Typos p. 74: Op, cit. [= Op. cit.]; p. 80: Op, cit. [= Op. cit.]; p. 81: Sexualwissenchaft [= Sexualwissenachaft]; p. 82: coprolangia [= coprolagnia]; p. 87: The Child [= The Child]
Only when the child displays his curiosity concerning phenomena which our society regards as tabu, does it arouse anxiety in parents who neither expect such behaviour nor understand it. For it may, and generally does, lead to what Dr. Pfister calls "inspectionism" a tendency closely to examine, and if possible manipulate, his own genitalia and those of other children, including, of course, his brothers and sisters.
Often the opportunity for the attentive scrutiny of the nudity or genitalia of adults may by accident or inadvertence be vouchsafed the child, in which case he will readily seize it. For his interest in "that side of life" is always lively, and Susan Isaacs is able to speak of "the intense desire of small children to see what the genitals of adults are like." (Op, cit. p. 339). According to her, all children feel it, and this belief is shared by most of her fellow-psychologists.
My own view is that the evil consequences of such manifestations of curiosity are usually much exaggerated even by the experts. Ignorant parents, however, who have forgotten their own childhood, always grossly overrate their gravity, and are likely to make the child who first brings them face to face with the phenomenon of sexual curiosity pay much too dearly for their horrified astonishment.
Dr. Pfister is, I think, among the experts who incline too pessimistically in the direction of such parents, and I cannot see my way to follow him. His religious calling may perhaps be not unconnected with this attitude.
He says of three children, for instance, who were allowed to play together quite naked, that "they all became neuro-
I do not dispute the learned doctor's facts. I merely suggest that most probably other factors were also instrumental in bringing about the evil consequences he found in the above cases, and that, at all events, the conclusions we draw from his examples may be too alarmist. Was not the real trouble, perhaps, the manner in which the situations were handled by the adults concerned, or else the general atmosphere in the homes where they occurred?
I am prepared to go a long way with Dr. Pfister in deprecating a too early sight of male nudity by little girls and, if the reader is interested in a personal point of view, I may tell him that, had I little daughters of my own, I should take careful steps to prevent their having this experience until they had got safely past their tenth or eleventh birthday. For I have in my three score and more years of life invariably found that women who, as children, had been spared, whether by accident or design, an early view of male nudity a view before their fifth to seventh years were always psychologically better adapted, more balanced, and more normal (healthy) in their outlook on life and the management of their fellows than women who had not been thus spared. But this is only my private opinion. Inferentially it does, however, find some support in the relevant literature (see, for instance, Freud: Kleine Schriften zur Sexualtheorie, Vienna, 1931, pp. 207227 and elsewhere; also Helene Deutsch; Psychoanalyse der Weiblichen Sexualfunktionen, Vienna, 1925, pp. 1322, and her Psychology of Women, London, 1946, Vol. I, Ch. VIII and others).
Helene Deutsch, although of the opinion that no woman is spared the genital trauma of penis envy, which most authorities, herself included, regard as a cause of disturbances in
Apart from this one reservation, I should be inclined to treat the whole phenomenon of sex curiosity and sex-play in children much more lightly than it is usually treated. But I shall return to this.
There are just two more questions connected with sex which may now be dealt with. I refer to exhibitionism and masturbation.
Exhibitionism, which primitively manifests itself, even in monkeys, by the practice of exposing bodily parts, especially the sexual organs, to the view of onlookers, is, to my mind, a perfectly normal component of the psycho-physical equipment of human beings. The fact that, by becoming separated from its natural context in the life of the individual, it may become an abnormal feature in his or her behaviour, I do not doubt for a moment. But to suppose that, together with its counterpart, "voyeurism," it may not be noticeable without pathological accentuation, seems to me unwarranted.
In attenuated form in human beings, exhibitionism
Nor are children usually deprived of this enjoyment. As Susan Isaacs declares, they "very commonly are given this delight," and she refers in this connection to the adults who congregate around a young child when it is taking its bath.
