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Abrams, S. (1984). "My Mother and He". Psychoanal Q., 53:431-432.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53:431-432

"My Mother and He"

Samuel Abrams, M.D.

Recalling specific features of his parents' relationship, a man who had been in analysis quite a few years commented that he doubted if much went on between "my mother and he." He immediately corrected his slip, "I mean my mother and him," and continued with his narrative. I was more taken with the mistake than I might ordinarily have been because the patient was a high school English teacher and usually quite attentive to his grammar in his speech and in his writing.

He was focusing on two areas at the time he made his slip. The first was centered in the past. He found himself recalling how certain he had always been that his parents were never sexually active with each other. The second centered in the present. He was involved in a fantasy that encompassed the ventilator in my office. He imagined that a poisonous snake would come through it at any moment and attack him. Associations soon led him to Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Speckled Band," a Sherlock Holmes mystery that featured just such an occurrence. Since adolescence, he had admired Holmes for his skills in deductive reasoning.

I commented on the structure of his parapraxis. I said that it looked as if he had to deny the fact of his parents' behavior not only by assertions with words but by underscoring it through the structure of his language. He had used a wrong case pronoun for his father, thereby excluding him from being a part of the same prepositional phrase as his mother.

The comment triggered a memory. When he was fifteen or sixteen years old, he was cleaning his parents' room one morning when he came upon some semen stains in the bed.

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