Fears and Phobias in Child Analysis

Catherine Vanier

A little boy of 6 said to me recently, “The only monsters I’m afraid of are the ones I love. And children really do love monsters. They all play at being one or inventing one. They try to dominate them, tame them, look like them, and sometimes, during uncontrollable drive outbursts, they change into monsters themselves. Max, the boy whose story Maurice Sendak tells us in WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, is overcome by his devouring wish to act like an animal , to the point where Sendak draws him disguised as a wolf. He provokes, disobeys, and gets angry, finally threatening to eat his mother up. He is punished, sent to his room alone and without dinner.

Abandoned and deprived of food, the monstrous wolf is furious with his monstrous parents . Alone, he hoists the sails of a ship that takes him to an imaginary country, a country inhabited by terrifying creatures who welcome and acknowledge him, crowning him king of the monsters . After playing the role of their leader for a long time, Max grows tired of them and decides to send them to bed without supper the way his parents just did. He wants to go back, but the monsters are sad and beg, “Oh please don’t go—we’ll eat you up—we love you so!” But the little boy firmly rejects their devouring love and returns to his room.

In this way the monsters that frighten him are mastered, just as the drive impulse in him is mastered. He then abandons his wolf disguise, since, as was the case with his parents anger had transformed him into a monster, and he finds his room and his dinner once again. He is reconciled with his parents and with himself.

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