Groddeck, Georg. (1923). The book of the it. New York : International Universities Press, 1976. (Original title: Das Buch vom Es)
So, my dear, you want me to write to you, and it is to be personal or gossipy. I am not to make fine phrases serious, instructive, and, as far as possible, scientific. That's tiresome! For what has my humble self to do with science? The small amount one needs as a practicing physician I cannot well display to you, or you would see the holes in the gown with which, as qualified physicians, we are officially endowed. Perhaps, however, I shall meet your wishes if I tell you why I became a doctor, and how I was led to reject the claims of science.
I do not remember that as a boy I had any special liking for the profession of medicine, and I am very certain that, neither then nor later, did I bring any humanitarian feeling into it; if, as may well be, I used to deck myself out with such noble sentiments, you must look upon my lying with a lenient eye--the truth is I became a doctor just because my father was one. He had forbidden all my brothers to follow that career, probably because he wanted to convince himself and other people that his financial difficulties were due to a doctor's wretched remuneration, which was certainly not the case, since his praises were sung by young and old alike and he was correspondingly rewarded. But he liked, just as his son does, and indeed every one of us, to look for outside causes when he knew that something was out of harmony within himself. One day he asked me--I don't know why--whether I would not like to be a doctor, and because I looked upon this inquiry as a mark of distinction which set me above my brothers, I said yes. With that my fate was sealed, both as to my choice of a profession and as to the manner in which I have followed it, for from that moment I consciously imitated my father to such a degree that an old friend of his, when she came to know me many years later, broke out with the words: "Just your father over again, only without a spark of his genius!"
On this occasion my father related to me a story which later, when doubts arose as to my medical capacity, kept me fast to my work. Perhaps I already heard it before, but I know that it made a deep impression upon me while I was in that exalted mood, fancying myself, like Joseph, raised above my brothers. He had watched me, he said, when as a three-year old I was playing at dolls with my sister, a little older than myself and my constant play fellow. Lina wanted to pile still another garment on the doll and, after a long dispute, I gave in to her with the words: "All right, but you'll see she'll be smothered!" From this he concluded that I had a gift for medicine, and I myself drew the same conclusion from these slender grounds.
I have mentioned this trivial incident to you because it gives me the opportunity to speak of a propensity of mine to fall prey to anxiety about quite insignificant matters, suddenly, and without apparent cause. As you know, anxiety is the result of a repressed wish; in that moment when I uttered the thought, "The doll will be smothered," the wish must have been in me to kill someone represented by the doll. Who that was I do not know, but one may surmise that it was this very sister; her delicacy secured for her many privileges from my mother which I, as the baby of the family, wanted for myself. There you have the essential quality of the doctor, a propensity to cruelty which has been just so far repressed as to be useful, and which has for its warder the dread of causing pain. It would be worth while to pursue this subtle interplay between cruelty and anxiety in mankind, for it is extremely important in life, but for the purpose of this letter it is sufficient to establish quite clearly the fact that my relation to my sister had a great deal to do with the development and with the taming of my desire to cause pain. Our favorite game was "Mother and child," in which the child was naughty and was slapped. My sister's delicacy compelled us to do this gently, and the manner in which I have carried on my professional work reflects our childhood's play. Nearly as great as my aversion to the surgeon's bloody trade is my dislike of the assorted poisons of the pharmacopoeia, and so I came to massage and to mental treatment; these are both not less cruel, but they adapt themselves better to any particular man's desire to suffer. Out of the constantly changing demands made by Lina's heart trouble upon my unconscious sensitivity, there grew the preference for dealing with chronic cases, acute illness making me impatient
That is roughly, what I can tell you about my choice of a profession. But if you will only reflect a little, all sorts things will occur to you in connection with my attitude to science, for anyone who from childhood upwards has had his attention directed to one particular invalid will find it difficult to learn how to classify things systematically according to the rubric. And then, too, there is that very important question of imitation. My father was a heretic in medicine; he was his own authority, went his own ways, right or wrong, and showed no respect for science either in word or in deed. I still remember how he scoffed at the hopes that were raised by the discovery of the tubercle and the cholera bacilli, and with what glee he recounted how, against all physiological teaching, he had fed an infant for a whole year on bouillon. The first medical book which he put into my hand--I was at that time still a lad at the Gymnasium--was the empirical teaching of Rademacher, and since in that book the points conflicting with scientific teaching are heavily underlined and plentifully sprinkled with marginal comments, it is no matter for surprise if already from the beginning of my studies I was disposed to doubt.