Of course, under the influence of the stubbornly held Wordsworthian standpoint, there can be little doubt that this is now much overdone, and exhibitionist feelings of triumph and delight are indulged in the young which they too often try to recapture in later life by practices and methods which become objectionable. Indiscreet, assiduous and admiring attention bestowed on children by adults is now so much de rigueur that probably few children in the modern world wholly escape an early twist in the direction of separating exhibitionism from its normal context, and thereby reach adult years with a tendency to self-assertive and self-advertizing behaviour which, in an adult, is merely tiresome.
Unfortunately, too, this tendency may lead to much graver results, as our police court news constantly reminds us.
But in all these cases, we are confronted with a natural and perfectly harmless endowment that has been perverted by unwise handling in the first years of life. Protected from this unwise handling, however, exhibitionism and its counterpart voyeurism are not to be apprehended; and even when children are led by these tendencies to exhibit their genital parts to each other which they will do in secrecy if they can (according to Susan Isaacs up to the age of six or seven years) the matter should not be taken too tragically except in regard to the little girls concerned.
Thus, when Dr. Pfister appears to condemn "inspection-
Perhaps I can best elucidate the matter by again describing my own position regarding the problem which I acknowledge is not held by all the authorities. I first dealt with it in 1927, in my Man: An Indictment, and although I have done much fresh reading in psychology since that date, and had all the added opportunities of observation which the intervening years have afforded, I can now see no reason to alter the views I then stated.
Briefly they are as follows:
Exhibitionism is a normal component of the female, and voyeurism a normal component of the male, psyche. The two are complementary. I submit that both these findings can be confirmed by a careful study of the lower animals and by an attentive observation of men and women. Helene Deutsch comes to the same conclusion in her Psychology of Women (See Vol. I. p. 189).
Provided that neither of these tendencies becomes separated from the normal sexual context in which it is ordinarily active, both may be regarded as natural and harmless.
As, however, human beings are hardly ever found wholly male or female, the behaviour resulting from exhibitionism and voyeurism is often not too sharply defined in individuals of either sex. But even a little overlapping of each into the behaviour of the sex foreign to it need not necessarily cause alarm, provided it is not so very much pronounced as to smother and obliterate the normal component.
Only when a girl or woman becomes obsessionally voyeuse and a boy or a man obsessionally exhibitionist, does the phenomenon justify anxiety, for then we must expect those types of behaviour which in trams, trains, public places, and children's playgrounds, cause men to be arrested for indecent exposure; and around urinals, bathing ma-
In both sexes, however, a marked accentuation of the other sex's normal component is so often successfully sublimated that numbers of aberrant men and women of this type may end their lives not only unsuspected of any abnormality, but also looked on as brilliant and famous performers in the callings by which they sublimated it.
Ballet-dancing, acting, preaching and lecturing may all constitute successful sublimations of exhibitionism in men; whilst, in women, scientific research, the graphic and plastic arts, and even medicine may play a similar rôle with voyeurism.
Nevertheless, there are certainly many more men and women who make themselves a nuisance than who make themselves famous by the aberrant component they display, and thus the early manifestations of these two normal components of the sexual instinct should be carefully watched and, in any case, certainly not exorbitantly fostered as they often are to-day. For it is hardly necessary to point out that people can make themselves a very great nuisance socially by an over-emphasis either of exhibitionism or voyeurism, without actually going to the length of criminal acts.
Turning now to masturbation, if we are to judge from the frequency with which the fact is mentioned in all books on child psychology and child development, it seems as if everybody should know by now that little children often masturbate. Their curiosity, by leading them to examine every part of their body with interest, ends in their attempting manipulation of the sex organs and then to some auto-erotic activity.
"This is hardly ethical"?
No! But as in these pages we have long ceased to expect ethical conduct in little children, we cannot be surprised.
