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Shengold, L. (1967). The Effects of Overstimulation: Rat People. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 48:403-415.

(1967). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 48:403-415

The Effects of Overstimulation: Rat People

Leonard Shengold

This is the second of three papers that describe patients who have suffered traumatic overstimulation as children. In the first paper (Shengold, 1963), I made a parallel between the character and fate of these people and that of Oedipus, stressing the preoedipal relationship with the mother (Jocasta as the Sphinx) that can be seen behind and beside the oedipal relationship in the myth and in Sophocles' play. In this paper, I outline more of the patterns of behaviour, operating under the sway of the repetition compulsion, that dominate the lives of people who have been seduced and beaten as children by psychotic parents. I try to show the importance of fixation on, and regression to, the cannibalistic level of libido development, with concomitant maldevelopment and regression of the ego. I have observed that overstimulation continues as a central problem in the lives, and therefore also in the analytic transferences, of these people.

The clinical condition I ascribe to those seduced and beaten as children is more common than the preoccupation with rats shown by the specific patients discussed. A combination of the effects of overstimulation and the appearance of the imago of the rat in analytic material leads me to call these patients "rat people". Reviewing Freud's famous case of the Rat Man, one sees that the rat can stand for subject or object of any stage of libidinal development, but is particularly associated with eating and being eaten, and with anal erogeneity.

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