This disposition to doubt was in yet other ways deter mined. When I was six years old I lost for a time the exclusive companionship of my sister. She gave her affection to a school friend called Alma, and, what was terribly hard to bear, she taught our little childish sadistic games to this new friend and shut me out from them. On one solitary occasion I managed to overhear the two girls while they were at their favorite occupation of telling stories. Alma was making up a tale about an angry mother who punished her disobedient child by putting it into a privy pit (one must picture for this a primitive country closet). To this day it sticks in my memory that I did not hear the conclusion of that story. The friendship between the two little girls came to an end, and my sister returned to me, but that period of loneliness was enough to inspire me with a deep distaste for the name of Alma.
And here I must certainly remind you that a university calls itself Alma Mater. That gave me a strong prejudice against science, all the greater because the term "Alma Mater" was also used of the Gymnasium in which I followed my classical studies, and where I suffered much that I should have to tell you of, if it were my purpose to make you understand the unfolding of my nature. That, however, is not what is in my mind, but only the fact that I attributed all the hatred and the suffering of my school days to science, because it is more convenient to ascribe one's depression to external events than to seek its roots in the depths of the unconscious.
Later, but only after many years, did it become clear to me that the expression "Alma Mater," nursing mother, recalled the earliest and the hardest conflict of my life. My mother had nursed only her eldest child; at that time she was visited with a severe inflammation of the breasts which atrophied the milk glands. My birth must have taken place a day or two earlier than was expected. In any case, the wet nurse who had been engaged for me was not yet in the house, and for three days I was scantily nourished by a woman who came twice a day in order to feed me. That did me no harm, one might think, but who can judge the feelings of a suckling babe? To have to go hungry is not a kind welcome for a newborn infant. Now and then I have got to know people who have had a like experience, and even if I cannot prove that they suffered mental harm thereby, still it seems to me quite probable that they did. And by comparison with them I think I have come off well.
There is, for instance, the case of a woman--I have known her for many a year--for whom her mother conceived a dislike at her birth, and whom she did not nurse, as she had the other children, but left to a nursemaid and the bottle. The baby, however, preferred going hungry to being suckled through a rubber tube, and so grew more and more sickly, until the doctor roused the mother out of her antipathy. From being callous she now became most attentive to her child: a wet nurse was engaged and never an hour passed without the mother's going to look after the baby. The youngster began to flourish and grew up a healthy woman. The mother made a pet of her and up to the time of her death, tried to win her daughter's love, but in that daughter only hatred survives. Her whole life had been a steady chain of enmity whose separate links are forged by revenge. She plagued her mother as long as she lived, deserted her on her deathbed, persecuted without realizing what she was doing, everyone who reminded her of her mother, and to the end of her life will be a prey to the envy which hunger bred in her. She is childless. People who hate their mothers create no children for themselves, and that is so far true that one may postulate of a childless marriage, without further inquiry, that one of the two partners is a mother hater. Whoever hates his mother, dreads to have a child of his own, for the life of man is ruled by the law, "As thou to me, so I to thee," yet this woman is consumed by the desire to bear a child. Her gait resembles that of a pregnant woman; when she sees a suckling babe her own breasts swell, and if her friends conceive, her abdomen also becomes enlarged. Though used to luxury and society, she went every day for years to help at a lying-in hospital, where she kept the babies clean, washed their swaddling clothes, and attended to the mothers, from whom in uncontrollable desire she would snatch the newborn infants to lay them to her empty breast. Yet she has twice married men of whom she knew in advance that they could beget no children. Her life is made up of hatred, anxiety, envy and the yearning cry of hunger for the unattainable.
There is also a second woman who went hungry for the first few days after her birth. She has never been able to bring herself to the point of confessing a hatred of her mother, who died young, but she is incessantly tormented by the feeling that she murdered her, though she recognizes this as irrational since her mother died during an operation of which the girl knew nothing beforehand. For years she has sat in her room alone, living on her hatred for all mankind, seeing no one, spurning, hating.
