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Trust and combat (1910-1912)

On January 1,1910, at the end of a letter to Ferenczi, Freud asks for his advice on the institutional processes to be put in place to establish a policy for psychoanalysis: “Incidentally, what do you think of a tighter organization with formal rules and a small fee? Do you consider that advantageous? I also wrote Jung a couple of words about this.” The next day, Ferenczi’s reply is preceded by the expression to his deep gratitude to Freud. He is emphatic: “[...] you [have] enhanced the lives and occupation of a very large number of people who were previously striving in vain for recognition.” Inclined to be very enthusiastic, Ferenczi considers Freud’s followers “the predecessors of all humanity, which, for the time being, is still stuck in infantile resistances,” and lie is convinced that Freud’s work “will leave behind strong traces in world history.” He insists on making one more thing clear: “I say all of this after appropriate coll ection, after removing everything that personal adherence, and especially my own father complex, could dictate to me. Without this collection this letter would have come out much more effusive.” Ferenczi could not have known then that the passionate tone of his remarks bore a strange resemblance to that of Freud’s own letters to his friend Wilhelm Fliess, written 15 years earlier, when he saw Fliess as a genius, “the new Kepler.”

After this declaration of love and respect, Ferenczi goes on to answer Freud, speaking as a fighting man: “I find your suggestion (tighter organization) extremely usefill. The acceptance of members, however, would be just as strictly managed as it is in the Vienna Society; that would be a way of keeping out undesirable elements.” In February 1908 there had already been discussion about reshaping the functioning - admission of new members, external sites, modes of intervention - of the little group constituting the Wednesday Society, whose status was not clearly defined. Admission of new members was decided by a vote, and it was the custom that they give a presentation. The proposition to introduce stricter admission criteria was rejected. But the question of the institutionalisation of psychoanalysis, and of member selection, had been raised. This question was clearly at the forefront of Freud’s concerns regarding an international organisation entrusted with ensuring the Freudian orientation of national and local associations bound to be created in the future.

In a long post-scriptum to his letter dated January 2, 1910, Ferenczi points out the extent to which the analytic and political spheres overlap. He specifies that in his own relations with his colleagues, his “tiresome brother complex is still playing tricks on [him].” He never hid his tendency to rivalry and jealousy, surfacing whenever Freud praised one or the other of his followers. Ferenczi adds: “[...] this affect is for me the measure of the work that I still have to do on myself,” without specifying if he is referring to continuing his self-analysis, as we suspect, or to another sort of work - personal analysis - an idea taking hold in him more and more firmly. A week later, on January 10, it is Freud’s turn to proffer praise: “Analyses and writings, as you now do them, are very significant events for one’s own person, and the other - if he comes into it at all - has nothing to do but keep a respectful silence.” Freud is impressed: “I can hardly admire perspicacity, for I know that it is made up of honesty and firm decision. Certainly you are right in every instance.” We can imagine Ferenczi’s emotion when he read these words and the explanations which followed.

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