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A first session?

Freud is well aware of the complexities of the intricate relations between Ferenczi and Gizella, Elma and certain other women; between Ferenczi and Jung; and, above all, between himself and Ferenczi. But what does he know, and what sense can he make of the multitude of physical ailments associated with them, be they cause or effect? Ferenczi insists on making it clear that his long practice of selfanalysis has made him aware of his problems and allowed him to glimpse their origins and meaning, but not to alleviate the serious bodily harm they inflict. He then presents a very detailed picture of the physical suffering he endures:

The local process (a Cowperitis) is gradually getting better, since I have been regularly sitting on an air pillow and making hot compresses. The swelling is going down in the regional glands, and the pain is lessening (it was, incidentally, never excessive).

Not long ago, Freud consented to making his own dreams public; now, Ferenczi is willing to show Freud his own somatic disorders, like this most recent one, of a very intimate nature.

To this main symptom, Ferenczi adds others: difficulty breathing and low body temperature dining the night, “very weak pulse,” “belly inflated, meteoristic,” and “more or less stuffy nose.” He awakens “naturally washed out, depressed and weak.” These functional symptoms, not expressed in psychic representations but through bodily sensations and feelings, intrigue Ferenczi, the psychoanalyst who is still a physician at heart. But he can no longer approach medicine as he did before his encounter with analysis: “Now I think I am not justified in judging these symptoms exclusively from the standpoint of an internist. (I did that thoroughly and went through a series of severe illnesses in my mind.)” He realises that taking a strictly medical approach was about to plunge him into a hypochondriac anxiety. But paying attention to other signs of his malaise prevented this: “The psychic secondary manifestations (depression, occasional tearfulness), the rapid change of mood, disturbance of work, etc. speak in favour of the likelihood that these symptoms are in large part neurotic.” Where are we to look for a sign, or

“the” sign confinning the relevance of this intuition, as yet only a hypothesis? Being an original thinker, Ferenczi expects the sign less from Freud’s knowledge or speculations, and more from a manifestation of the unconscious. More Freudian than Freud himself, without yet knowing it or knowing to what degree, he has developed a conviction: the formations of the unconscious and dreams are not only the royal road of the return of repressed desires in figurative form, not only the return of conscious representations later repressed by reason of their pleasuregiving capacity, but also the emergence of the representation of sensations which until then were deeply buried in the body.

To prove it, Ferenczi uses his own case, and proceeds to analyse at length two of his dreams. This is not the first time he describes one of his dreams, but here he presents them in a totally new way, as if he was already on Freud’s couch. He has now gone beyond his long-standing habit of showing his skill at using dream interpretation, in the hope that Freud would recognise his merits. Having reminded Freud that he is expected to accept the duties of this position as analyst, if not with Jung, at least with Ferenczi himself, the latter dispenses with linealnarrative - a fact which confers a surprising quality to his writing. He is not presenting newfound ideas stemming from previous reflection; rather as he writes, he associates freely, surprised at times by what emerges in this flow of words, where an unexpected inability to find a word is not to be confused with the forgetting of a word, a significant double-meaning unheard before being spelt out deliberately, or with the return of a previous dream fragment, etc. When reading these pages, the reader may have the strange impression of hearing Ferenczi associate out loud, as if unaware of the presence of the man who, as if seated behind him, is listening in silence. We leave the pleasure of this experience to the reader, who can refer directly to the text describing these two dreams which, occurring a few days apart, echo each other so perfectly that Ferenczi treats them as a single dream. Could this dream be for him what the dream of Inna’s injection was for Freud: an exemplary dream? Several reasons allow us to think so.

