The Story of “Little Hands”
In its most simple interpretation, Freud’s classic study of “Little Hans,” a five year-old boy, develops a phobia of horses. Freud attributes this development to the fear of his father (the horse) exacting retribution on him (through castration) because of the boy’s fantasized desires for the mother, which developed because he witnessed the parents having sex. The resolution of “Little Han’s” problem came from his identifying with the father’s aggression (can’t beat’em, join’em!). In doing this, the boy is able to ultimately relinquish the fantasy of “having” the mother. This is classic Oedipal Complex stuff.
Our story of “LITTLE HANDS” is a story of profound narcissism. This boy most likely felt devalued and humiliated as a child and was made to feel helpless. If “Little Hands” had been afraid of horses, the response of the parents would more likely have been to humiliate and devalue him for his fears. “What kind of boy are you?” “You are no son of mine if you act that way.” “You are an embarrassment to your family and will never amount to anything.” These responses deeply humiliated “Little Hands;” and the parents lack of empathy and belittling of his emotional experiences would traumatize a developing child. Au contraire, in good enough parenting, vulnerability is understood, failure is accepted and emotional experiences are validated. Children internalize these caring responses, and then in turn, learn to develop empathy for themselves and others.
This was not the case for “Little Hands.” Instead, he grew up in a world that made him feel small, ineffective and powerless. Empathy was lacking and the rage he felt from this treatment found no resolution because his father was too menacing. So in “Little Hands case he became the aggressor, a master at humiliating others.
So how does this shape “Little Hands”.
His underlying sense of powerlessness and his terror of connecting to the humiliation he experienced, make him unable to tolerate losing, failure or allow the acknowledgement any flaw. His need to be “great” for everything to be “great” and everyone else to be pathetic losers, is his way of doing battle on a daily basis within a world that on an unconscious level threatens to humiliate him, make him feel small. (THINK: How many weeks did he persist in tweeting about his hands!)
This is why any criticism is met with an immediate devaluation of the criticizer. (THINK: The battle with Mr. Kahn and most recently Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep.) Devaluing them elevates him, which is the antidote to his panic about having no value. His incessant need to claim his financial worth is just a sad statement about how worthless he really feels. His need to protect himself from feeling small is reflexive: he always has to come out on top. (THINK: How it needles him that despite being president his psyche cannot tolerate that he lost the popular vote and his ways of re-imagining reality by saying that millions of people vote illegally! If being president isn’t enough to validate him, what ever could?)
For “Little Hands’” pathological lying is necessary in order to rearrange reality to aggrandize him and re -establish the image of who he is; this is essential to his emotional survival.
This is not a man who can change. He is desperate to discard any evidence of imperfection and to protect himself from the reality that he is small and insignificant. His lack of curiosity is astounding and he is not open to learning new things because “he knows more than the generals about ISIS.” He is an expert on everything, though knows so little. Belittling and devaluing others (John McCain, the disable reporter) as well as exacting revenge sustain him, demanding adoration and loyalty are the products of his underlying smallness. The armor defending him from being exposed as “Little Hands” is so deep that it is impenetrable. This is not a man you want running a country. Your turn Sigmund!