Another strange case in Freud’s case history is the one known as that of “the Dinosaur-Woman”.
In the absence of a patient to put on his couch, Freud had spent several days psychoanalyzing himself, but the constant change from the couch to the chair and from the chair to the couch had exhausted him. He tried to psychoanalyze his wife Martha but it turned out that she did not believe in psychoanalysis which she qualified as “idiotic act”. Suddenly finding out that his wife was skeptical about psychoanalysis plunged Freud into melancholy. But a bit later the doorbell rang, and soon after a very elegant and slender woman laid comfortably on the couch of Freud’s consultation room.
The woman didn’t want to identify herself: an unequivocal sign that she was the wife of a high dignitary of the regime (which meant that, with this woman, recourse to New Caledonia would not be feasible). With his nerves shot to pieces, Freud asked her what her problem was. “I am allergic to dinosaurs,” she said with aplomb. Freud’s teeth began to grind. “Di-di-dino-dino-dinosaurs” Freud stuttered. “You know, those prehistoric creatures.” “Yes, yes, I know what dinosaurs are. What I don’t understand is how you know that you suffer phobia of these creatures.” “Phobia? Is it said that way? Well, you see, sometimes I have dreams related to dinosaurs, and they are not pleasant dreams, you know?” Then Freud asked her to tell one of those dreams.
The dream she told was so terrifying that, before she finished telling it, Freud ran and hid in the corridor wardrobe. Puzzled, the woman went out to the corridor and knocked on the wardrobe. After a few moments, the wardrobe opened and Freud came out looking calm with a wobbly cigar between his lips. “I had forgotten my cigar in the pocket of the coat,” he apologized. When both returned to occupy their respective seats, Freud was ready to use his fine stiletto to enter the woman’s subconscious in search of some crouched dinosaur. The hunt was not an easy task, many sessions were required, until one day the hidden trauma came to light. By mere association of ideas, the woman had remembered an unpleasant situation experienced in her childhood. It turned out that on one occasion his governess had accompanied her to the Museum of Natural Sciences. There, in a large room, it was being exhibited the reconstructed skeleton of a tyrannosaurus rex. The governess looked up to admire the magnificence of the dinosaur’s head with its wide open mouth, when suddenly the bony jaws plummeted over the gaping governess, who was caught between the gigantic dentition. A large forceps was required to rescue her, and although she emerged unscathed, the image of her governess trapped between the teeth of the dinosaur was recorded forever in the subconscious memory of the patient.
This was perhaps the first indisputable success harvested by psychoanalysis, and both Freud and the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society saw their hitherto precarious position strengthened among the upper-middle class of Viennese society.