Again, it is occasionally a subject of complaint that children will apparently dislike their father, that they will shrink from him or burst into tears whenever he approaches them. There is no need to see in this the child’s jealousy of the father as a rival in the affections of his mother, which is the explanation proffered by the school of Freud. Every action and every occupation of the child during the whole day can be made a pleasure or a pain to him, according to the attitude of his nurse and mother towards it. Eating and drinking should be pleasant and are normally pleasant. The same forces which are sufficient to make every meal-time a signal for struggling and tears, are sufficient to produce this dislike, apparently so invincible, to the father of his being.
Although the nervous troubles of infancy are not commonly due, as Freud and his numerous followers would have us believe, to suppressed sexual desires or experiences, it is clear that in the sensitive mind of the child the reception of a severe shock may have effects long after the memory of it has disappeared from consciousness. In a medical journal there was recently recounted the case of an officer of the R.A.M.C. who all his life had suffered from claustrophobia—the fear of being shut up in a closed space. By skilful questioning, the remembrance of a terrifying incident in his childhood was regained. As a child of five he had been shut in a passage in a strange house by the accidental banging to of a door, unable to escape from the attentions of a growling dog. A complete cure was said to follow upon the discovery that in this incident lay the origin of the phobia. Nevertheless, observation would lead me to lay the greater stress not upon any one particular shocking or terrifying experience, but upon the attitude of parents and nurses in focusing the child’s attention upon the danger, and in sapping his confidence by showing their own apprehensions and communicating them to him.
As a method of treatment for neuroses of childhood, psycho-analysis is not only unsuccessful, it has dangers and produces ill effects which far outweigh any advantage which may be gained from it.
There can be no doubt that Freud has exaggerated the part which sexual impulses play in causing neurosis. It will be sufficient for us to recognise that for the nervous child the sexual life has especial dangers, and we should redouble our efforts to prevent his ideas on the subject becoming “polarised.” For the child whose environment has been well regulated and who has developed strength of character, self-control, and self-respect, there need be no fear.
THE NERVOUS CHILD AND SCHOOL