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Needles, W. (1943). Stigmata Occurring in the Course of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal Q., 12:23-39.

(1943). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 12:23-39

Stigmata Occurring in the Course of Psychoanalysis

William Needles

The phenomenon of stigmatization, whether reputedly in historical figures such as St. Francis of Assisi or directly observed in neurotic individuals, has usually been regarded with considerable scepticism. Psychiatric textbooks urge extreme caution in estimating the phenomenon as other than deliberate fraud. It seems worth while, therefore, to report an instance which occurred during psychoanalytic therapy, thus affording an opportunity for direct observation.

A man of thirty-one, who had been in analysis about five months, telephoned me at my home one evening in a state of great agitation and asked if he might come down to see me immediately because he was bleeding from the pores of his hands. He soon arrived, with many apologies for disturbing me and with a bouquet of flowers for my wife. He then held out his hands for me to examine. Since he had shown rather erratic and unpredictable behavior throughout the course of his analysis, I apparently underestimated the importance of the episode for I failed at the time to record exactly what I saw. To the best of my recollection there were several minute punctate and linear areas of reddish discoloration on the palms of the hands. Constrained by the wish not to compromise the analytic situation by excessive zeal yet bent on determining whether these were mere artefacts, I limited my investigation to establishing simply that the spots did not disappear when washed with water. Whether they would have faded under pressure of glass I did not test.

The patient spontaneously associated the phenomenon which had so terrified him with a dream he had related six days earlier.

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