Analysis of a phobia in a five-year-old boy


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  • Hans' father was an avid follower of Sigmund Freud, and regularly attended his weekly meetings. It was here that Hans' father volunteered his son 'Little Hans' for Freud to explore his theories about the origin of phobias and psychosexual development. This makes it an opportunity sample.
  • 'Little Hans' was described by his parents as a cheerful, straightforward child. However an outbreak of illness soon changed this, and discrepancies appeared between what the child said and what he thought (demonstrating his unconscious mind).
  • As a child, Hans was found yo have a lively interest with his 'wider' and assumed that all animate objects had one. When he was 3.5 his mother threatened to "cut off your wider" if he kept touching it. A similar event happened when Hans was 4.25. Hans had been given his daily bath by his mother, and asked his mother "Why don't you put your finger there?" in regard to his penis. He thereafter regularly masturbated in the bath.
  • Hans' wish to have his father out of the way in order to seduce his mother originated during his summer holidays. His father's presence fluctuated throughout, leading Hans to think he would achieve a closer relationship with his mother without his father (he ultimately wanted him dead)
  • Hans was interested by the basins and other vessels covered with blood when his mother gave birth to his sister. He was very jealous of his little sister, even establishing a fear of baths suggesting that he wanted his sister to drown in the bath. This was largely because he viewed her as a rival to his mother's affection.
  • Hans' father traced his child's fear of being bitten by a horse to an impression he had received at Gmunden. A father had warned his child "Don't put your finger to the white horse or it'll bite you". The wording was similar to his mother's warning against masturbation, so it seemed largely by chance that horses became Hans' bugbear.
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