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Steiner, J. (2004). Gaze, dominance and humiliation in the Schreber case. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(2):269-284.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(2):269-284

Gaze, dominance and humiliation in the Schreber case

John Steiner

In this paper the author reviews Freud's study of Schreber's Memoirs and the Memoirs themselves from a perspective of nearly 100 years. He argues that Schreber's illness began as a melancholic depression but quickly developed paranoid features which subsequently escalated into a gross paranoia which nevertheless retained its depressive and hypochondriacal base. Finally the chaotic fragmentation became organized under the dominance of an omnipotent narcissistic organisation which led to a clinical improvement without any relinquishment of his delusional beliefs. As a subsidiary theme he examines the role of gaze in Schreber's object relations and argues that gaze was used to project into his objects, then to scrutinise the object to see if the projections had been received and tolerated, and finally as an expression of dominance. His urgent demand for relief provoked an omnipotence in his objects which he was then able triumphantly to frustrate and which ushered in a struggle over dominance in the course of which Schreber was abused and humiliated. He was unable to find an object who could contain his distress and these factors contributed to the failure to tolerate guilt and to work through his depression.

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