A young English gentleman very elegantly dressed with frock coat, top hat and white goatskin gloves showed up at Dr. Freud’s office. In his case history, he is called “The Carillon-Man”. He turned up for his appointment just one minute after the scheduled time, which for Freud was unimportant, but for the man it seemed to be an unforgivable discourtesy and he did not stop apologizing for that minute delay. Once Freud had reassured him about it, the man laid down on the couch and, at the request of the analyst, began to talk about his life. An hour later, Freud still could not understand what would be the problem that had brought this young man to his office. Until he suddenly stood up as if driven by a spring, and, to Freud’s astonishment, began to chime the hour as if he were a carillon. Freud consulted his pocket watch while noticing that the man had not consulted his at any time, and yet now he was chiming the hour with the punctuality of a Swiss watch. Once this was done, the man laid down again and continued with the story of his life as if nothing had happened. But Freud hurried to cut him off and ask him about his attitude a moment ago, but the man didn’t know what he was referring to. He even showed some degree of indignation: “Chiming the hour? What do you take me for? Do you think I’m a bell?” Freud didn’t know what to think. He had recently been the object of one of Ferenczi’s practical jokes: his disciple tried to pose as a coffee maker. And the truth is that Freud took the bait and even tried to pour himself a cup of coffee by pulling Ferenczi’s nose. But this man who was now lying on his couch, what motive could he have to play a joke on him? They didn’t even know each other. In addition, the man resumed his talk at the same point where he had left it before becoming a carillon, and if Freud had not questioned him about it, he wouldn’t even have mentioned the incident.
When the indignation of the Carillon-Man was appeased, Freud told him the incident and, when asked the time, the Carillon-Man didn’t remove a watch from the inside pocket of his waistcoat as any other gentleman would have done. But nevertheless, he accurately reported the time: hours, minutes and even seconds. Without missing a beat, Freud metaphorically took out his scalpel and prepared to enter the mind of the Carillon-Man in search of his most recondite memories. He had first to go back to his patient’s earliest childhood to find the traumatic event that had turned an impeccable English gentleman into a traveling carillon. It turns out that, as a child, the Carillon-Man had not received the due attention and affection expected from a father, so that he had transferred the role of loving father to an old carillon that chimed the hours in one of the rooms of the family residence. When the child grew up, solemnly declared that his vocation was the same as that of his father and that he wished to follow in his footsteps. Naturally, the father, a stockbroker, was flattered, and the next day he took his son with him to the London Stock Exchange in order that the boy was becoming familiar with the profession he had chosen. But to his father’s great surprise, suddenly the boy became rigid and began to chime the hour so loud that the entire trading floor turned to look at him.
As on so many other occasions, by bringing to the surface the emotional conflict that until then had been hidden in the subconscious, the Carillon-Man took that heavy ballast off, and stopped chiming the hours, which during the first months caused many delays among the members of his family.