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Freud, S. (1936). Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety. Psychoanal Q., 5:261-279.

(1936). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 5:261-279

Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety

Sigmund Freud


Let us return to the infantile zoöphobias, since these cases we understand better than any others. In these, we have seen, the ego must intervene against a libidinal object-cathexis of the id (that of the positive or negative Oedipus complex, namely), because of the recognition that to yield to it would entail the danger of castration. This we have already discussed, yet we may still take occasion to clarify a doubt which remains over from this first discussion. Shall we assume in the case of little Hans (and thus in the case of the positive Oedipus complex) that it is the tender impulse towards the mother, or the aggressive towards the father, which provokes measures of defense on the part of the ego? Practically speaking, it would seem to be a matter of indifference, particularly since each of the two impulses predicates the other; but a theoretical interest attaches to the question, because only the tender impulse towards the mother can be deemed a purely erotic one. The aggressive impulse is essentially dependent upon the instinct of destruction, and we have always believed that in neurosis it is against the demands of the libido, not against those of other instincts, that the ego defends itself. As a matter of fact, we see that after the formation of the phobia the tender bond with the mother is as though dissolved, it is disposed of in thoroughgoing fashion through repression, while symptom formation has taken place as a substitute for the aggressive impulse. In the case of the "wolf man" the matter is simpler; the repressed impulse is really an erotic one, namely, the feminine attitude to the father, and it is around this impulse that symptom formation has taken place.

It is almost disgraceful that after so much labor we should still find difficulty in conceiving of the most fundamental matters, but it has been our resolve to simplify nothing and to conceal nothing.

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