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Riviere, J. (1924). A Castration Symbol. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 5:85-85.

(1924). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 5:85-85

A Castration Symbol

Joan Riviere

The duplicating of an object in dreams is known to analysts as a representation (by means of an opposite idea) of its absence. It occurs particularly in reference to castration ideas and with penis symbols. The following instance of this mechanism coming up in a phantasy may point to a possible second motivation by which this form of representation comes to be used (the first being the characteristic unconscious one of representation by opposites).

A young obsessional girl said one day during analysis, pointing to the pattern on a curtain near her: 'Do you see that thing hanging down like a little seal on a man's watch-chain? I thought of it tied on to your husband's penis, as if he had two penises; and then I thought the seal would rub against his penis and bruise it, and you would kiss the bruise, and his penis would be all bloody and mangled, and your lips would be covered with the blood.' Unconscious phantasies of castrating a man and of becoming pregnant by biting off a penis were beginning to come out in projection on to the analyst. Rubbing was an important symptom in the neurosis (washing mania).

The second possible motivation referred to above would be the idea that a second object like the first would tend to annihilate the first; if this motivation is proved to be true, its connection with the oral stage of the libido and with the process of identification is obvious from the above.

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