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Ferenczi and Freud after the Emma Jung incident

Thus, after the incident that occurred in the fall of 1911, Freud is questioned by Ferenczi precisely on the position he seems to be taking in response to possible transference centred on him: “I noticed that you interpreted my inclination toward you as transference and [...] didn’t want to give too much opportunity for this transference.” Yet, althorrgh Freud does not withhold signs of friendship, particularly from Ferenczi, the implication is that he is careful not to encourage the involution of this friendship between men of combat, and intellectuals who value autonomy, into a relation of transference, such as that of neurotic patients in therapy. Ferenczi, who has already seen Freud take this attitude, recognises it and looks for its motives. He advances a hypothesis: Freud maintains this distance vis-à-vis those of his collaborators who need too much intimacy: “[...] evidently out of educational considerations, perhaps also because in your few free days you were longing for a free, not an infantile, person.”

Unbelievable but true, Freud’s reply on November 17 starts, for the first time, with “Dear son.” Freud goes on to say: “I [...] gladly admit that I would rather have an independent friend, but if you make such difficulties, I have to accept you as a son.” Divided between the position of potential analyst which Ferenczi assigns to him, and that of leading figure at the head of an expanding school of thought, Freud has trouble avoiding the foreseeable confusion. First he invites his interlocutor not to succumb to hysterical overreaction and not to complicate their relations, which risk becoming neurotic: “Your struggle for liberation doesn’t need to take place in such alternation of rebellion and subjugation.” And in clear reference to the Emma Jung affair, Freud presents a hypothesis his interlocutor cannot find flattering: “I think you are also suffering a little from the fear of complexes that has attached itself to the Jungian complex mythology.” Finally, Freud asks that Ferenczi not be too demanding: “Man should not want to eradicate his complexes but rather live in harmony with them: they are the legitimate directors of his behaviour in the world.”

Freud speaks, if not like a mature man to a tormented adolescent, at least like an older man ready to help a younger man see reason. But he does not intervene just then, like a firefighter at the site of a fire who merely advises against playing with matches. A few years later, he would admit that in an analysis of neurosis transference can sometimes create an incendiary situation. In his reassuring letter, his tone changes when he speaks with the authority of the father of psychoanalysis: “By the way, you are scientifically on the right track toward making yourself independent”; and he gives Ferenczi this surprising double advice: “Otherwise, don’t be ashamed to be of one mind with me, and don’t demand anything more from me personally than I am willing to give.” Whether he wants it or not, Freud is faced with an impossible situation in his relations with his closest disciples. On the one hand, he wants to work with intellectually independent men who, like him and with him, can become men of combat, and he is indignant at seeing them tormented in their relations with him as a man. But at the same time he still longs for intellectual exchange unaffected by the confusion of emotions: “One must be happy when a person, for once, comes to terms with himself on his own.” This is why he favours self-analysis, the presumed royal road leading to the courage of maturity - when solitude becomes a companion.

At the end of 1911, when Ferenczi is enmeshed in his confusing love life, bogged down in Elma’s analysis and involved in the Carl and Emma Jung affair, he finds himself once again in Palermo, like the previous year, facing a frustrating enigma. Why was Freud, who just recently asserted that “the nature of the thing” made it impossible for him to work through his transferential relation to Fliess, now refusing to acknowledge and take seriously the turmoil Ferenczi was attempting to reveal, concerning his relation to Freud - just as transferential? It was a perfect dilemma.

It was perhaps fortunate that at the end of 1912 the tension between Jung and Freud, now extreme, gave Ferenczi the opportunity to find a way out of this dilemma. He conceived of the possibility of a personal analysis which would oblige Freud to listen, once and for all, to his complaints and grievances.

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