“THE CASE OF THE MICROBE-WOMAN”

Known in the psychoanalytic literature with the name of “the case of the Microbe-Woman”, the case that I am going to refer to next was for Freud a milestone in his knowledge of the mechanisms of the subconscious. This woman had a phobia about microbes. However, she was forced to live with them since her husband collected them. Freud anticipated that the analysis of such a case would be eternal, so he tried by all means to convince the woman to divorce. When this strategy failed, he planned the abduction of her husband and his transfer to New Caledonia. But Otto Rank, who was entrusted with the mission, accidentally broke his glasses, which led to a series of unforeseen incidents whose result was Rank kidnapped in New Caledonia. (It took him a year to escape from his kidnappers and another year to raise the necessary money to buy new glasses and a plane ticket back to Vienna.)

While Rank worked as a gravedigger in New Caledonia, Freud had to agree to treat the patient of her phobia about microbes. It turned out that the Microbe-Woman’s husband kept his collection in a shoe box that he always carried with him everywhere. Whenever the husband opened the box to admire his collection, the Microbe-Woman had the impression that she heard the laughter of the microbes making fun of her, which ended up undermining her self-esteem. Freud was struck by the fact that the woman gave so much value to the opinion that a bunch of stupid microbes might have about her, so he began to delve into her memories. After a few sessions, a traumatic event that had occurred during her adolescence came to light. Apparently, in biology class, she was forced to look at a microbe through a microscope, and the microbe winked at her. The prom was approaching and she still did not have a partner, so she thought maybe they would pair her with the microbe. Although she finally danced with a certain Colin, the image of her dancing with the microbe pursued her for a while, until she managed to bury it in her subconscious. When this memory surfaced during the analysis, the Microbe-Woman was immediately healed from her phobia, and she even ended up having a romantic relationship with one of her husband’s microbes, who happened to be named Colin just like her former dance partner. (Freud always had a suspicion that both Colin were actually the same person or the same microbe, but he did not want to go into further inquiries.)

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