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Mintz, I.L. (1975). Parapraxis and the Mother-Child Relationship. Psychoanal Q., 44:460-461.

(1975). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 44:460-461

Parapraxis and the Mother-Child Relationship

Ira L. Mintz, M.D.

An intelligent, sophisticated mother was seen in therapy preparatory to the treatment of her six-year-old son who was suffering from severe eczema. The referring analyst had already suggested to her that she refrain from exposing herself to her son and exercise appropriate modesty. In the initial sessions, it became clear that her husband's long-standing impotence, leading to infrequent sexual relations with him, had contributed to her transferring unconscious sexual feelings to her little boy.

One discussion centered on the way in which she had modified her previous behavior and introduced modesty into the household. She had abruptly begun to close the doors to her bathroom and bedroom to prevent her son from entering, but she did so without giving him any explanation. As this was explored further, she added that her son still called her into the bathroom when he was in the tub so that she might see his 'pusticles'. When I expressed puzzlement, she explained: 'His pusticles, his pusticles, you know, his skin disease'. I pointed out that this was a curious term, that the word was 'pustules', and asked what occurred to her when she thought of 'pusticles'. She immediately associated the term to testicles but claimed not to understand the connection. I remarked that perhaps while consciously she did not understand the connection, unconsciously she was aware of the seductive nature of her child's invitation—that 'pusticles' represented a fusion of 'pustules' and 'testicles'. She replied angrily that 'all psychiatrists think about is sex'. Later she recognized that her outburst reflected fear that I was criticizing her the way her husband did and that guilty feelings about her relationship with her little boy had provoked her furious response.

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