It sometimes occurs that victims of aggression in childhood are prone to experience similar victimization as adults. The process is known as revictimization. It has been found that child victims of sexual abuse are at higher risk of sexual assault in adulhood.
This brings me to the subject of Adele, Edgar and Ronnie. Ronnie was the brother of Adele. Poor Ronnie was triangulated in the romantic relationship between Adele and her husband, Edgar.
In some sense Edgar was a harassment ringleader in the trio, corralling Adele into sadistic games to taunt Ronnie. Uncannily, Ronnie was a victim of job harassment in adulthood, a situation in which a harassment ringleader corralled other employees into noxious pranks.
One wonders whether the adult victimization was in fact a revictimization.
In the summer of 1966 when Ronnie was 12 years old, Edgar and Adele had contrived a the following scheme. Adele was in possession of a little book. She and Edgar sexualized the book, making it appear that the book appealed to prurient interests — something that Ronnie would want to see. Edgar and Adele engaged in a whispering duet, leafing through the pages of the book, expressing mock shock at the contents. Ronnie ignored them for a time. He sensed they were playing with his head. Then Ronnie demanded to see the book. It was a legal directory, with contact information for Philadelphia attorneys.
Psychoanalytically, the game features projective identification of envy; the incident seems to be an example of gaslighting. Envy is a state of painful wanting. Edgar and Adele tried to induce a state of painful wanting in Ronnie. They sexualized a non-sexual object and made it seem highly desirable. This is followed by a letdown and feelings of humiliation.
Perhaps the book (legal directory) represented in Edgar’s mind the Oedipal mother, who becomes sexualized following the boy’s nonsexual image of the pre-Oedipal mother. The incident seems to suggest that a powerful envy was at the core of Edgar’s and Adele’s triangulation of Ronnie — and that they needed to abreact that envy.
Acting-out in the service of the group regression may take the form of symbolic castrative gestures directed at the harassment victim, as in shunning, exclusion, or isolation of the victim. Cf. Rubin, T. Anti-Semitism: A Disease of the Mind. A Psychiatrist Explores the Psychodynamics of a Symbol Sickness at 99 (New York: Continuum, 1990) (exile, imposed restrictions, and disenfranchisement on any level are symbolic castrative acts).
Acting-out in the service of the group regression may take the form of attempts to overstimulate the harassment victim in situations in which any response or retaliation by the victim would risk punishment (i.e., symbolic castration in the form of attributions of paranoia or hypersensitivity or even official reprimand or job termination.) Cf. Shengold, L. Soul Murder at 104-05 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989) (describing a patient who in childhood repeatedly teased male dogs by allowing the dog to sniff her genital area; she was especially gratified if the dog would get so excited by the smelling that he would ejaculate onto the floor, without his penis being touched. Making the male ejaculate with a humiliating loss of control meant conquering and castrating him. As an adult, the patient repeated the performance with susceptible men.)
(Here the dog is aroused to a powerful state of wanting: then experiences humiliation.)