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Wilson, C.P. (1967). Symbolism of the Umbrella. Psychoanal Q., 36:83-84.

(1967). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 36:83-84

Symbolism of the Umbrella

C. Philip Wilson, M.D.

Freud in the Introductory Lectures originally described the umbrella as a symbol of the male genital. I have learned from a male patient in analysis that the umbrella in dreams also has an earlier preoedipal significance.

The patient sought analysis because of bisexuality. In association to an umbrella seen in a dream, he recalled that the day before he had had an erection that distended his trousers. His associations showed that the shaft of the umbrella symbolized his erect phallus and the cloth of the opened umbrella represented the cloth of his trousers stretched by it. We may conclude that the day residue for umbrella symbols may often, or always, be an erection, experienced or observed by the dreamer, covered by clothing.

The patient also recalled observing an attractive young woman's breasts distending the cloth of her dress. The umbrella in his dream was formed from the sight of the cloth-covered breasts of the woman combined with the kinesthetic and proprioceptive sensations of his own erection. The umbrella really symbolized a fantasied breast-penis for the dreamer and masked the feminine identification of this man who enjoyed having his breast-penis sucked by men and women, as he had once sucked at his mother's breast. The original umbrella, then, seems to be the nursing mother's breast distended with milk and covered by her dress, the nipple corresponding to the tip of the umbrella shaft protruding through the cloth of the umbrella.

The umbrella is a bisexual symbol. That an umbrella in reality protects us from the wet and cold also points to the maternal source of the symbol. One finds typically in the homosexual that the phallic Oedipal aspects of the symbol are largely exhibitionistic. The patient in his erection that distends his trousers is expressing the wish to have a breast to exhibit like mother's.

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