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Myerson, P.G. (1966). Comment on Dr Zetzel's Paper. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 47:139-142.

(1966). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 47:139-142

Comment on Dr Zetzel's Paper

Paul G. Myerson

Dr Zetzel's paper is a sympathetic and admiring presentation of Freud's 'Notes Upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis' which she evaluates from the point of view of modern concepts about ego psychology and object relationships.

She has attempted to delineate the roles played by various of the Rat Man's childhood figures, not only as they contributed to his psychopathology but also as they helped him weather several critical crises of early life. Zetzel suggests that the patient's relationship with his mother was quite disturbed, that in all likelihood his mother was a controlling, unloving, compulsive woman whom he viewed as an aggressor and with whom he had a tendency to identify in a rigid fashion when pre-oedipal or oedipal frustrations were intense. She also hypothesizes in one of the most original parts of her thesis that his relationship with his older sister who died when he was 4 was a positive one and that she represented his choice as the oedipal love object. Her death accordingly had a severe impact. Because his sister was dead, he was left without the sustaining aspects of the relationship. Because he missed her, he reacted to the loss of this crucial love object with anxiety and depression. Zetzel also implies that if this boy had had only the relationship with his mother at this point of his life he would either have solidified a much more compulsive character structure—his identification with the aggressor would have been his leading way of dealing with all relationships—or he might have become psychotic.

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