To return to my own story: the nurse finally arrived and stayed in our home for three years. Have you ever pondered over the experiences of a baby who is fed by a wet nurse? The matter is somewhat complicated, at least if the child has a loving mother. On the one hand, there is that mother in whose body the baby has lain for nine months, carefree, warm, in undisturbed enjoyment. Should he not love her? And on the other hand, there is that second woman to whose breast he is put every day, whose milk he drinks, whose fresh, warm skin he feels, and whose odor he inhales. Should he not love her? But to which of them shall he hold? The suckling nourished by a nurse is plunged into doubt, and never will he lose that sense of doubt. His capacity for faith is shaken at its foundation, and a choice between two possibilities for him is always more difficult than for other people. And to such a man, whose emotional life has been divided at the start, who is thereby cheated of full emotional experience, what can the phrase Alma Mater mean, but a lie to scoff at? And knowledge will seem to him from the beginning to be useless. Life says to him, "That woman over there who does not nourish thee is thy mother and claims thee as her own; this other gives thee her breast and yet thou art not her child." He is confronted with a problem which knowledge is unable to solve, from which he must flee, away from whose troublesome questioning he can best take refuge in phantasy. But whoever is familiar with the kingdom of phantasy recognizes, at one time or another, that all science is a kind of phantasy, a specialist type, so to speak, with all the advantages and all the defects of specialization.
There are other people who do not feel at home in this realm, and of one such I will now briefly tell you. It was not intended that he should be born, but he managed it in spite of his father and mother. So the wife's milk dried up, and a wet nurse was procured. The little boy grew up among his happier brothers and sisters who had been nursed at their mother's breast, but always remained a little stranger among them, as indeed he remained a stranger to his parents. And without either knowing it or wishing it, he gradually severed the bond between the parents through the pressure of their half-conscious sense of guilt, clear enough to strangers' eyes in their peculiar treatment of their son, so that they fled from one another, and knew each other no more. The son, however, became a doubter, his life was divided, and because he did not dare to indulge in phantasy--since he must be an honorable man and his dreams were those of an outcast adventurer--he began to drink, a fate that greets many a one who has been deprived of love in babyhood. But as in everything else, so also in his lust for drink he was divided. Only now and then, for a few weeks or a few months the feeling came over him that he must drink, and as I have followed up his wanderings to some extent, I know that some reminder of the nurse of his childhood always comes to his mind before he seizes the glass. That makes me sure that he will be cured. And this is another strange thing: he chose as his wife a girl who has for her parents a hatred as great as his own, who is just as foolishly fond of children as he is himself, and who yet fears to bear children as she fears death. And because she gave his racked soul no assurance that a child might not be born who would punish him, he contracted a venereal disease and infected his wife. So much tragedy is hidden in the lives of men!.
My letter draws to a close, but may I carry the story of my nurse a little further? I cannot recall her appearance. I know nothing more than her name, Bertha, the shining one. But I have a clear recollection of the day she went away. As a parting present she gave me a copper three pfennig piece, a Dreier, and I know very well that instead of buying sweets with it, as she wished, I sat me down on the kitchen step of stone and rubbed the coin on it to make it shine. Since that day I have been pursued by the number three. Words like trinity, triangle, triple alliance, convey something disreputable to me, and not merely the words but the ideas attached to them, yes, and the whole complex of ideas built up around them by the capricious brain of a child. For this reason, the Holy Ghost, as the Third Person of the Trinity, was already suspect to me in early childhood; trigonometry was a plague in my school days, and the once highly esteemed Dreibundspolitik I banned from the beginning. Yes, three is a sort of fatal number for me. When I look back over my emotional life I realize that, in every case where my heart was engaged, I broke in as a third upon a friendship already existing between two persons, that I always separated the one who roused my emotion from the other, and that my affection cooled as soon as I had succeeded in doing so. I can even see that in order to revive this dying affection, I have again brought in a third whom I might again drive away. And so in one direction, and that certainly no unimportant one, without intention and even without knowledge, those feelings are repeated in me that are associated with the double relationship to mother and nurse and with the conflict aroused by the parting--a matter worthy of consideration, since it shows, at least, that in the mind of a three-year old child there are processes at work which, though extremely involved, yet have a certain unity at the source. I saw my nurse once again later on--I may have been eight years old--for a few minutes only. She was a stranger to me and I had a heavy sense of oppression while she was by.
