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Grunberger, B. (1966). Some Reflections on the Rat Man. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 47:160-168.

(1966). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 47:160-168

Some Reflections on the Rat Man

Béla Grunberger

In this paper, I should like to re-examine a few particular points in the history of the Rat Man and more especially the clinical material in the light of a wider conception of anality, the basis and the starting point of which are given in Freud's writings. It would seem to me that a deeper understanding of this concept would enable us to form a more coherent picture of the various aspects of obsessional neurosis.

First, let us re-examine some of the clinical material which Freud's patient considered to be the precipitating factor of his illness:

I look on this as the beginning of my illness. There were certain people, girls, who pleased me very much, and I had a very strong wish to see them naked. But in wishing this I had an uncanny feeling, as though something must happen if I thought such things, and as though I must do all sorts of things to prevent it.

Here, the Rat Man places his voyeurism in direct relationship with his specific pathogenetic conflict. I think that if we look at his voyeuristic impulse and elicit its feature of aggressive introjection, we shall be in agreement with him on this point. As Fain (1954) has pointed out, voyeurism can be considered at a certain level as a motor activity stemming from the anal-sadistic phase and containing a strong aggressive charge. In this instance the eye acts as a sphincter.

In his notes, Freud describes the patient's voyeuristic activities and states that 'Looking was the same as touching for him.' The full significance of this is clear when we recall that Freud placed the taboo of contact and touching at the very heart of the obsessional neurosis.

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