Psychological Self-Help

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68
Unconscious causes of fears
If exaggerated conscious thoughts of terrible consequences can
cause fears, why can't unconscious "thoughts" or urges cause fears?
This is speculation but worth understanding. The origin of many fears
is mysterious. A fear of knives is fairly common but the person doesn't
usually know the source. Hauck (1975) had a patient who looked for
worms, snakes, and bugs between the sheets and under her bed every
night for months. Freud described a famous case, Little Hans, a 5-
year-old boy who had a great fear of white horses with black mouths.
Where did these fears come from? 
Many persons, who develop such a fear of knives that they can't go
into the kitchen or have to throw away all their knives, often have a
very stressful relationship with someone. It may not be conscious, but
it is easy to speculate that inside somewhere there is a fear of losing
control over their anger or self-destruction. The knife phobia is
symbolic of the stress caused by anger underneath the conscious
surface. A person afraid of bugs and worms in bed may have had a
traumatic, dirty, disgusting sexual experience, part of which has been
repressed. Suppose a young person is sexually approached by an older
person; the young person may repress their own sexual interests and
the resulting guilt may surface as a phobia of bugs or ugly crawlies in
bed. Actually, the specific phobia may spread to a variety of things--
older people, specific places (like a woods), of sex with anyone, etc. 
After gathering 140 pages of information from Little Hans's father,
Freud believed that Little Hans unconsciously feared his father, which
got displaced to horses. What was the evidence? It was complicated
and fascinating. Read Freud. It basically involved the Oedipus
Complex. Little Hans liked getting into bed with his mother early in the
morning. He had a fascination at age 3 with his, his father's, his
mother's, and animals' sexual parts. His mother had told him his penis
would be cut off if he played with it. Also, Little Hans had seen pans of
blood after his little sister was born. Not long afterwards, he learned
that his mother had no penis, although he had told her he thought she
would have a big one "like a horse." One can see how Little Hans or
any child might think of the 3-year-old equivalent of "castration
anxiety." 
Little Hans also became very jealous of the attention given to his
little sister (sibling rivalry). He wished she had not been born. And he
started to fear (wish?) that his father would leave and never come
home. Obviously, Little Hans was very troubled. But how did he get a
fear of horses? Consider the ego defenses described above. Surely the
competition and hostility towards the father would be scary and be
repressed. His own resentment towards the father might be projected
to the father: "I hate him" becomes "he hates me" and wants to hurt
me. The unconscious hostile impulses towards the competitor (the
father) may seek expression in some way, some reasonably safe way--
through symbols or dreams. It's too scary to think consciously about
fighting with his father and being hurt, perhaps castrated, but he can
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