900).  S.E. IV. p. 135.

[6] Freud, S. Ibid (Second Part) and On Dreams. S.E. V. p. 552.

[7] Freud, S. Ibid (Second Part) and On Dreams. S.E. V. p. 552.