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(1960). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 29:301-302.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:301-302

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

September 29, 1959. THE 'MIRACLED-UP' WORLD OF SCHREBER'S CHILDHOOD. William G. Niederland, M.D.

The author's purpose is to establish the 'historical truth' in certain phenomena of Schreber's psychopathology and to demonstrate in their origins important elements of the early relationship with the father. Until recently only two facts were known about Schreber's childhood: that he was the son of a famous physician, and that he had had a brother who had died before him. Newly found medical writings of the father reveal relevant information regarding Schreber's childhood, especially early experiences important in the genesis of the 'miracles' described by him in his illness. He was subjected to an elaborate system of relentless mental and physical pressures alternating with occasional indulgences—carried out by the father with missionary zeal under the guise of medical and educational principles. What stands revealed is a sadism best described as sustained terror interrupted by brief periods of seductive benevolence.

Schreber's 'miracles' of heat and cold are traced to daily washings and showers in cold water advocated by the father for infants, beginning at the age of three months. Similarly, according to the father's theories, crying without reason in infancy is the first emergence of stubbornness and should be dealt with summarily and effectively by means ranging from distraction to 'corporeal admonishment', thus insuring mastery over the child 'forever'. Training in the 'art of renouncing' should also begin in the first year.

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