For instance, the dream insists more on the dynamics of pure enjoyment than on the wish-fulfilment function Freud considered to be the very essence of dreams. The narrative testifies to this, the scenes take place in bright light and show the radioscopic contours of an internal landscape Ferenczi dares to claim as his own, without disavowing the secret jouissance now available and avowed. The dream’s scenography reveals the unconscious substrate that complicates his love life, the particularities of his sex life, as well as the underpinnings and complications of his relations with Freud. Presented in light of residues of infantile sexuality, Ferenczi’s various relationships with his objects are shown to be characterised by a multiplicity of interconnected drives and sexual fantasies. Nothing is missing: “small sadisms,” fright at noticing that tormenting a dog was “too much fun for me,” and the trepidation at feeling slightly aroused “by the strength of [another dog’s] sexual aggressiveness,” aggressiveness and hate towards Gizella, “intentions of death (murder),” meteorism (anal explosion), etc. Revealing these feelings in the letter/session brought back memories: sexual games with his sister Gizella, when he was three, threat of castration made by the cook, fellatio imposed by a boy a year older than him, when he was 5, and a memory we consider essential: “colossal rage” against his mother. The letter also gives details about various occurrences comiected with his sex life. Of course, Ferenczi presents all this against the backdrop of the Oedipal economy of the child still present in the adult he has become. More fundamentally, this dr eam acts as a double transferential appeal to Freud: Freud the founder of psychoanalysis with whom he has already shared a portion of his life and established a friendship, and Freud the future analyst whose patient he is asking to become.

Indeed, this dream is a transference dream of a very intimate nature. In fact, in the last scene Freud himself is present. Embarrassed, Ferenczi places this fragment in brackets and underscores its vagueness.

[(Indistinct) a woman stands on a table and protects herself from the snake by tightly pressing on her dress.] You and your sister-in-law play a role in this dream; (next to it: Italy, a four-poster bed in the following shape [...]

Indeed, two years earlier, in Palermo, a painful scene took place between them, and they still bore its scars. Unable to describe the Italian bed in words, Ferenczi tries to show it in two drawings, which he crosses out at once, scribbling over them, when he realises that its shape resists even graphic reproduction: “[I can’t draw it correctly].” What is it about this bed that makes it indescribable? We know what malevolent suspicions arose following Freud’s trip to Italy with his inunarried sister-in-law. The nature of the transference is clear. The dream willingly portrays the unconscious vectors of Ferenczi’s libidinal life and, with some awkward reticence, Freud’s as well.

It is probable that Freud had spoken about his early renouncing of sexual relations, before reaching 40, soon after the birth of his fifth and last child - his darling Anna. But although Freud consented to disclosing his personal life to some extent, modesty or resistance prevented him from revealing everything. While this enraged Jung, who regarded it as abuse, Ferenczi was intrigued and driven to try to solve the mystery. Disguised as a dream, does this curiosity follow upon the more fiuidamental curiosity he showed in Palermo and afterwards? Not concerning a hypothetical adulterous or incestuous relations Freud might have had, but concerning the earlier relation of friendship and shared work between two men, Freud and Fliess. Why does Freud refer so often to this friendship of such rare and troubling intensity? How did it come to end so badly? Yet it was within the bounds of this relationship that psychoanalysis was bom, and that Freud became a great man. Moreover, soon after Palermo, why did Freud refuse to elucidate any further this Fliess affair which tormented him? Ferenczi’s curiosity was not rooted merely in infantile sexuality; something else was at stake when Ferenczi quickly guessed that his relation with Freud earned the invisible traces of this initial transferential event. In fact, Freud was the first to recognise the ambiguity of his position, going so far as to admit to Ferenczi, who kept asking, that indeed, in their relationship he has not overcome the countertransference, which bears the scars of the Fliess affair.

Not without reason, Ferenczi is therefore very intrigued by this double tendency of Freud’s to accept revealing himself, and at the same time to resolutely hold back, by his ability to maintain a distance in close friendship. What surprises Ferenczi is Freud’s openness to dialogue between analysts who are friends, combined with the Ann desire to preserve the solitude he needs for reflection. Ferenczi has experienced this firsthand, and painfully, in Palermo; Freud can give everything without making any concessions. The experience was traumatic for Ferenczi. In our view, the presence of this traumatic dimension in the dream we are examining constitutes its third particularity. This is made apparent by a word impossible to say, and only possible to suggest incompletely in writing.

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