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Lewin, B.D. (1932). Clinical Communications—Anal Eroticism and the Mechanism of Undoing. Psychoanal Q., 1:343-344.

(1932). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 1:343-344

Clinical Communications—Anal Eroticism and the Mechanism of Undoing

Bertram D. Lewin

A man of forty suffered from severe anxiety that he might cut off his penis while shaving, or injure this organ in some other way. His fears began after he had resorted to prostitutes during a period when his wife was suffering from a serious uterine illness. It was clear for many reasons that he regarded his intercourse with prostitutes as incestuous and unconsciously wished to harm himself by way of punishment. A curious manifestation of his self-punitive tendency was his preference for those prostitutes who worked as manicurists, that is, persons who might cut him. A second determinant for his self-castrative impulses was his identification through a sense of guilt with his wife, for whose illness he unconsciously accepted the blame. This brief sketch of the patient's psychic situation will furnish a background for an understanding of the following dream:

I dreamed I had lost my penis, but in two segments, leaving the foreskin and the skin of the shaft hollow. I saw the two segments on the chair between my legs, but I felt no pain or fear. Then I went up on the roof of a tall building, and gleefully shouted, 'My penis is off.' A man on the street answered, 'You should worry! You can do that as often as you want.'

The patient associated the segmentary loss of the penis with defæcation, and the hollow skin with vagina and anus. He commented on his going up to the roof, "I guess I wanted to shout it from the house-tops." The "man in the street" he said was the proverbial representative of common sense. The latent content of the dream is clear: "I wish my penis were a fæcal mass. If I then lost my penis it would not be painful, I should have an anal vagina. I could shout from the house-tops that I am innocent and feel no guilt or anxiety; and common sense tells me that the loss would only be temporary, since in this manner I can produce as many penises like that as I wish." In the dream this man puts into effect his impulse to self-castration which is the source of his waking anxiety, but he does so without "pain or fear".

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