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Rubinstein, L.H. (1951). 'Dorothy: The Psycho-Analysis of a Case of Stealing.': Hedwig Schwarz.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 32:267.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: 'Dorothy: The Psycho-Analysis of a Case of Stealing.': Hedwig Schwarz.

(1951). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 32:267

'Dorothy: The Psycho-Analysis of a Case of Stealing.': Hedwig Schwarz.

L. H. Rubinstein

The British Journal of Delinquency, 1950, 1, p. 29.

The case described is that of a girl of nineteen, treated for the I.S.T.D. (Institute for the Scientific Treatment of Delinquency) from March, 1945, until April, 1946. The case was selected for the purpose of determining whether the standard analytic technique can be used successfully in certain types of delinquency. The girl had been committed to Sessions for a Borstal sentence, but had been given another chance (her third) on probation, on condition of six months' training at a hostel. This period, during which she could attend once a week only, was used as an introductory phase to prepare her for the idea of treatment and to confirm her suitability for psycho-analysis proper. Her strong wish to return to her mother was used to gain her co-operation in coming for four sessions a week, after her discharge from the probation hostel and a job in the vicinity of the consulting room had been secured through the Probation Officer's help. It was felt that such resort to unorthodox methods was necessary in the case of a delinquent who is like a child as regards insight, therapeutic drive and general personality structure (weak ego and super-ego).

She had grown up in poor circumstances, as the only girl with two elder and two younger brothers; the father was a permanent war-invalid, the mother the bread-winner. Before his death, on her seventeenth birthday, the father earned some money and spent most of it on presents for her. A younger brother was killed in an air-raid. Her earliest memory of stealing revealed the main conflict, jealousy of and rivalry with mother: theft of a doll at the age of about five when the youngest brother was born. Marked sense of guilt for her aggressive behaviour to brothers and other small children. Tendency to hide deafness in one ear, which was taken as punishment for early masturbation. Constant conflict between her feminine and masculine wishes; competition with boys and later taking father's place in relation to mother. Stealing in a compulsive manner, invariably from women in superior or enviable positions, and with marked signs of wish for punishment. The last stood also for sexual gratification of partly exhibitionistic, partly masochistic type.

The hysterical fears of a passive (feminine) situation and of identification with her mother were analysed in great detail. Her previous resistance to boy friends gave way to a stable relationship; but this improvement opened the route of escape into marriage away from London, with adoption of the mother-in-law as the good mother and desertion of the mother as well as of the analyst. This acting-out of the conflict with mother and of the negative transference before they could be satisfactorily analysed is an example of the main difficulty in the treatment of this case and of delinquents in general. The author's conclusion is that, while this analysis proved once more the possibility of understanding delinquents psycho-analytically and of greatly improving their conduct, skill in analysing delinquents will lie in the analyst's capacity to foresee the likelihood of their acting-out, to forestall it if possible or, at least, to predict it to the patient, or even, as Aichhorn did, to provoke such acting-out in certain cases and to lead the delinquent to certain dramatic emotional upheavals in the transference situation.

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Article Citation

Rubinstein, L.H. (1951). 'Dorothy: The Psycho-Analysis of a Case of Stealing.'. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 32:267

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