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Gomberg, H.L. (1981). A Note on the Phallic Significance of Spitting. Psychoanal Q., 50:90-95.

(1981). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 50:90-95

A Note on the Phallic Significance of Spitting

Herbert L. Gomberg, M.D.

That "the ejection of fluid from the mouth [may represent] an ejaculation or urination" (Lewin, 1933p. 25) is an old observation in the analytic literature. Nevertheless, with the current emphasis on prephallic pathology, it is important not to lose sight of the continuing validity of old observations. It is not that these observations have been superseded, but we now hope to integrate them within a more complex schema. In the excitement and interest over what is current and new, however, what is known or was known in the past may be de-emphasized and, with our attention turned elsewhere, forgotten. That this process has its unconscious determinants is a point that need hardly be mentioned to any working psychoanalyst. Still, what we do not think of regularly is harder to perceive in our patients' associations. This holds as much for what was once known but now de-emphasized as for what is new or, as yet, unconceptualized.

In my experience the equation of spitting and urination-ejaculation is frequent and significant in both men and women. While in two of the three cases I will present, anal phase (soiling) elements were also prominent in this context and were interpreted, and issues of separation, identity, and narcissism were present as well, it was important that the specifically phallic significance of spitting was not ignored. In the following vignettes it is this aspect that is emphasized. I do not mean to suggest that these phallic phase determinants of spitting are the sole important aspects to be analyzed. In the second case, for example, oral rage and envy and sadomasochistic issues from all stages, oral and anal as well as phallic, were prominent throughout the analysis.

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