A Case of Paranoia in a Young Woman Patient
In 1915, Freud reports another observation of the onset of psychosis. Embarrassed by one of his clients’ complaints about the persecution she has suffered at the hands of a former lover, a lawyer initiates a meeting with Freud, to whom the young woman tells her story. After she had been courted for a certain period of time by a colleague at work, she finally agrees to meet him in his flat. During their lovemaking she is surprised by a noise – “a kind of knock or click.” Freud, S. (1915). A Case of Paranoia Running Counter to the… On her departure she runs into two men who seem to whisper to each other as she passes them, one of them hiding a camera. The woman remembers the noise she heard in the room and imagines that the man must have taken intimate pictures of her. Concerned, she presses her lover with questions, but is not satisfied with his answers and eventually contacts a lawyer.
Since the woman’s account first seems to contradict his conception of paranoia, Freud asks her for another meeting. The young woman then changes her first version slightly and tells him that it was in fact only during the second encounter with her lover that she was disturbed by the strange noise, to which she then attached her suspicions: they have set up a trap in order to compromise her. Freud also learns that the day after their first meeting, the young woman saw her lover at work, in a conversation with her female superior. Observing the scene, she became certain that the man had revealed the secret of their love affair, or worse, that he is having a love relation with her superior as well. According to Freud, the superior represents a maternal figure and the lover, in spite of his young age, a paternal one. He thus refers the triad composed of the young woman, her lover and the superior to the Oedipus complex. Although the young woman is attracted to the paternal substitute, she remains no less under the domination of her maternal attachment, here figured by the superior, towards whom she harbors homosexual feelings. She is therefore confronted with an impossibility – her love for the man – which the delusion is trying to solve: “The [delusion] was at first aimed against the woman. But now, on this paranoic basis, the advance from a female to a male object was accomplished.” Ibid., p. 270.
Thanks to this observation, Freud finds a way to confirm his main theses: the subject and his persecutor are of the same sex and the triggering of paranoia functions as a setting up of a defense against an excessively strong homosexual attachment, the latter representing “the paranoic disposition in her.” [