Nevertheless, it is my opinion that, in so far as masturbation of the very young is concerned i.e., of children up to
It was Dr. Hirschfeld's belief that the practice was not infrequent (nicht ganz selten) up to the age of six; that it then abated and was much less frequent between six and ten years of age, only to become widespread between ten and fourteen (Geschlechtskunde, Vol. I, p. 247). This confirms my own experience, together with the conclusions that may be drawn from the literature and, in view of Dr. Hirschfeld's wide erudition in sexology, it is probably correct.
Nevertheless, it is well to bear in mind that many authorities, especially in the psycho-analytical school of psychology, believe it to be much more common, especially in little girls. Susan Isaacs, for instance, declares that "the general experience of psycho-analysts is . . . that masturbation is actually more frequent and more commonly of a compulsive type in little girls than little boys." (Op, cit. p. 345). Nor does the experience of field ethnologists seem to show that the children of primitive races are any more free than civilized children from this practice. Margaret Mead, for instance to mention only one of them reports from Samoa that nearly every little girl masturbates from the age of six or
The chief objection to viewing pre-puberal masturbation with complete equanimity and to taking no measures against it consists, in my opinion, in the danger of fixation, i.e., a holding fast to the habit and prolonging it over Hirschfeld's neutral period (six to ten years of age) into puberty and beyond. This appears to have been Freud's view also (Kleine Schriften, p. 236). At all events, that an investigator as well-informed as Freud considered this one of the principal dangers of masturbation in young children ought to weigh heavily against treating it too unconcernedly.
As to adolescent, or post-puberal, masturbation, although it hardly comes into the scope of this treatise, I should only like to point out that, in my opinion, under the influence of a large number of prominent psychologists in recent years Stekel above all there has arisen much too much complacency in the public mind regarding this evil.
It is certainly true, as many have pointed out, that the gravity of the consequences of adolescent masturbation have been grossly exaggerated, and few any longer believe that it may be the cause of tabes, paralysis, etc. But to say, as Stekel and many of his imitators do, that "the physical detriments of masturbation are about zero" (Sexual Aberrations, Vol. II, p. 345) is, to my mind, nonsense. For none of these people, who decry the old pessimistic school of moralists on account of their attitude to adolescent masturbation, deny that it may have grave psychological consequences. To mention only one of these, there is, for instance, almost complete unanimity regarding its possible culmination in male impotence and female frigidity.
Even if we had no other grounds than the fact that adolescent masturbation, as Freud has shown, is an immature form of sexual activity, carried into riper years by fixation, we might still, I submit, claim that it has deleterious physical effects.
At all events, regarding the danger of adverse psychological consequences in adolescent masturbation, all are agreed, and any disagreement that may still exist between the authorities in this matter relates only to the kind of disturbances to be expected.
I do not propose to enter into the question of coprolangia, coprophilia and coprophagia in child life. These matters will be found discussed in the relevant treatises accessible to any adult who wishes to study them. It was Freud's opinion that every infant is a polymorphous pervert, so that there is no end to the aberrations. René Guyon, in Sex Life and Sex Ethics, p. 322, takes the view that coprophilic tendencies are "much more natural than might at first be supposed"; whilst R. E. Money-Kyrle, in The Development of the Sexual Impulses, pp. 150151, speaks of children being "liable to pass through a coprophagic stage." But it is my belief that these perversions are not of very great importance in the life of the average child, for a majority of children so vast seem to recover wholly from the phase that may display them (and with little trouble on the part of their educators) that they cannot be looked upon as serious
After all, as I indicated in my first chapter, my intention in this book was not to supersede or to extend the long list of books already published on child-psychology and child-education, but merely to try to establish certain general principles, not found elsewhere, regarding both child-nature, the reasons for exorbitant adult child-adulation, and the means whereby the evils resulting from such child-adulation may be removed from our methods and doctrines of child-education. As, however, I had to justify in the eyes of the average, uninformed reader, the claims I make in my second and third chapters concerning child-nature and the common misunderstandings about it, it was necessary to enter briefly into some of the more reliable data we now possess on the subject. This was all the more desirable, seeing that some of this data will serve me in good stead as illustrations when I come to discuss discipline and the best ways of dealing with many of the more difficult problems of child-training.
