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Veszy-Wagner, L. (1960). Mistress Pokai - a Contribution to the Theory of Obsessive Doubts. Am. Imago, 17(2):111-132.

(1960). American Imago, 17(2):111-132

Mistress Pokai - a Contribution to the Theory of Obsessive Doubts

L. Veszy-Wagner, Ph.D.

Obsessive doubts express human powerlessness often with a really tragic impact. The Medieval philosopher Buridan, in a treatise on logic and determinism, produced a simile, unrivalled in its kind, of this state of mind, although what he really wanted to express by it, was a rather different topic: the reduction ad absurdum of the tenet of will governed by emotion being superior to rational judgment. The simile, at first by no means a humorous one, was the picture of an ass which could not choose between two equally attractive looking bundles of hay, starving itself, consequently, to death. This simile became, in the course of time, a well-known metaphor denoting the behaviour of the undecisive character.

This character which later became also one of the favourite objects of litrary elaborations, does not appear, however, on the Greek stage yet. The Greek hero, a tragic figure, is compelled by an outside force, Ananké, to commit his deeds for which he then is held responsible despite his innocence. Oedipus, for instance, does not know that he kills his father and marries his mother - else he would abstain. There is no conflict inside him before he commits the deed; he is prompted by fate. He complains to suffer by misfortune. The feeling of guilt is so deeply buried that it does not seem to be there at all. Its presence is only revealed by its being projected on to fate. He knows he has no choice.

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