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Ferenczi and the Emma incident

Thus, at the end of 1911 Ferenczi is asked by Emma to intervene as a third party, and solicited by Freud for advice. He also becomes more personally involved when the malaise between Jung and Freud resonates with his own. In this troubled context. Ferenczi draws a parallel between what Jung is experiencing in the present situation and what he himself experienced a year earlier, at the end of 1910, in

Palermo. Freud’s sharp reaction to this suggestion causes the two men to have a serious confrontation which, in our view, sets the scene for Ferenczi’s request for personal analysis at the end of 1912.

In his letter dated October 19, 1911, Ferenczi presented the following hypothesis: “I presume that Jung is now going through a period similar to the one I experienced in Sicily: the dissatisfaction with the incomplete intimacy with the teacher (father).” This identification and reference to the Palermo incident provoke a strong reaction on Freud’s part, particularly since Ferenczi seems to agree with Emma Jung’s frank appraisal of the situation: “Frau Jung [...] could be partly right in her assertions [where she talks about your antipathy toward giving completely of yourself as a friend].”

This is a terrible blow to Freud, who is forced to admit that the Palermo incident left an open wound, and that the troubling question of his relations with his spiritual sons - his heirs - is unresolved. Worse still, Frau Jung seems to be reiterating the same reproach Ferenczi had tried in vain to make a year earlier. But although Ferenczi agrees with her, he does not agree with Jung, who attributes to Freud the desire to “put authority above truth”: “It is certainly false that it is your ‘authority’ that you want to protect.” Although he makes his disagreement known, Ferenczi is nonetheless bringing up an innuendo-laden statement.

Indeed, during the trip to America the three men took together in the summer of 1909, when they analysed each other’s dreams, an incident took place. While Freud was trying to analyse one of his own dreams, Jung asked him for more details. But apparently Freud “refused to disclose details of his private life,” saying: “I could tell you more, but I can’t risk my authority.” Later, Jung would write: “This phrase remained etched in my memory.” Clearly, when Ferenczi and Jung are confronted with the authority Freud assumes as the father of psychoanalysis, each of them has a different reaction. Jung sees it as a potentially persecutory attitude, and an alienating abuse of power. But Ferenczi interprets it as an enigma rather than a threat of which he must be wary; he sees it as a secret tied to the memory of painful and disruptive separations: “More likely the deep aftereffects of the Breuer-Fliess experiences could be responsible for it,” he writes in the same letter.

In his answer dated October 21, 1911, Freud adopts a decidedly defensive attitude in response to Ferenczi’s strategy: “This is very amusing. I see how you want to triumph, bitt I will see to it that you will not succeed.” Freud justifies his rejection of Ferenczi’s analysis of the situation. First, there is no proof that Jung has the feelings Ferenczi attributes to him, or projects onto him. The analogy with his experience in Palermo is only an uncertain hypothesis. Second, “[if] it is merely a product of the little woman, then the similarity dissolves altogether.” Still, Freud concedes one point to Ferenczi: “But I do admit the probability that she is being supported by statements from him.” Not everything is pure projection on Ferenczi’s part, or pure hysterical invention on Emma’s part. Freud qualifies his conunents. First, he admits that all this affects him: “On the whole, the matter is not very flattering”; second, he refers to his ethics regarding psychoanalysis: “If I were not obliged to psychoanalysis, then I would only smile [...]” Since he can’t simply dismiss these impressions of which he is informed, and since he is “obliged to psychoanalysis,” Freud makes a real concession to Ferenczi, who proposes that he should show himself open to the questions addressed to him, even if he does it clumsily. So he does not smile at all this: “[...] however, I want to be careful and wait for material to be presented for signs as to whether I can learn something new about myself.” Instead of maintaining an arbitrary, authoritarian position, Freud does not stay with his initial closed reaction, and agrees to see what effects all this will produce in him and in retrospect. He trusts the subject of the unconscious. He knows the intimate nature of what is involved and enjoins discretion: “Eternal discretion goes without saying!”

Freud’s reference to a wish to triumph on Ferenczi’s part leaves the latter disheartened, as he perhaps was a year earlier in Palermo, when Freud responded to his refusal to take notes by saying: “So this is what you are like? You obviously want to do the whole thing yomself.” In his letter dated October 23, Ferenczi feels the need to explain himself once again: “I didn’t want to triumph over you,” and wants to clear himself of blame: “Even if Frau Jung’s impressions coincide with those of Jung, the both of us (Jung and I) could certainly be mistaken and consider our infantile needs to be our right.” After accomplishing this feat in the art of diplomacy, he rejects the accusation: “If Jrurg had the same complexes as I, that worrld still be no reason on my part to triumph over you.” This refusal of Freud’s interpretation allows Ferenczi to return to what is at stake in all this, and reformulate the question which remains essential to him: “At most it worrld be an indication of how hard it is for one to renounce the communality of thought with a being akin to a father.”

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