But before closing this much abridged catalogue of the child's more "amiable" traits to use Rousseau's romantic epithet I must deal with the important problem of children's proneness to falsehood.
In keeping with other mythical fancies that persist as stubbornly as weeds in our civilization, and which all probably derive from the same original view of child-nature which I examined in my early chapters, it is not surprising to find an old English proverb to the effect that "children and fools cannot lie." This has a German equivalent which
Why is this?
The reasons for it are worth investigating. But first of all it may be as well to make quite clear what is meant by "speaking the truth"; for there is much misunderstanding rife concerning this virtuous habit even in adults.
It is not as widely appreciated as it should be, for instance, that the world would be much less improved than many suppose if all people felt bound on all occasions to speak what is called the "truth." The validity of this statement will be more easily grasped if we start out by asking ourselves what is the value of the average man, or woman's truth? Supposing everybody in our circle began to-morrow to speak only the truth, what should we be given?
Judging from all we know of our average fellow creatures very little. For, after all, there can be only a very few people in anybody's circle whose "truth" would be in the least enlightening or informative. And this has been abundantly proved by the various plays produced during my lifetime, the action of which turned on this theme. What happened in these plays?
All I could discover was that the various characters went' through their three Acts not pronouncing any truth that was arresting or memorable, but simply passing uninteresting personal remarks which, in ordinary conventional company, are held to be better left unspoken. Strewn over the dialogue were such outbursts as these:
"Oh Mary, your hat's not straight!" or "Oh father, you
When we come to reflect, however, this kind of truth is about the only kind of spontaneous truth-telling of which the average person is capable. Is it not far better for all concerned, therefore, that the average person should not feel it incumbent upon him or her always to speak the truth in the form of spontaneous utterance? Was it not wise, on the part of those who first established the ritual of social life, to have made it plain that such truth-telling was not expected of ordinary people?
By all means exact spontaneous truth from the sage in your midst, or from your doctor, lawyer, stockbroker or plumber, and from anyone likely to shed interesting light on any problem. But to expect it of the average man and woman would mean only that manners would become even more deplorable than they are already. Far better for most people if early in life they acquire a technique of polite spontaneous falsehood and stick to it through thick and thin.
But there is another kind of truth-telling. It is of the non-spontaneous variety and may be called reactive or responsive. As a habit this is much more difficult to acquire than the former which, as we have seen, usually amounts to mere insolence.
This kind of truth-telling is concerned with framing a veracious reply to a definite or implied question.
Now we feel a natural pleasure when we find that, in answer to a direct question, or an inquiry merely implied, we receive an accurate reply, especially when we ask people to surrender some knowledge to us which we know them to possess, or suspect them of possessing, on which we depend for some purpose of our own, which may or may not be connected with the person we question.
Strange to say, however, in these circumstances, accuracy will usually be found wanting, or most difficult to inspire
I agree with Captain Liddell Hart when he says, "I have come to think that accuracy, in the deepest sense, is the basic virtue the foundation of understanding, supporting the promise of progress." But he makes this remark in a little book teeming with examples of inaccuracy on the part of men of the highest rank and in the most responsible positions in the nation. He also points out that "nothing has aided the persistence of falsehood, and the evils resulting from it, more than the unwillingness of good people to admit the truth when it was disturbing to their comfortable assurance." (Why Don't We Learn From History? pp. 41 and 11 respectively)
If then we find the adult wishful thinker and the person incapable of accuracy so plentiful in our population; if we find high placed people in responsible and honourable positions ready to misrepresent facts when they would, if accurately given, tell against those who are misrepresenting them, what can we expect of children? Is a child, because it is a child, to be more truthful than our elder statesmen, or than our prominent politicians or diplomats?
