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Barag, G. (1949). A Case of Pathological Jealousy. Psychoanal Q., 18:1-18.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:1-18

A Case of Pathological Jealousy

Gerda Barag, M.D.


The patient was reared in an environment of strong sexual tensions. He slept for many years in his parents' bedroom. He witnessed the primal scene repeatedly and interpreted it sadistically. He began to hate his previously adored father, and to fear him while admiring his male strength. He feared his mother because he believed she took his father's penis away and might keep and destroy it. These observations led him to develop an intense fear of castration at the height of his phallic narcissism. Nothing was as precious to him as his penis, and whatever he loved, he loved as he did his penis. Thus he came to identify his mother with his penis. In his wooing his mother he felt defeated by the father and abandoned by his mother. He attempted in fantasy to take her child, his younger brother, away from her and to incorporate it in himself, but desisted because the thought of being a woman was too fearsome. He suppressed his inimical strivings, and used this younger brother, and other boys, as love objects in a partial identification with his mother, but in an active, phallic, aggressive manner. While consciously retaining the Oedipal hate for his father, he directed unconscious, passive love desires toward him and a substitute, Wassja, who represented the preoedipal attachment to his father. His heterosexual strivings became stronger during puberty, encouraged by the easy accessibility of female objects; but during his mother's lifetime he had no significant attachment, only fleeting love adventures with extragenital sex acts. After her death he sought his mother in the person of his wife, embarked upon the founding of a family, and genital relations were established. The process, however, was not complete; his genital potency was impaired, and he continued the pursuit of fleeting narcissistic relationships.

Doubtlessly it was of exogamic significance that he, an oriental Jew, had taken for a wife a woman from a Sephardic community. As long as his wife did not complain he felt well, but having reason for dissatisfaction, she made him feel

responsible for it. This aroused dormant feelings of guilt which stemmed from his thieving infantile impulses toward his pregnant mother, and released from repression the unresolved aggression and disappointment which he had experienced in the Oedipal conflict. In accordance with the repetition compulsion, he withdrew his libido from her, and again directed it toward homosexual objects, images of his father. Unconsciously he approached the male objects through his wife, in a partial feminine identification with her. He defended himself against his homosexual strivings by the mechanism of projection. He accused her of trying to seduce the men. His wife protested, worse and worse scenes ensued, and the situation became unbearable. He could not work because the relationship with his comrades was for him also sexualized. He sank into depression, blamed his wife for this miserable state of affairs, and it was in this condition that he sought treatment.

He proved to be an excellent subject for analysis because of the unusual accessibility of his unconscious, the preservation of reality testing, and the readiness with which he developed a positive transference. The combination of phallic narcissism with partial feminine object choice permitted him to maintain good contact with the outer world, to be capable of transference, and to complete an analysis. The treatment was completed in less than a year. The therapeutic result was immediate and thoroughly satisfying. He was fully potent, in love only with his wife, mature and felt self-assured with his comrades. More than a year later, he remains completely healthy and secure, and he has, in the meantime, become the father of a second child.

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