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Searl, M.N. (1924). Thumb-Sucking, Ear-Pulling and Left-Handedness. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 5:363-364.

(1924). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 5:363-364

Thumb-Sucking, Ear-Pulling and Left-Handedness

M. N. Searl

In the 'Bruchstück einer Hysterieanalyse', Freud, in tracing the development of a 'fellatio' phantasy through the thumb-sucking phase, gives a memory of Dora's in which she sat on the ground in a corner, sucking her left thumb, while with her right she pulled the ear of her brother who was sitting quietly beside her—which Freud calls the 'complete way of self-satisfaction through sucking'. Another patient, a young woman, still to some extent a thumb-sucker, saw herself in a memory-picture apparently from the first half of her second year, drinking from her nurse's breast and meanwhile rhythmically pulling her nurse's ear.

I have had the opportunity of actually observing the above double action. A baby-girl of eighteen months, whenever she is sitting quietly and blissfully on her mother's lap, sucks her left thumb and pulls her mother's ear with her right hand. This is particularly noticeable and invariable when she is held on her mother's lap on her little pot. The ear-pulling habit started after weaning—was not as in the above phantasy or memory carried on during suckling, but is a substitutive act—and is often continued when she is alone by pulling her own right ear and sucking her left thumb. The significance of the hand as the second means of grasping—the mouth being, of course, both phylogenetically and ontogenetically the first—and hence the passing on of oral significance to the hand is very clear. Here it is specially interesting as showing simultaneously the double rôle played by the hand—in the one case providing the object grasped, in the other that which grasps—the rôle which it normally retains.

A further point is that of the determination of the part played by right or left hand; not all children suck their left thumbs.

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