To expect a child, especially one of imagination and emotional depth, to be accurate is, I submit, ridiculous. To expect him to be truthful about any matter of which we know he is well aware, but concerning which he may have desires in a direction inconsistent with the truth, is likely to be as disappointing as would be a similar expectation in regard to any adult wishful thinker of our acquaintance. Whilst to expect him to tell us the truth about any matter
But although this is always true in the political sphere, it is not, as I shall show in a later chapter, always true of the child. Taking the average parent and adult as we now find him or her, however, it is a more or less invariable rule.
It is the opinion of many child-psychologists that all children lie if they see the need to, and I believe that, generally speaking, this view is probably correct. "All children tell untruths at sometime or other," says Susan Isaacs (The Nursery Years, p. 57) and Dr. G. Stanley Hall declared that "some forms of the habit of lying are so prevalent among young children that all illustrations of it . . . seem trite and commonplace." (Chamberlain, The Child, p. 382). Naomi Norsworthy and Mary T. Whitley, in The Psychology of Childhood, p. 282, with more reserve claim only that "a majority of children probably take to lying in some form or other."
As already indicated, however, the same might with equal justice be said of adults in all stations of life, from the highest to the lowest, from Archbishops to cardsharpers.
With the customary romanticism peculiar to popular authors, whose success depends on the pleasant feelings they evoke in their readers, both Harold Nicolson and Arthur Bryant have lauded the "truthfulness" of English people. The former says: "The English race has always, and with justification, prided itself upon a scrupulous regard for truth." (Tennyson, p. 244), and the latter says: "The Englishman seldom flinches from speaking the truth. . . . We have always had a singular contempt for a liar in England." (The National Character, p. 78). Does everyone in England, then, despise his neighbour? For it is the opinion of that generally truthful man, John Stuart Mill, that the "working classes are generally liars." (Auto-
Moreover, in the matter of truth and falsehood, especially in relation to the child, it is important to remember the child's constantly defensive attitude vis-à-vis of his giants. We have seen that he is out to beat or dominate them if he can, and I include among these giants even the most loving parents. John Locke, to whom very little about childhood appears to have remained hidden, pointed this out almost three hundred years before the New Psychology was thought of; for, in his Thoughts Concerning Education (Section 103), he says: children love "Dominion" and "this Love of Power and Dominion shews itself very early." (See also Sections 104 and 105). If, therefore, a psychologist and philosopher as benevolent and charitable as Alfred Adler, and one as sympathetic to children as he was, could declare (Understanding Human Nature, p. 34) that the child's chief purpose is "to dominate those who are gathered about him," we may as well accept the fact, unpalatable though it may be.
For if and when circumstances arise in which the child sees his way to increase, or at most to retain, his dominion
Thus, as we have seen, the child starts out in life wholly under the influence of the Pleasure Principle. His only wisdom is to follow its promptings. And, since in seeking to gratify the appetites and express the impulses of his primitive nature, he is subject to no innate check in the exercise of his will, he follows the line of least resistance in fulfilling his desires.
With no knowledge of the world he has entered, he is dependent on the adults about him for every particle of information regarding it. It is they who have gradually to impart to him the knowledge he lacks, and, from the earliest years, almost to the last year of his adolescence, the process of imparting this knowledge consists largely in opposing to his Pleasure Principle the Principle of Reality, or what Susan Isaacs calls "the sense of reality."
As he develops, the conflict between the two principles should naturally wane. Most severe in the earliest, it should slowly diminish in severity and ultimately vanish in the later years.
