Or, again, the love of attention may be simply a sign of arrested development, a fixation of the Narcissistic period of childhood which loves to look at itself and make the world look. Or there may be lack of satisfaction of the normal adult love-life, a lack of the love and attention which the love-instinct naturally craves. If this instinct is not getting normal outlet, either directly through personal relationships or indirectly through a sublimated activity, what is more natural than that it should turn in on itself, dissociate its interest in other things and occupy itself with its own feelings, and at the same time secure the coveted attention through physical disability, with its necessity for special ministration?
In any case there is likely to develop a general overreaction to all outside stimulation, a hypersensitiveness to some particular kind of stimulus, or a chronic hysterical pain which somehow serves the personality in ways unknown to itself. No one “feels his feelings” unless, despite all discomfort, he really enjoys them. A hard statement to accept perhaps, but one that is repeatedly proved by a specialist in “nerves”!
=Accidental Association.= In many cases, the form which the sensitiveness takes is merely a matter of accident. Often it is based on some small physical disability, as when a slight tendency to take cold is magnified into an intense fear of fresh air.
Sometimes a past fleeting pain which has become associated with the stream of thought of an emotional moment—what Boris Sidis calls the moment-consciousness—is perpetuated in consciousness in place of the repressed emotion. “In the determination of the pathology of hysteria, the accidental moment plays a much greater part than is generally recognized; if a painful affect—emotion—originates while eating but is repressed, it may produce nausea and vomiting and continue for months as an hysterical symptom."
[Footnote 60: Freud: Selected Papers, p. 2.]
One of Freud’s patients, Miss Rosalie H——, found while taking singing-lessons that she often choked over notes of the middle register, although she took with ease notes higher and lower in the scale. It was revealed that this girl, who had a most unhappy home life, had, during a former period, often experienced this choking sensation from a painful emotion just before she went for her music lesson. Some of the left-over sensations had remained during the singing, and as the middle notes happen to involve the same muscles as does a lump in one’s throat, she had often found herself choking over these notes. Later on, while living in a different city and in a wholly different environment, the physical sensations from her throat muscles, as they took these middle notes, brought back the associated sensations of choking,—without, however, uncovering the buried emotion. Many a painful hysterical affliction is based on just such mechanisms as these. As Freud remarks, “The hysteric suffers mostly from reminiscences."