I have two more little stories to give you, not without significance, connected with this word Dreier. One day, when my elder brother was beginning to learn Latin, my father asked him at table to give the Latin for "tear." He didn't know it, but for some reason or other I had noticed the word lacrima the evening before whilst he was memorizing his vocabulary, and so I answered in his place. As a reward I was given a five-groschen piece. After the meal my two brothers asked me to exchange this for a smoothly polished three-pfennig piece, which I joyfully did. Besides the desire to put the bigger boys in the wrong, some dim emotional memories must have influenced me in this. I will tell you later, if you like, what the word lacrima signifies to me.
The second incident raises my spirits whenever I remember it. As a grown-up man, later, I wrote a story for my children in which there appeared a withered, dried-up old maid, a learned person who taught Greek and was much derided. To this offspring of my fancy, flat-chested and bald, I gave the name Dreier. Thus did my flight from the first, forgotten pain of separation make out of that maid, so alive and loving, who had fed me and to whom I clung, the image that represents science to me.
What I have written is certainly serious enough, at least for me, but whether it is what you wished to get from our correspondence, the gods alone can say. However that may be, I am still, as ever, your very faithful,
Fair lady, you are not pleased; is there too much of the personal in my letter, and you would have me objective? But I thought I had been! Let us see then; what I wrote about was the choice of a profession, certain aversions, an inner conflict which lasted from childhood onwards. Certainly I spoke of myself, but these experiences are typical, and if you apply them to others there is much that you will learn to understand. One thing above all will become clear to you, that our lives are governed by forces that do not lie open to the day, but must needs be laboriously sought out. I wanted to show by an example, by my own example, that a great deal goes on in us which lies outside our accustomed thought. But perhaps it would he better if I made my purpose quite clear, and then you will be able to decide whether the theme is sufficiently serious. If once I drop into chit-chat or into fine writing, you must tell me; that will help both of us.
I hold the view that man is animated by the Unknown, that there is within him an "Es," an "It," some wondrous force which directs both what he himself does, and what happens to him. The affirmation "I live" is only conditionally correct, it expresses only a small and superficial part of the fundamental principle, "Man is lived by the It." With this Unknown, this It, my letters will be concerned. Are you agreed?
Yet one thing more. Of the It, we know only so much as lies within our consciousness. Beyond that the greater part of its territory is unattainable, but by search and effort we can extend the limits of our consciousness, and press far into the realm of the unconscious, if we can bring ourselves no more to desire knowledge but only to phantasy. Come then, my pretty Dr. Faust, the mantle is spread for the flight. Forth into the Unknown. . .
Is it not strange that we should know hardly anything of our three first years of life? Now and then a man produces some faint remembrance of a face, a door, a wallpaper or whatnot, which he claims to have seen in his infancy, but never yet have I met anyone who remembered his first steps, or the manner in which he learned to talk, to eat, to see or to hear. Yet these are all vital experiences. I can well imagine that a child in stumbling across a room for the first time receives a deeper impression than his elders would from a visit to Italy. I can well imagine that a child who realizes for the first time that the person with the kind smile over there is his mother, is more completely gripped by his emotion than the husband who leads his bride home. Why do we forget it all?
There is much to say on that, but one point must he made clear before proceeding to the answer. The question is wrongly put. It is not that we forget those three first years, only the remembrance of them is shut out from our consciousness; in the unconscious it goes on living, and continues to be so active that all we do is fed from this unknown treasure-heap of memory: we walk as we then learned to walk, we eat, we speak, we feel just as we did then. There are matters, then, which are cast out of consciousness although they are essential to life, which, just because they are essential to life, are preserved in regions of our being which have been named the unconscious. But why does the conscious mind forget experiences without which mankind could not exist?
May I leave the question open? I shall often have to put it again. But now it is more in my mind to inquire from you, as a woman, why mothers know so little of their children, and why they too forget the substance of those three first years? Perhaps mothers only act as if they had forgotten it? Or perhaps with them also the essential things do not reach consciousness?
