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A Mythological Parallel to a Visual Obsession

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A Mythological Parallel to a Visual Obsession is a short, two-page piece written by Sigmund Freud in 1916. As the title suggests the piece relates to a visual obsession experienced by a patient of Freud's that Freud linked to an old Greek myth about Demeter lodging with Dysalus and Baubo.

The vision experienced by the patient occurred whenever he saw his father enter the room. Immediately the word Vaterarsch (Fatherarse) would come to his mind along with the image of a naked lower portion of a body with both legs and arms but without a head or upper body. No genitals were evident and there was a face painted onto the abdomen.

Freud interprets that the obsessional vision is a caricature of the patient's father whom the patient respected but who stood for a negative lifestyle. The vision is thus diminishing the status of the father in the eyes of the patient.

Regarding the unusual imaged that the vision put forward, Freud is reminded of the myth stated above. According to the legend Demeter was so unhappy over the loss of her daughter that she refused to eat while she stayed with Dysalus and Baubo. In an attempt to cheer her up Baubo is said to have lifted her dress and exposing her body. The image of the face painted on the abdomen comes from a terracotta image of Baubo which shows her with a face drawn on her exposed abdomen while the lifted dress forms hair.

External ReferencesEdit

Freud, S (1957/2001) 'A Mythological Parallel to a Visual Obsession' in The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud Vol. XIV (Strachey, J. trans.), Vintage, London.

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