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Rickman, J. (1957). XI. A Case of Hysteria—Theory and Practice in the Two Wars(1941). The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 52(1):90-94.

(1957). The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 52(1):90-94

XI. A Case of Hysteria—Theory and Practice in the Two Wars(1941) Book Information Previous Up Next

John Rickman, M.D.

Good fortune sometimes sends us a case which aptly illustrates some view of illness we are interested in; occasionally we find one which enables us to make a brief historical review of our theories. Such is the case of a soldier of 28 who received superficial gunshot wounds of the right arm and leg on active service and thus incommoded made his way to the coast during the retreat wandering about for five days unable to get treatment. After a few weeks in hospital he recovered from his wounds and went on sick-leave. On returning to his depot he developed a glove anaesthesia in the arm below the wound and hysterical paralysis. This condition continued for many months during which he was morose and dejected. When seen he had an evasive manner and spoke in clipped speech with ‘Yes, sir.—No, sir.—I'll answer any question you put, sir,’ volunteering no information.

Viewed in terms of the last war's psycho-pathology we would say that there was a break in the representation of the limb as an active thing in the mind, because, in the struggle between the impulse to duty and that of self-preservation (the fear of injury or of extinction in active service) self-preservation had won: he had no occasion to experience the fear while protected by his hysterical paralysis. Though it came on after leave and on return to duty, he was unaware of the relevance of this factor in its causation because—the symptom having solved it—he was now unconscious of the conflict in his mind. That he was an unstable fellow lends support to the view that the dissociative mechanism of escape from confliet is often found in those with some hereditary degeneration; his evasive manner might be ascribed to a psychopathic disposition due to the same cause.

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