Rescue Fantasies

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In "A Special Type of Choice of Object Made by Men" (1910h), Sigmund Freud describes a type of man who repeatedly falls in love with a woman who is "of bad repute sexually" and "to whom another man can claim right of possession." What is striking in such men is "the urge they show to 'rescue ' the woman they love."

Freud interprets the fantasy of rescue in light of the Oedipus complex: The boy initially believes his mother to be a saint and refuses to accept, when he begins to become aware of sexual relations between adults, that his parents could behave in such a way. When the boy accepts this, the figure of the mother switches from that of the saint to that of the whore; the child is jealous of the father and regrets that the mother has not preferred him instead. "[H]e comes, as we say, under the dominance of the Oedipus complex," and if "these impulses do not quickly pass, there is no outlet for them other than to run their course in fantasies: that of saving the beloved woman in order to win her love and obtain a baby from her, and, as a reaction to his hostility toward the father, the fantasy of saving him from a life-threatening danger by some heroic action.

Freud concludes this article by evoking imaginary scenes in which the mother is saved from drowning, a symbolic translation of the birth of a child. The following year, he added a brief reference to this theme in the 1911 edition of The Interpretation of Dreams. He returned to the topic at greater length in "Dreams and Telepathy" (1922a).

Although this theme is often encountered in clinical practice, it does not seem to have been further elaborated either in Freud's work or thereafter.

Roger Perron

See also: Fantasy.


Freud, Sigmund. (1910h). A special type of choice of object made by men. SE, 11: 165-175.

. (1922a). Dreams and telepathy. SE, 18: 195-220.