In 1909 Freud analysed a 5 year old boy called Hans who had a phobia of being bitten by a horse. Hans was particularly afraid of white horses with black around the mouth and blinkers, and would avoid them at all cost. Freud interpreted this fear of being bitten as castration anxiety at the hands of his father.
Hans was particularly frightened when he once saw a horse collapse in the street, which Freud interpreted as his unconscious death wish towards his father. Freud believed this caused Hans to feel guilt and anxiety. What made Freud come to this conclusion?
During Freud’s time analysing the information provided by Hans’s father, Hans made statements to his father such as “Daddy, don’t trot away from me”, and “you are so lovely and white”. Hans’s father was white skinned (fear of white horses), had a large black moustache (black around the horses mouth) and wore thick rimmed glasses (resembling the blinkers worn by the horse). Hans would also play ‘horses’ with his father, with Hans riding on his father’s back. Hans also believed his phobia started when he saw the horse collapse in the street. “When the horse fell down it gave me such a fright really; that was when I got the nonsense” (Hans’s description of his phobia). But Freud would eventually pay little attention to this explanation.
Freud believed that Hans was suffering from the Oedipus Complex, loving to be in bed with his mother and regarding his father as a rival who he wanted out of the way. But rather than the father being the aggressor, it seemed to be the mother who made explicit threats of castration. She also threatened to abandon him on several occassions (separation anxiety). Hans therefore attempted to be more like his father (called ‘indentification with the aggressor’) to a) win back the love of his mother, and b) stop his father seeing him as a rival and castrating him.