Academic journal article The Psychoanalytical Study of the Child

Acute Onset of the Sinking Feeling in the Elderly: A Case Report and Addendum to an Article Published in This Annual in 1984

Academic journal article The Psychoanalytical Study of the Child

Acute Onset of the Sinking Feeling in the Elderly: A Case Report and Addendum to an Article Published in This Annual in 1984

Article excerpt

During a recent review of S. Freud's "Elisabeth von R.," the author experienced a forme fruste of the sinking feeling he had described in this annual in 1984. He avers that his current reaction promoted a morenuanced analysis, and advocates the rereading of classic psychoanalytic literature.

the context: while (re)reading freud's early case histories for a study of the particular responsibilities of the psychoanalyst, a work in progress, the author "happened" across the following. Freud's patient Frau Cäcilie M. described a sensation in her throat, preventing a response when she had felt insulted. Simultaneously she had the thought, "I shall have to swallow this." Freud goes on to express his conclusion that the mechanism in conversion reactions is based on symbolization (Freud 1892). I made no reference to this passage in my 1984 article.

Précis: My article "The Sinking Feeling" (Hitchcock 1984) defines the event as a brief sensation akin to a transitory depression located most commonly in the abdomen. The thought "Oh, no!" often accompanies the feeling. Focusing attention on the circumstances preceding the event may elucidate the precipitating dynamics. Freud's paper "Negation" (Freud 1925) and Anthony's paper on screen sensations (AnDr. thony 1961) provide a framework for exploring the sinking feeling as a phenomenon in which the subject feels both forced to and capable of "swallowing" a previously denied aspect of reality. The clinical psychoanalytic context offers a particularly felicitous opportunity to integrate the past, present, and transference aspects of the sinking feeling.

Although my immediate response on recognizing a work having particular relevance, even priority, to my contribution, was awareness of a brief gut reaction, my next thoughts bespoke a "higher" order of a defensive posture.

1. Was this simply an instance of lapsus memoriae, propelled by the blind ambition of youth (anything under eighty)? Was I really aware of Fräulein Elisabeth? Of course I had read the case studies, probably more than once, and I have always been drawn to metaphorical constructs. I use the specific imagery of having to swallow something in my article (1984, p. 325).

2. Could all those psychoanalytic luminaries in my list of credits have failed to remind me? …

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