Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy - Sigmund Freud Essay Example

Little Hans was a young boy who was the subject of a study of castration anxiety and the Oedipus complex by Sigmund Freud - Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy introduction. This important publication was the first of clinical material that derived directly from the treatment of a child and was presented by evidence as support of Freud’s theories of infantile sexuality. 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 behavior and experiences.

He also believed that children experience emotional conflicts, and their future adjustment depends on how well these conflicts are resolved. Hans was a 5-year-old boy who was having trouble with a phobia of horses. In Little Hans case, the primary goal is to find a detailed analysis of treating his phobia. Since Sigmund Freud’s beneficial input in this case was at a minimal, and a secondary goal was to explore what factors led to the phobia in the first place, and what exact factors would have led to its remission.


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Sigmund Freud’s, “Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy” In “Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year Old Boy,” Sigmund Freud noted that Little Hans father had been sending Freud reports about his son’s interest in sexual matters. When Hans was almost 5, his father wrote to Freud explaining his anxiety concerns about his son. Han’s 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 the conversation with Hans. It was not only of his body, but the bodies of others as well. His curiosity was centered on the anatomical differences between the sexes-then suddenly developed a phobia of being bitten by a white horse and the boxes that are transported in the certain type of carts they pull. Hans fear and anxiety were thought to be the result of several factors.

The factors include: birth of his little sister, his desire to replace his father as his mother’s mate, conflicts over masturbation and along with the other previously mentioned in the reading. Hans’s father initially attributes the illness to sexual over-excitement caused by his mother’s caresses, and fear caused by the large penises of horses and the unwillingness to tell Hans the truth about coition (sexual intercourse). Therefore, Hans’s neurosis took the shape of acute anxiety phobia of horses. Little Hans was a patient of Freud’s, even though they only had just one appointment.

The transference in this case is positive because when the phobia process occurred, the therapist (Freud) and Han’s father used this position to help restore the client (Hans) to more normal feelings by responding in ways unlike that of the person upon which the original feelings were based. This treatment was carried out descriptively approximately for two years by the child’s father mainly by correspondence under the supervision of Freud, himself. The first documented analysis of Hans was when he was 3 years old, which is when he grew a special interest in his “widler” (penis), and also widlers of other people.

On one occasion he asked. “Mummy, have you got a widdler too”? (2) In this time, the main problem of his fantasies and dreams were about widdlers and widdling. When Hans was about three years old his mother told him not to touch his widdler or else she would call the doctor to come and cut it off (2). The fear began when Hans was at the age of four, his parents’ allowed Han’s in the bed with them. The analysis of little Hans shall fall into three evident stages; the first stage is the fear of horses. When Freud asked Hans about the phobia of horses; Hans noted that he did not like white horses with black bits around the mouth.

He is afraid a horse will bite him, come in his room or will fall on him. The second stage is of the boxes and containers horses transported around Vienna. He is afraid of this because once he saw a horse fall and die while it was pulling passengers and boxes, ever since he has been scared of them and the sound effects from that incident. The third stage is of giraffes and what it symbolizes. Hans said about his giraffe dream, “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” (2). Freud interpretation of not liking Horse is, Hans has a fear that his father would castrate him for desiring his mother. It was also said that the horses in Hans phobia were symbolic of the father and that Hans had feared the horses (father) would bite (castrate) him as punishment for his incest desires for his mother. According to Freud, another reason Han’s had a phobia is the father’s skin resembled white horses. In fact Han’s said, “Daddy you are so lovely.

You are so white” (16). When Han’s was taken to Freud’s office for an interview, Freud mentioned that the symbol of the black bits around the horse’s mouth resembled his father’s mustache and his father’s eye glasses resemble the horse’s blinkers being on. After the interview, Han’s father recorded what Han’s said, “Daddy don’t trot away from me” (15)! The father and child played horse rides together and the father would take the role of the horse and Han’s the rider. Following the second stage, Hans becomes pre-occupied with excrement (Feces).

Han’s father and Freud interpret to associate with the birth of babies. The carts and omnibuses are associated with the boxes that Hans is afraid of; his parents tell him storks use boxes to bring new born babies home to their parents. Han’s fear is that if there is an arrival of a new baby this will reduce the amount of attention he is given from his mother. This is why he wishes his baby sister should die. During this time Han’s anxieties and phobias continues and became afraid to leave the house because of his continuing phobia of horses.

Along with Freud, Han’s father interpreted the giraffes dream fantasy as being a thought in his head as he overhead his parents copulating. At this time Han’s enjoyed getting into his parents bed in the morning. The father often did not let him in the bed because according to Freud, it symbolism meant, the big giraffe (father) calling out because he had taken the crumpled giraffe (mother) away. Both Freud and Han’s father agreed that the giraffes long neck the symbolized a large penis. During the end of Han’s phobia of horses, he became accompanied by two fantasies that he told his father.

In the first fantasy, Han’s said that he had many imaginary children and that mummy was the mother and dad was the granddaddy. The very next day his other fantasy occurred, Han’s had imagines that a plumber came in and removed his bottom and widdler and then gave him a larger one of each. At his point, Han’s wanted to be like father and have a mustache and hair like his father’s. Sigmund Freud saw Little Han’s as what he believed to be the universal Oedipus complex and insisted that Han’s fear of horses was related to his behavior observed by his father.

Freud believes that approximately between the ages 3 and 6; a boy will develop an intense love for his mother. During the phallic stage, the focus of pleasure is the genital and masturbation is common. Han’s saw his father as a rival and wanted to get rid of him. However, being that the father is more powerful than his son, the child develops a fear that he will be seen as a rival and his father will castrate him. The case of Little Hans does appear to provide support for Sigmund Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex. When an anxiety problem is the primary focus of a clinical attention, they are listed as Axis I.

Little Han’s main problem was an anxiety phobia. So because it is unlikely for any boy (Hans) to live with the castration anxiety that being the problem in this complex, Han’s had to develop a defense mechanism to help him overcome his anxiety know as “Identify with the Aggressor”(2). Han’s did eventually recovered from his phobia, when it was suggestion of Freud, that the father reassure Han’s that he never had any intentions of cutting off his penis, after being reassured of his phobia the two became closer and was able to conclude therapy.

At the age of 19, Han’s came to visit Freud at his office to read his childhood case history. He could not remember the discussion with his father and had no memory of these events ever taking place. Hans has confirmed that he is not suffering from any trauma from his adolescents and Freud noted that he is fit and well. In my opinion what Little Han’s went through was perfectly normal. I myself went through the Oedipus complex when my mother re-married. Some kids do in fact go through these types of complexes, but some not as intense as others and most get through it some do not.

Many of us also go through neurotic symptoms growing up; especially with the developing ego and superego it just depends on how we perceive the external environment around us. As Freud once said, “The ego is not master in its own house. ” Han’s managed to turn his conflict into danger by the only way he knew how to escape from it, through flight. In Sigmund Freud’s, “An Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy”, Han’s did in fact have a case of fully blown Oedipus complex. Remember Freud believed it to be universal, I interpreted the Oedipus complex does exist, but it oes not mention how common it is in the reading. .


Freud, Sigmund. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Two Case Histories. London: The Hogarth Press, 1973 McLeod, S. A. Simply Psychology. Web 5 February. 2011. UK: 2007 http://www. simplypsychology. pwp. blueyonder. co. uk/defence-mechanisms. html McLeod, S. A. Simply Psychology . Web 5 February. 2011. UK: 2007 http://www. simplypsychology. pwp. blueyonder. co. uk/little-hans. html

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