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Katan, A. (1960). Distortions of the Phallic Phase. Psychoanal. St. Child, 15:208-214.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 15:208-214

Distortions of the Phallic Phase

Anny Katan, M.D.

As an introduction to my subject, let me begin with the following observation.

A naked thirteen-month-old baby boy was sitting on a rug in the sun. He had a cracker in his hand. With him was his rubber doll, to which he had given his own name, identifying with it. As usual, he offered his cracker first to the doll with a gesture of undangerous generosity; then with exactly the same gesture and expression he offered his cracker to his own penis, making the same encouraging sound; and finally he put it into his mouth.

There could be no doubt that the boy had identified his penis, as well as the doll, with himself. The boy was in the animistic stage of development, in which dead material or a part of his body can be regarded and experienced as a living being like himself. Children in this stage often also feel as if they were parts of other people's bodies.

This phase—a completely normal, transitory developmental stage—can, under the influence of certain traumata, assume special significance for later developments. Under such conditions this early developmental phase acquires more than its normal share of cathexes, thus leading to distortions of the phallic phase. These will later manifest themselves in adults in pathological fantasies.


My first patient had a circumcision performed when he was eighteen months old. When during the analysis his amnesia partly lifted, he remembered his train ride with his mother to the town where the operation was performed. After the operation he was enuretic for many years.

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