You will chide because once more I am making merry over mothers, but how else can I help myself? A yearning is in me; when I am sad my heart cries for my mother, and she is not to be found. Am I then to grumble at God's world? Better to laugh at myself, at this childishness from which we never emerge, for never do we quite grow up; we manage it rarely, and then on]y on the surface; we merely play at being grown up as a child plays at being big. So soon as we live intensely we become children. For the It, age does not exist, and in the It is our own real life.
Do but look upon someone in his moments of deepest sorrow or of highest joy: his face is like that of a child, his gestures too, his voice is flexible again, his heart leaps as it did in childhood, his eyes glisten or cloud over. Certainly we attempt to hide all this, but it is clearly there, and if we pay attention we observe it, only we fail to notice in other people those signs that tell so much because we do not want to perceive them in ourselves. No one cries any more after he is grown up? But that is only because it is not the custom, because some silly idiot or other sent it out of fashion. I have always joked about Mars shrieking like ten thousand men when he was wounded, and it is only in the eyes of the would-be great that Achilles is dishonored by his tears over the body of Patroclus. We play the hypocrite, that is the whole story, and never once dare to give a genuine laugh. Still, that does not prevent our looking like schoolboys when we are up against something we can't do, from wearing the same anxious expression as we did in childhood, from showing always the same little mannerisms in walking, lying, speaking, which cry to everyone who has eyes to see, "Behold the Child!" Watch anyone when he thinks he is alone; at once you see the child come to the surface, sometimes in very comical fashion. He yawns, or, without embarrassment, he scratches his head or his bottom, or he picks his nose, or even--yes, it has got to be said--he lets out wind. The daintiest lady will do so! Or notice people who are absorbed in thought or in some task; look at lovers, at the sick, at the aged. All of them are children now and again.
If we like, we can think of life as a masquerade at which we don a disguise, perhaps many different disguises, at which nevertheless we retain our own proper characters, remaining ourselves amidst the other revelers in spite of our disguise, and from which we depart exactly as we were when we came. Life begins with childhood, and by a thousand devious paths through maturity attains its single goal, once more to be a child, and the one and only difference between people lies in the fact that some grow childish, and some childlike.
This same phenomenon, that there is something within us which puts on at will the appearance of any possible degree of age, you may observe also in children. Old age is familiar on the face of infancy, and is often remarked. But walk about the streets and watch the little girls of three or four years old--it is more obvious in them than in their brothers, for which good reason can be given--they will sometimes look as if they were in truth their own mothers. Indeed all children, not just one here and there who is prematurely entangled by life, no, every boy and every girl has at times this peculiar look of maturity. One little child has the sullen mouth of an embittered woman, the lips of another show the born gossip, in another you can see the old maid, in still another, the coquette. And then how often do we see the mother in a tiny girl! It is not mere imitation, it is the working of the It which at times overbears physical age, makes out of it what it will, just as we put on this or that garment.
Perhaps in part it is because of envy that I make fun of mothers, envy that I am not myself a woman and cannot be a mother. Only do not laugh at that for it is really true, and true not of me alone, but of all men, even of those who seem most manly. Their speech tells us that already, for the most masculine of men feels no hesitation in telling us that he is pregnant with some thought; he refers to the children of his brain, and speaks of the fulfilling of some laborious task as "a difficult birth." And these are not just tricks of speech. You set great store by science. Well, it is an indubitable scientific fact that man is formed by both man and woman, although in thought and argument we ignore this as we do many another simple truth. And so in the being we call a man there lives also a woman, in the woman too a man, and that a man should think of childbearing is nothing strange, but only that this should be so obstinately denied. The denial however, does not alter the facts.
This mingling of man and woman is sometimes fateful. There are people whose It remains clogged by doubt who see two sides to everything, who are always at the mercy of their impressions of doubleness in childhood. Such doubters were the foster children I wrote of. All four of them have, in fact, an It which does not know times whether it is male or female. From your own memories of me you will know that under some conditions my stomach will swell up and then, if I speak to you about will suddenly subside. You know, too, that I refer to this as my pregnancy. But you do not know--or have I perhaps already told you? No matter, I will tell the story again. Nearly twenty years ago a wen developed on my neck. At that time I did not know what I do now, or think I do. In any case, I went about the world for ten years with this thickened neck, in the full belief that I must bear it to the grave with me. Then the day came that I learned to know the It and realized--no matter how--that this wen was a phantasied child. You yourself have often wondered how I managed to rid myself of the monstrous thing, without operation, without treatment, without iodine or thyroid. My view is that the wen disappeared because my It learned to understand, and my conscious mind also, that I am just as other men in having a bisexual nature and life, and that it is unnecessary to emphasize this fact by means of a swelling.