Experience, alone, often gained at great cost, can teach him to adjust his Pleasure Principle to the Reality Principle that will fit him for life among his fellows. But, for the very reason that this process of adjustment is most difficult and fateful in the first years, it is the period of infancy and early childhood that psychologists regard as the most important in the formation of his character and the furnishing of his mind. This was a fact recognized by Erasmus over four hundred years ago (See his De Pueris statim ac liberaliter instituendis 495B496A translated by Rychard Sherry, and given in Prof. W. H. Woodward's Desiderius Erasmus). Nor did John Locke, who wrote a century later, differ substantially from him; for in Some Thoughts Concerning Education, he is
Frank Howard Richardson, referring to the first six years of life, declares: "In these years are formed the main 'character trends.' These will have set or solidified in their permanent moulds, by the end of this time, and nothing that we can do, later in life, will ever undo the harm that neglect and faulty environment and harmful influences have wrought during the first plastic years." (Parenthood and the Newer Psychology, p. 77), Dorothy Burlingham and Anna Freud, in Infants Without Families, p. 107, speak of the "overwhelming importance of the first five years of life." The authors of the Psychology of Childhood, p. 188, express similar views. In fact, on this matter, there is hardly a dissentient voice. All, from Erasmus to Freud, agree that the first four or five years of life are, educationally, the most decisive; for although Dr. Pfister disagrees with Freud about the years in which character is chiefly determined, he admits that" the early impressions are the most important of all." (Op. cit. p. 120). As to Adler, he is quite definite, at least on the matter of the origin of neuroses; for he says: "We can always trace the first source of a neurosis back to the first and second years of life." (Praxis und Theorie der Individual Psychologie, p. 42); whilst elsewhere he says: "A child's style of life is usually determined by the time he is four or five years old." (The Education of Children, p. 135).
Summing up the authoritative standpoint, Guilfoyle Williams remarks that "the general pattern of behaviour is laid down in the first five to seven years." (Op. cit. pp. 43 and 296).
Mishandling a child, or bringing it up wrongly, amounts,
A soldier issued with the kit and equipment for a life in Iceland, when his actual destination is the tropics, could not be more cruelly hoaxed than hundreds of thousands of our children are to-day, whose parents, yielding to corrupt instincts and impulses, unguided by sound knowledge, and themselves half or three-quarters still under the dominion of the Pleasure Principle, undertake the rearing of a family, and the piloting of their offspring through the shoals on the shore of life.
How can they, who are themselves still preponderatingly infantile i.e., still governed by the Pleasure Principle oppose to that principle in their children the "sense of reality" which the latter will need for their adult life?
Milton maintained that "a compleat and generous Education" was "that which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully and magnanimously all the offices both private and public of Peace and War." (Tractate on Education, 1673). But at this stage in our history, we are content and should indeed be proud, if we can rear a child to become a just, skilful and magnanimous private citizen; or, in the words of Mr. Harry McNicol, if we can equip the individual "with understanding and skill, so that he will have right attitudes to and facility in the manipulation of his environment." (History, Heritage and Environment, p. 43).
For the task is no simple one!
The adjustment of the Pleasure Principle in the young child to the Reality Principle which will fit him to become a capable, well-behaved and normal member of society, is in every sense a training in character and in an elaborate technique. He must learn not only to handle himself decently, but also to handle his fellows in a manner acceptable to them.
Had we in our hands an invalid in the ordinary sense, we should, however, in our task of restoring him to strength, be confronted by problems essentially similar, though greatly simplified, to those we encounter in the training of an infant. But we should approach them in a mood and manner so different that the parallel eludes us.
In the first place, we should neither be nor feel alone, but have an expert, a medical man, controlling our actions at every stage. We should, thus, be in a more humble and modest temper than we usually are in undertaking the task of making the child valid for our society.
Secondly, we should not feel that our own behaviour and the example it presented to the invalid every hour of the day were vital factors in preparing him for normal life. Thus we should not regard it as incumbent upon us to observe any strict self-discipline before applying the doctor's instructions to the invalid.
Thirdly, we should not feel the invalid, qua invalid, in any sense our superior. On the contrary, as "valid" members of our circle, we should, if the question arose at all, consider ourselves, for the duration of his sickness, superior to the invalid.
