Little Hans

Written by Vassiliki Simoglou on 03/07/2011. Posted in Psychoanalysis

Little Hans, Sigmund Freud, 11.12.2002

I will start with what I was not at ease with when I started reading Little Hans: the fact that he was not treated by Freud but by his father. Freud himself legitimates the whole process, by more or less giving credit to the father’s interpretations. Well, I only managed to overcome my ethical inhibitions towards this proceeding with a compromise: could we admit that this therapy was possible, successful even, because of this tertiary reference point/place constituted by Freud himself in both Hans’ and his father’s minds? (explain) Hans is actually more than willing to write to Professor Freud, to ask for his opinion, hoping that Freud will be able to cure him, etc. Þ transference? (i.e. p. 135: “If I write everything to the professor, my stupidity will be soon gone, won’t it?”, 143, 162). As for the father, he writes to Freud almost on a daily basis, and directs the cure being faithful to Freud’s advice.

For the needs of today’s presentation, I thought of sharing with you a few observations on the case and on its theoretical implications:

Before any symptoms ever appear, Hans shows a vivid interest in his pipi, that he attributes to all living organisms. When he is 3 years and a half old, two events occur: the birth of his sister Anna, and a castration threat by the mother: “if you keep doing this, I will call Dr A and he will cut down your pipi. With what will you pee then?”. Although rejected/forclosed by Hans in a transposition towards anality: “with my buttock”, Freud estimates that Hans acquires the castration complex which won’t be effective but in a deferred action.

His overflowing sensuality towards boys and girls indifferently, his calling “my children” his friends, his asking his mother to touch his pipi, his blushing when observed flirting a little girl, his asking his father to hide him while he pees, his laughing when his young sister is being given a bath “because her pipi is so beautiful”… confront Hans to the difference of sexes. Being aware of the difference between the sexes is to be paid by shame, taken revenge of by irony, and negotiated with phobia.

From “I was afraid that a horse might bite me” to “The horse will come in my room”, the numerous variations that the phobic object, the horse, goes under, reveal the ambivalence towards it, and the fact that it is utilized for what it can come to represent, a signifier for all purposes. Freud explains that it’s the tenderness for the mother that is repressed and transformed in anxiety, anobjectal in the beginning, and which sooner or later finds itself an object, the horse.

The father is advised by Freud to tell Hans about his love for the mother as well as the sexual difference. The father manages to tell him that women do not have a pipi like his and that he is afraid of big animals because they have big pipis. The subsequent confusion shows at what point Hans had reached a dead-end: the father tries to reassure his son when all Hans is asking him to do is to be a somewhat more credible rival. For the time being, Hans believes that everyone is provided with a pipi, his own will grow up to be bigger etc. Why would a child, so much at ease with such concepts and already quite aware of a biological reality, not be able to symbolize the difference between sexes, without entering such roundabouts? Having an objective, scientific knowledge cannot counterbalance missing knowledge. Reconnaissance of the difference of sexes is not a plus-value, it is a symbolic necessity.

In parallel, one can easily notice that some of Hans’ symptoms are elaborated/constructed/reinforced by using information given by the father (i.e. p. 148-149: “Would you like to beat up horses? Horses don’t hurt when they are beaten. I had told him this one day, hoping to moderate his fear of watching horses being whipped”, 152). At the same time, Hans makes fun of his father, by admitting that the stories he is telling him “are not true at all” Þ an act of revenge for the lies he was told concerning his sexual research, i.e. “where do children come from?” (i.e. p. 147, 149). These seem to be ways in which the father is involved in Hans’ phobia, placing their difference at a level of imaginary projections and identifications; but what he is unsuccessfully trying to make his father tell him is precisely what is a father. His phobic symptoms weren’t they a means for Hans of asking “What makes a father?” Wasn’t Hans, among others, in his phobia, seeking a symbolic Father, a father who would be able to put a symbolic limit on him?

Then comes the consultation with Freud, which could actually be resumed in one interpretation. Freud reveals to Hans that he is afraid of his father just because he loves his mother that much. He re-elaborates this interpretation on an inspirational kind of a mode: “Well before he came in this world, I had already known that a little Hans would be born someday, who would love his mother so much that he would be compelled to be afraid of this father, and I had told this to his father.”

