In his first description of the anal character Freud has said that certain neurotics present three particularly pronounced character-traits, namely, a love or orderliness which often develops into pedantry, a parsimony which easily turns to miserliness, and an obstinacy which may become an angry defiance. He established the fact that the primary pleasure in emptying the bowels and in its products was particularly emphasized in these persons, and also that after successful repression their coprophilia either becomes sublimated into pleasure in painting, modelling, and similar activities, or proceeds along the path of reaction-formation to a special love of cleanliness. Finally he pointed out the unconscious equivalence of fæces and money or other valuables. Among other observations Sadger has remarked that persons with a pronounced anal character are usually convinced that they can do everything better than other people. He also speaks of a contradiction in their character, namely, great perseverance side by side with the tendency to put off doing everything till the last moment.
We come across similar behaviour in some neurotics regarding defæcation, which they only allow to take place in refracta dosi. One special tendency these men and women have is to distribute food in portions according as they think best, and this habit occasionally assumes grotesque forms. For instance, there was a case of a stingy old man who fed his goat by giving it each blade of grass separately. Such people like to arouse desire and expectation in others and then to give then gratification in small and insufficient amounts.
Neurotics who wish to introduce their own system into everything are inclined to be exaggerated in their criticism of others, and this easily degenerates into mere carping. /…/ The original anal characteristic of self-will can, however, develop in two different directions, /…/
The opposite type has received very little consideration in psycho-analytical literature. There are certain neurotics who avoid taking any kind of initiative. /…/ They would like to lie quite still and let the physician do all the analytical work, or to be questioned by him.
The social behaviour of these persons is accordingly strongly bound up with money. They like to make presents of money or its equivalent, and tend to become patrons of the arts or benefactors of some kind. /…/
their perseverance is largely used in unproductive ways. They expend it, for instance, in the pedantic observance of fixed forms, so that in unfavourable cases their preoccupation with the external form outweighs their interst in the reality of the thing. /…/ postponing every action. /…/ a tendency to interrupt every activity that has been begun; /…/
More rarely I have found the reverse conduct. For instance, one of my patients was prevented from writing his doctor’s thesis through a long-standing resistance. /…/ he declared that he shrank from beginning his work because when he had once begun he could not leave off again. We are reminded of the behaviour of certain neurotics in regard to their excretions. They retain the contents of the bowel or bloadder as long as they possibly can. /…/ a double pleasure, that of holding back the execreta, and that of evacuating it. The essential difference between the two forms of pleasure lies in the protracted nature of the process in the one case, and in its rapid course in the other.
Time, it may be remembered, is likened to money in a familiar saying. Many neurotics are continually worrying over waste of time. It is only the time they spend alone or at their work that seems to them well employed. /…/ These are the people who tend to exhibit the “Sunday neuroses” described by Ferenczi, i.e. who cannot endure an interruption of their work./…/
Such patients frequently undertake two occupations at once in order to save time. They like, for example, to learn, read, or accomplish other tasks during defæcation.
Pleasure in indexing and classifying, in compiling lists and statistical summaries, in drawing up programmes and regulating work by time-sheets, is well known to be an expression of the anal character.
Excerpts from Karl Abraham, “Contributions to the theory of the anal character” (1921), in Selected papers on psycho-analysis