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Winter, H. (1964). Pre-Oedipal Factors in the Genesis of Hysterical Character Neurosis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:338-342.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:338-342

Pre-Oedipal Factors in the Genesis of Hysterical Character Neurosis

Harold Winter

According to Freud, neurosis is due to the individual's failure properly to solve the Oedipus conflict. Two principal elements may have a part in such a failure: either the oedipal phase itself included specially grave and traumatic elements (Freud's seduction theory), or the apparatus which ought to deal with this conflict is particularly deficient and incapable of dealing even with a milder, 'normal' conflict. This apparatus is the five-year-old ego. The present paper is specially concerned with the ego part of the failure, and inquires into the history of such a deficient ego. It is obvious that such a history must be pre-oedipal.

It is my contention that 'fixation' (anal or oral) is far too mechanical (almost surgical) a term to do justice to the deep-reaching structural changes consequent upon pre-oedipal traumatization. Therapy does not mean a severing of fixations but a dispelling of early fears which leads to a changing of the inner laws and boundaries regulating gratification and defence, thus permitting the experience of new (genital) fears, defences, and gratification, hitherto impossible. The question 'How much of a symptom is due to retardation, how much to regression?' must be asked and answered.

Examination of Cases

The classical procedure of Freud and W. Reich prescribes in character neuroses a careful study of the behaviour, and points out all the defence mechanisms (or, I should add, bizarre gratification possibilities) in connexion with elements of the Oedipus complex, be it castration, hostility by or against the parent of the same sex, or love for the parent of the opposite sex.

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