That woman who gave voluntary service at the lying-in hospital has times in which her breasts completely shrink; then her male nature asserts itself and drives her irresistibly to change places with her husband in their games of love. The It of the third, the lonely woman, has produced a growth between her thighs which looks like a small male organ, and strange to say she paints it with iodine, in order, as she thinks, to get rid of it, but actually to give the authentic red appearance to the tip. The case of the last of the foster children of whom I told you is similar to mine, his stomach swells in the phantasy of pregnancy. And then he has attacks of liver colic, deliverances you may say, and most important of all, he has trouble with his appendix--as do a men who would like to be castrated, to be made into women, for the woman is formed from a man, so thinks the childish It, by the cutting off of the tail. Three attacks of appendicitis he has had, to my knowledge. In all three could be discovered the wish to be a woman. Or have I only persuaded him to wish to be a woman? It is hard to tell.
I must now tell you of a fifth foster child, a man who is richly gifted, but who, as a being with two mothers, is in all things of divided mind, and seeks to overcome his distracted state by drug taking. It was due to her superstition, his mother says, that she did not nurse him her self; she had lost two boys, and so this third one she would not suckle. He does not know whether he is truly man or woman, his It does not know. In early childhood the woman in him was active, and for long he lay ill with pericarditis, a fancied pregnancy of the heart. Later this side of his nature showed it self again in pleurisy, and in an irresistible compulsion towards homosexuality.
Laugh as you please over my wild fairy tales. I am used to being laughed at, and like to harden myself anew, now and again. May I tell you yet another little story? I heard it from a man now long since dead, slain in the war. With a light heart he leapt to his doom, for he was of the line of heroes. One day, he said, when he was about seventeen years old, he was watching with interest his sister's dog, a poodle, which was masturbating by rubbing against his leg. And then, when the seminal fluid ran out over his leg, he was suddenly seized by the idea that he would now give birth to puppies, and for weeks and months afterwards this idea remained in his mind.
If it would give you pleasure, we could now betake ourselves to fairyland, and speak of the queens who had young puppies put into the cradles in place of their trueborn sons, and from that we could pass on to various reflections on the curious role played by dogs in the secret life of man, reflections which throw a bright light on man's pharisaical abhorrence of perverse feelings and practices. But that perhaps would be a little too intimate, and we may prefer to continue with the subject of male pregnancies. These are quite common.
The most striking sign of pregnancy is the enlarged stomach. What do you think about my idea, expressed before, that an enlarged stomach betokens the appearance of pregnancy even in the case of a man? Indisputably he carries no child in his body. But his It creates the swollen stomach by means of eating, drinking, flatulency or whatnot, because it wishes to be pregnant, and accordingly believes itself to be so. There are symbolic pregnancies and symbolic births, which arise from the unconscious and persist for a longer or a shorter time, but disappear without fail when the unconscious stimuli of this symbolic expression are revealed. This is not an entirely simple matter, but here and there it can be done, particularly in cases of flatulency or of symbolic birth pangs in the body, the sacrum, or the head. Yes, so wonderful is the It that it cares nothing at all for scientific anatomy or physiology, but in lordly fashion repeats the legend of Athene's birth from the head of Zeus. And I am sufficient of a phantasist to believe that this myth, like others, sprang from the workings of the unconscious. The expression "to be pregnant with thought" must come from the depths of the mind, must have special significance, since it has been embodied in the form of a legend.
Undeniably, such symbolic pregnancies and births occur also in women capable of childbearing, perhaps even more frequently in their case; but they arise all the same in aged women, and seem to play an important part in various forms of disease during and after the climacter; yes, even children will play with such phantasies of reproduction, and particularly those of whom their mothers take for granted that they believe in the stork which brought the babies.
Shall I vex you yet a little more by venturing further? By telling you that the secondary disturbances of pregnancy, indigestion and toothache, are sometimes rooted in symbolism? That bleeding of every kind, more particularly, of course, untimely bleeding of the womb, but also nose bleeding, and bleeding from the rectum and the lungs, have a close connection with imagined births? Or that the small intestinal worms which plague some people throughout their lives are to be accounted for by the association of worm and child, and disappear as soon as they are deprived of the nourishment provided by the unconscious symbolizing wish?