Fourthly, we should not be necessarily emotionally related to him, but carry out our duties in a detached spirit, thinking only of the end in view the complete rehabilitation of the sick person, his restoration to social validity. No matter what disciplines we imposed, therefore, these would be instantly accepted by the invalid as intended to serve his best interests.
Fifthly, we should display no impatience, irritability or anger at any set-backs, relapses, or retarded progress. We might show that we deplored these untoward phases in the
This brief summary of the aspects in which nursing back to health an invalid in the ordinary sense is simpler than the rearing of a child to validity in our society will help those chiefly interested to appreciate not only the radical similarity of the two tasks, but also the importance in child-training of approximating as closely as possible to the mood and manner of the invalid's attendant.
The analogy is by no means perfect. But I submit that it is sufficiently close to suggest many essential principles to the potential parent or parent substitute.
The factors that complicate the task of child-training, some of which are implied in the above summary, are as follows:
First, the errors examined in the early chapters of this work, plus those likely to handicap the parent in particular, which I shall examine next in order, all of which, at bottom, are as unessential to the parental attitude as they are to that of the sick-room nurse.
By way of emphasizing the most important of these, we may recall the superlative error of starting out with the notion that the child is in some mysterious and heavenly way superior to the adult. Added to this, we shall see below that, embedded in European lore, is also the belief that the child is in some mysterious way wiser than the adult.
Secondly, the fact that parents cannot escape a profoundly emotional relationship to the child they are rearing. It is this fact above all which makes it difficult for them to maintain a sufficiently detached attitude to keep the ultimate aim the preparation of the child for Reality always clearly in view.
What trump cards the adult holds in his hand to play
Before concluding these chapters on the child, I must, however, discuss a matter which figures prominently in all expert treatises dealing with the etiology of complexes, and the first five to six years of life in relation to it. I refer to the much ventilated and vexed question of the importance of psychogenic traumata (usually of a sexual origin) and their rôle in the creation of neuroses in later life.
It will occur to the informed reader that I have dealt but incidentally and by no means elaborately with this aspect of infant and child life, and the omission may strike him as singular. Truth to tell it is deliberate and the outcome of an attitude, based on observation and study, which I have assumed for over twenty years. All this while I have departed conspicuously from the prevailing and authoritative view of psychogenic traumata, although I published my chief objection to it only in 1934.
I am convinced that the gravity of such shocks as the infant and child are alleged to receive when, for instance, they are inadvertently allowed to witness their parents' conjugal relations, or obtain a glimpse of their parents' or their siblings' genitalia, or when little boys, caught masturbating, are threatened with having their penes cut off (Stekel mentions a case of this in Nervöse Angstzustände und ihre Behandlung, p. 317), etc., I say I am convinced that the gravity of such shocks has been overrated by most of the experts, because I have satisfied myself that, as a general rule, their morbid sequels in the form of neuroses, etc., are contingent on the predisposition and general health, or otherwise, of the infant or child concerned. Especially, as
Having published this opinion and carefully elaborated it as early as 1934, I was naturally not unpleased when five years later in the course of reviewing The Technique of Analytical Psychology by Wilhelm Stekel, I discovered that this eminent authority wholly supported me. He says, for instance: "For years I have held that sexual traumata are of little importance per se, and are only made into traumata by the parapath concerned. . . . A sexual trauma has a psychogenic effect only in persons with a peculiar mental temperament and particular predisposition. . . . For such traumata are exceedingly common, and yet we can rarely show that they have had anything to do with the causation of parapathy. We see children that have experienced several traumata, but remain perfectly healthy." (Op. cit. p. 373).
The last two points made by Stekel were those chiefly responsible for the formation of my opinion on the subject, as I show in my Choice of a Mate. Thus, the whole question really boils down to maintaining one's health in adult years, i.e., if one is not seriously predisposed to neurotic troubles; and this was the conclusion I arrived at in 1934.