It’s the father who interrupts Freud in order to protest of his innocence: “Why would you think that I’m angry with you, have I ever beaten you?”, while Hans asks whether Freud speaks with dear God in order to be aware of all this in advance. As says Lacan, Hans receives from Freud, Imaginary Omnipotent Father, the key to Oedipus complex just like Moses receives from God the tables of Law. As for its content, Hans doesn’t really buy it: “Why do you say that I love mum when its you that I love!” Freud’s interpretation, we can see it, is not psychologically speaking exact, nevertheless its efficiency stems from the conjunction of two different orders in one and the same logical structure: the timeless order of the oedipal myth, and the hic et nunc, the here and now of the relationship to the parents.

The case is concluded with Hans reporting a phantasmatic scenario to his father: “a plumber came and first took my buttock off of me, then gave me another one and then the pipi. He said: let me see your buttock and I had to turn and then he took it off and then he said: let me see your pipi”. With this phantasy, something has changed: Hans produces himself a Father who will put him through this universal law of castration. The stupidity disappears, but the clash will not take place: Hans becomes the father of his imaginary children. Mother is the mother, father is the grand-father and grand-mother will be father’s wife. “It all ends up nicely” says Freud. “The young Oedipus has found himself a much happier solution than the one prescribed by destiny. Instead of killing his father, he allows him the same happiness he wants for himself; he promotes him to be a grand-father and also marries him to his own mother.” The solution isn’t typical and Hans’ rapport to women will remain dictated by the repression of any kind of idea of paternal creation. Will this lead him to artistic creation as we know it did today? Because what is needed, isn’t only a mythical representation of the Father, it also takes a real father, a father who really turns himself in an obstacle, for the castration to be accomplished.

As for the horse, it will have been the phallus, major signifier of the pipi, for as long as it is not where the mother pretends it is, that is in Hans, for as long as it itches, it falls, it makes a hullabaloo, etc. It will be the maid he can climb on, the father who could fall, the mother in labor…, following the necessities of symbolization. But above all, it will be a means to signify, a signifier urgently produced in front of an irreparable reality, that assigning to each sex a different anatomy.

Freud gave us some hypothesis on the choice of the signifier-horse by the phobia, but he didn’t think he should tell us how he had also been implied in it himself. Professor Freud (P. Freud, in German Pferd means horse) who stirred up the whole affair with his curiosity, had actually offered Hans a rocking horse for his three years’ anniversary!!!  Nonetheless, this over-determination wouldn’t differ much from what is shared by every human being.

As Freud indicates, the history of Hans’ illness is intricated with its treatment; the illness evolves along with its treatment, therefore it is not firmly constituted Þ it is difficult to draw conclusions on its internal structure and its development. Could the fact that the phobic symptoms were in a way displaced by their treatment, relate to Hans having forgotten everything regarding his illness when he grew up to be a young man and visited Freud?

In the Little Hans case study, at the same time, clinical observations are intricated with theoretic developments. Little Hans could be a clinical example of universal discoveries. Not only does it put the unconscious at work, it also destroys the wall between normality and neurosis. In this text, Freud gives us a remarkable “definition” of Psychoanalysis and its methodology (cf. p. 167): “Psychoanalysis is not an impartial scientific research, but a therapeutic act, it does not aim, essentially, at proving, but at modifying something. In the course of an analysis, the doctor always gives to the patient, to a bigger or lesser degree according to the cases, the conscious anticipated representations with which he (the patient) will be able, by himself, to acknowledge and to capture what is unconscious.” We could put this definition next to an assertion that appears later in the text: “Analysis does not cancel the effects of repression: instincts once repressed remain repressed. Its success is obtained by another means: it displaces/stands in for repression, as an automatic and excessive process, by a tempered and appropriate control of instincts, a control that is exercised by the highest psychic authorities. In a word, it displaces repression by condemnation.”


Vassiliki Simoglou

Τα κείμενα που δημοσιεύονται στον παρόντα ιστότοπο εκφράζουν τις απόψεις του συντάκτη τους. Κατά το Ν. 2121/1993 και κατά τη Διεθνή Σύμβαση της Βέρνης (που έχει κυρωθεί με το Ν. 100/1975) απαγορεύεται η αναδημοσίευση και γενικά η αναπαραγωγή των κειμένων, με οποιονδήποτε τρόπο, τμηματικά ή περιληπτικά, στο πρωτότυπο ή σε μετάφραση ή άλλη διασκευή, χωρίς γραπτή άδεια του συντάκτη τους. Παραπομπές στα κείμενα θα πρέπει να γίνονται ως ακολούθως: Σίμογλου, Β. Ν., 2011, [Τίτλος κειμένου], προσβάσιμο στις [Ημερομηνία], από [URL].

The Ego is not master in its own house.

S. Freud


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