I know a lady--she too is one of those childloving women who are yet childless because they hated their mothers--who for five months missed her menstrual periods; her body swelled and her breasts, and she believed herself to be with child. One day I had a long talk with her about the connection of worms with the idea of birth, exemplified in the case of a mutual friend. On that same day she expelled a worm, and during the night she started her period, and her body subsided.
With this I am led to speak of the occasions which give rise to such thoughts of pregnancy. They are to be found in the sphere of association, whence I have already drawn the example worm-child. Most of these associations are widespread, manifold, and, because they are found in childhood, they can only be made conscious after much trouble. But there are also some striking and simple associations which are immediately evident to everyone. A man I know told me that on the night before his wife's accouchement he attempted in a peculiar way to transfer to himself this (in his view) tormenting experience. He dreamed, that is to say, that he himself bore the child--a dream in every detail resembling what he bad seen happen on the occasion of previous births, and waked up in the moment when the child came into the world to discover that he had produced, if not a child, still something warm with life, which he had never before done since the days of boyhood.
Now that was only a dream, but if you listen to the talk of your men and women friends, you will discover to your astonishment how common it is for husbands, grandmothers, or children, to carry out at the same time in their own bodies the childbirth which is taking place in the family.
Such a strong stimulus is, however, unnecessary. It is often sufficient to catch sight of a little child, of a cradle, of a milk bottle. It is also sufficient to eat certain particular things. You will yourself have known of men whose bodies swelled up after eating cabbage or peas, beans, carrots or gherkins. Some of them suffer from birth pangs in the form of stomach ache, or they may even bring about a birth in the guise of vomiting or diarrhoea. The connections established in the unconscious by the It seem to our highly prized intelligence--so foolish a thinker--undoubtedly absurd. It sees in the head of a cabbage, for instance, a likeness to a child's head, peas and beans lie in their pods like a child in its cradle or in its mother's body, pea soup and pea pudding remind it of the baby's wrappings, and now carrots and gherkins, what do you make of them? You will not fathom it unless I help you.
When children are playing with a dog and watching all his doings with a lively interest, they may notice at times in the place where he keeps his little toilet apparatus, a small red point will appear which looks like a carrot. They call the attention of their mother, or of whoever happens to be by, to this strange appearance, and learn either from her words or from her embarrassed looks, that one does not speak of such things, one does not even notice them. The unconscious then keeps tight hold of this impression, which is more or less definite, and because it has once identified the carrot with the little red point of the dog, it keeps obstinately to the idea that carrots also are taboo, and it responds to that early experience by eating them with dislike, with disgust, or with the accompaniment of symbolic pregnancy. For in that also is the childish It peculiarly stupid in comparison with the much praised intelligence, that it thinks the germ of the child enters through the mouth into the body, inside which it then develops; just as children believe that a cherry stone they have swallowed will grow into a cherry tree in the stomach. But that the dog's red point has something to do with the begetting of children, this they know in their unenlightened childish innocence just as well or just as obscurely as that the germ of their baby brother or sister, before it enters into the mother, somehow and somewhere must lie in that remarkable appendage of the man and the boy, which looks like a tail put in the wrong place, of which one must only speak with caution, and with which only mamma is allowed to play.
You see, the way that leads from carrots to phantasies of pregnancy is rather long and difficult to trace. When one knows that, however, one also knows the significance of a distaste for gherkins, for there you have not only that comically fatal resemblance to the father's organ, but also, inside there are the kernels which artfully symbolize the seeds of future children.
I have wandered dangerously far from my subject, but I venture to hope that out of your personal regard for me, my dear, you will give a second reading to letters so involved as this one. Then it will he clear to you what I am trying to say in all my ramblings; the It, that mysterious something which dominates us, is just as careless of the distinction of sex as it is of differences in age. And with that I think I shall at least have given you some ideaof the irrationality of its nature. Perhaps you will also realize how it is that I am sometimes so womanish as to want to bear a child. If, however, I haven't succeeded in making myself intelligible, next time I will try to be clearer.