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J Am Psychoanal Assoc. 2007 Summer;55(3):779-97; discussion 851-2.

Trauma and abuse in the case of Little Hans: a contemporary perspective.

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  • 1Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, USA.


Newly available interviews with Max and Herbert Graf describe the severe pathology of Little Hans's mother and her mistreatment of her husband and her daughter, who committed suicide as an adult. Reread in this context, the text of "A Phobia in a Five-year-old Boy" provides ample evidence of Frau Graf's sexual seduction and emotional manipulation of her son, which exacerbated his age-expectable castration and separation anxiety, and her beating of her infant daughter. The boy's phobic symptoms can therefore be deconstructed not only as the expression of oedipal fantasy, but as a communication of the traumatic abuse occurring in the home. Through subliminal, indeed unconscious, injunctions conveyed in abusive behavior, parents can confirm the child's worst imaginings and immature views of the world and thereby render the child's oedipal conflicts and fantasies pathogenic.

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