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Yazmajian, R.V. (1983). On a Retractile Testis and an Infantile Umbilicus Phobia. Psychoanal Q., 52:584-589.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:584-589

On a Retractile Testis and an Infantile Umbilicus Phobia

Richard V. Yazmajian, M.D.

The Psychoanalytic Quarterly has published a series of three brief communications, by Waltzer (1974), Heilbrunn (1975), and Friedman (1976), which are the only papers in the literature directly addressing the issue of the umbilicus assuming unconscious symbolic meaning. Waltzer noted in a "borderline psychotic" female patient that the umbilicus had clearly symbolically represented the vagina. Heilbrunn observed that a "borderline schizophrenic" male patient had intensely erotized the navel and treated it as an actual sexual organ. He tentatively suggested that the navel had taken on a bisexual symbolic role for his patient. Friedman was more explicit in ascribing to the umbilicus bisexual symbolic meaning for an adult neurotic female patient as well as for two little girls. Roiphe (1968) and Galenson and Roiphe (1971) made similar brief observations in papers which dealt with broad developmental considerations involving genital phase conflicts starting as early as eighteen months.

This communication will describe an infantile umbilicus phobia of a neurotic adult patient which was due to the displacement to the umbilicus of conflicts revolving around a retractile testis and its inguinal canal. As a result of this displacement, the umbilicus was utilized to symbolize the inguinal canal. Contact with the umbilicus then became phobically dreaded.

Case Illustration

A thirty-six-year-old neurotic businessman entered analysis because of recurrent attacks of anxiety and depression.

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