Sunday, February 23, 2014
Journals of Psychoanalysis: Case Notes of Seuss, MD: Feline Fixation and Oedipal Anxiety
SESSION ONE: B described childhood; he and his sibling were frequently abandoned by a mother who admonished them to do nothing but "sit, sit, sit, sit." When asked if he liked this treatment, he responded, "not one little bit," and yet his overwhelming emotion was one of guilt and anxiety over disappointing "Mother" rather than resentment at this unfair treatment. On one occasion, B and his sibling (hereafter known as G) were told it was "too wet to play." Astonishingly, they took this to mean it was too wet even to play indoors - such was the hold of the Mother's authority - and so they sat side by side - not even talking with each other - but staring out the window at the rain - while their Mother was "out." (Clearly she operated on a double standard with regards to inclement weather.)
One would expect such a repressive and dysfunctional childhood to spawn any number of delusional thought-systems if not outright psychosis, and indeed, this is what happened. B reports that following "a thump" that made them "jump" a strange cat (hereafter known as the Cat) came uninvited into the house.
Though cats are incapable of speech, B is obdurate this one told them clearly they could still have "lots of good fun that is funny." That the Cat was a hallucination brought on by anxiety and extreme loneliness is confirmed by the work of a sketch artist who drew what B described: while clearly not human, nothing about the creature could be mistaken for a cat (except for perhaps its whiskers.) Not only did it stand upright, but was taller than Mother herself, its height emphasized by a tall red-and-white striped hat; it wore a bow-tie and white gloves on its front feet. We can infer B and G had never been allowed to see a cat before, and had constructed this one out of a vivid imagination.
At this juncture, the hallucination began to spiral even further away from reality deeper into psychosis, for the family goldfish is suddenly capable of speech as well, and extending itself from its bowl and pointing a fin at the Cat warns "he should not be here when your Mother is out."
The therapist pointed out that fish do not talk, that being aquatic, it's illogical they even could, and that surely B had noticed the goldfish had never spoken before. Could the goldfish, the therapist gently suggested, be a projection of B's own fear at disobeying the Mother's injunction "not to make a mess?" But hearing this, B began showing severe distress and withdrew into himself. He was taken back to the ward, muttering, "Thing One and Thing Two, Thing One and Thing Two..."