Rat Man

Rat Man

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"Rat Man" was the nickname
Nickname
A nickname is "a usually familiar or humorous but sometimes pointed or cruel name given to a person or place, as a supposedly appropriate replacement for or addition to the proper name.", or a name similar in origin and pronunciation from the original name....

 given by Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

 to a patient whose 'case history' was published as Bemerkungen über einen Fall von Zwangsneurose ['Notes Upon A Case Of Obsessional Neurosis'] (1909). The nickname derives from the fact that one of the patient's symptoms was an obsessive fantasy concerning two people close to him, in which a pot of rats was fastened to their buttocks to gnaw into the anus.

To protect the anonymity of patients, psychoanalytic case-studies would usually withhold or disguise the names of the individuals concerned ('Anna O'; 'Little Hans'; 'Wolf Man
Sergei Pankejeff
Sergei Konstantinovitch Pankejeff was a Russian aristocrat from Odessa best known for being a patient of Sigmund Freud, who gave him the pseudonym of Wolf Man to protect his identity, after a dream Pankejeff had of a tree full of white wolves.- Biography :The Pankejeff family Sergei...

', etc.). Recent researchers have decided that the 'Rat Man' was in fact Ernst Lanzer (1878–1914) -- though many other sources maintain that the man's name was Paul Lorenz
.

'Notes Upon A Case Of Obsessional Neurosis'


The case study was published in 1909 in German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

. Freud saw the Rat-man patient for six months, despite later claiming the treatment lasted a year. He considered the treatment a success.

The patient presented with obsession
Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Obsessive–compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry, by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety, or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions...

al thoughts and with behavior
Behavior
Behavior or behaviour refers to the actions and mannerisms made by organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with its environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the physical environment...

s that he felt compelled to carry out. The case received its name from a torture he had heard about from a military officer, where rats would eat their way into the anus of the victim. The patient then felt a compulsion to imagine that this fate was befalling two people dear to him, specifically his father and his fiancée. The irrational nature of this obsession is revealed by the fact that the man had the greatest regard for his fiancée and that his revered father had actually been dead for some years. Freud theorized that these obsessive ideas and similar thoughts were produced by conflicts consisting of the combination of loving and aggressive impulses relating to the people concerned.

The Rat-man also often defended himself against his own thoughts. He would have a secret thought that he wished his father would die so he could inherit all of his money, and then he would shame himself by fantasizing that his father would die and leave him nothing. The patient even goes so far as to fantasize about marrying Freud's daughter so that Freud would have more money.

In addition, the symptoms were believed to keep the patient from needing to make difficult decisions in his current life, and to ward off the anxiety that would be involved in experiencing the angry and aggressive impulses directly. The patient's older sister and father had died, and these losses were considered, along with his suicidal thoughts and his tendency, to form verbal associations and symbolic meanings.

Freud believed that they began with sexual experiences of infancy, in particular harsh punishment for childhood masturbation, and the vicissitudes of sexual curiosity. In the case study, Freud elaborates on his terms rationalization, doubt and displacement.

In a footnote, Freud laments that long term follow-up of this case was not possible, because the patient was killed in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

.

Criticism of Freud's interpretation


The only known case in which Freud's notes survive is that of Ernst Lanzer, the Rat-Man. Freud treated him for obsessions, particularly the dread that something terrible would happen to his father and his fiancée. His fear of rats, Freud showed through elaborate interpretations, was based on disguised homosexual fantasies. Mr. Stadlen tracked down relatives of Mr. Lanzer who said the account handed down by the family was that Freud had helped him overcome shyness so that he could marry.

But Patrick Mahony, a psychoanalyst and professor of English at the University of Montreal, has discovered several discrepancies between Freud's own case notes and his published narrative of the treatment. His findings are in Freud and the Rat Man, published in 1986 by the Yale University Press.

Dr. Mahony said Freud seems to have twisted the actual course of the case a bit to better support his theoretical points. He also said Freud misrepresented some of the facts to make his deductive powers seem all the more impressive. For example, Freud said he had guessed the name of the Rat Man's girlfriend, Gisela, from an anagram, Glejisamen, which the patient had invented. Actually, the notes show Freud had learned her name first, and then used it to deduce the meaning of the anagram.

After publishing the case notes in 1909, Freud wrote a letter to Carl Jung
Carl Jung
Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

, indicating that the Rat Man's problems still remained, despite Freud having claimed full recovery.

See also

  • Sigmund Freud
    Sigmund Freud
    Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

  • Wolf Man
    Sergei Pankejeff
    Sergei Konstantinovitch Pankejeff was a Russian aristocrat from Odessa best known for being a patient of Sigmund Freud, who gave him the pseudonym of Wolf Man to protect his identity, after a dream Pankejeff had of a tree full of white wolves.- Biography :The Pankejeff family Sergei...

  • Little Hans
  • Anna O.
    Anna O.
    Anna O. was the pseudonym of a patient of Josef Breuer, who published her case study in his book Studies on Hysteria, written in collaboration with Sigmund Freud. Her real name was Bertha Pappenheim , an Austrian-Jewish feminist and the founder of the Jüdischer Frauenbund .Anna O...

  • Dora (case study)
  • Oedipus Complex
    Oedipus complex
    In psychoanalytic theory, the term Oedipus complex denotes the emotions and ideas that the mind keeps in the unconscious, via dynamic repression, that concentrate upon a boy’s desire to sexually possess his mother, and kill his father...

  • Psychoanalysis
    Psychoanalysis
    Psychoanalysis is a psychological theory developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis has expanded, been criticized and developed in different directions, mostly by some of Freud's former students, such as Alfred Adler and Carl Gustav...

  • Vienna
    Vienna
    Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder