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Laying the groundwork (1912-1913)

Ferenczi ends his long letter dated December 26, 1912, by saying: “[...] please forgive this gratis analysis, which I have gotten from you by sheer obstinacy (if only by writing)!” To this, Freud responds: “Will you believe or be angry about the fact that I have read your auto-analytic letter, but I have not studied it as I should have? [...] So, get something from me by sheer obstinacy!” Freud answers his friend’s urgent request without haste, but with a certain willingness to go along.

Two years earlier, in 1910, soon after then trip to Sicily at the end of the summer, Freud had indicated in no uncertain terms that he wished to maintain a degree of distance between them, and had reproached him his infantile curiosity:

I no longer have any need for that frill opening of my personality, but you have also understood it and correctly returned to its traumatic cause. Why did you thus make a point of it? This need has been extinguished in me since Fliess’s case, with the overcoming of which you just saw me occupied.

But Freud was wrong: Ferenczi did not understand his reserve, especially when he tried to find out more precisely what happened between Freud and Fliess. For the sake of remaining unperturbed, Freud foregoes working with Ferenczi as they had planned. On November 23, 1910, he writes: “As regards paranoia, it would be better for you to make yourself independent of me [...] I tell you, it was often nicer when I was alone.” In his December 2 answer, Ferenczi objects: “The ‘independence’ that you have granted me in the question of paranoia evidently doesn’t agree with me.” The years 1911, 1912 and 1913 involved Freud in a wealth of events of great concern to him, and allowed tenacious Ferenczi to clarify his passionate desire for exchange with him. Defying Freud’s reluctance, Ferenczi prepares the ground for his future analysis.

Freud’s hesitation

Having put the Palermo incident behind them, Ferenczi and Freud spent two days together in South Tyrolia, in the spring of 1911. A week later, on April 24, Ferenczi expressed his delight:

[...] the joy of being able to spend two days with you again in intimate conversation, free from the obligations of work, seems to me here in my isolation to be so improbable that the impression of the fairy-tale-like quality of our splendid excursion is enhanced even more by it.

He went on to analyse what had delighted him so much - the incredible richness of what he called “intimate conversation” with Freud:

I never depart from you without benefit. I mean by that not an increase in my understanding of mental activity in general but rather a deepening of insight specifically into my own mental life, without which there can be no true knowledge - but especially no true faith. The relationship between knowledge and faith that has occupied people for so many centuries is only being made clear by means of analysis.

This is the first reference to a more in-depth analysis whose value Ferenczi would henceforth advocate. This “deepening” is neither a new awareness, nor access to the repressed, or proof of the existence of the unconscious; it represents an experiencing of truth that Ferenczi connects not to the revelation of a certain knowledge, but to trust. Two years later, he would write an article on the question of belief, disbelief and conviction. On April 24, 1911, he wrote:

If one hears something new, then one is really obligated analytically to test one’s personal relationship to the herald of the new doctrine in the most conscientious maimer before one can make a decision as to the real value of that statement.

Here, Ferenczi distinguishes the statement from the act of stating, to provide support for his stubborn belief. And what is the new doctrine he has in mind, if not Freud’s own definition of analysis? He obstinately desires to test, not so much the rigour of Freudian theory, but its solidity, its embodied reality, that he seeks in the relations of the theory with Freud’s psychic life, and even his personal experiences. This is what impels Ferenczi to force Freud to explain himself and to become more involved in his private affairs.

The complications of his love life provide the perfect opportunity; he reached an impasse in Elma’s treatment, which he could no longer continue and passed on to Freud. The latter, in fact, went even further. He wrote Gizella a long letter on December 17, discussing the Ferenczi “case” with her. But he regretted it at once, as he confessed to his friend on December 16: “I have no more to say, perhaps I have said more than was justified, and I don’t want to spoil your future completely.” A week later, on January 2, 1912, Freud expressed his misgivings as follows:

Now to the matter of the treatment! [...] Just imagine under what unfavorable auspices I am supposed to begin. After withdrawing the bonus that can spur her on to recovery, with the knowledge that I was not in sympathy with her intentions, and with the vague desire for revenge against you, the one who is sending her into this treatment! In this humor, a woman can hardly be woo’d!

Freud fears, above all, that his involvement in his friend’s personal affairs is likely to complicate their collaboration and shared combat:

In addition, if things don’t go well, there is the silent ill will between us, or at least between the both of us and the noble woman, the superfluousness of my having to peer so deeply into your very own affairs without having accomplished anything for the effort.

Ferenczi had also used the opportunity provided by Emma Jung’s suggestion to Freud, in the fall of 1911, that he examine his own father complex. Whether innocently or, on the contrary, driven by his faith in analysis, on January 20, 1912, Ferenczi incites Freud to engage in open analytic discussion with Jung, adding: “For this it would also certainly be necessary to take Jung into psychoanalytic treatment from now on.” Freud makes no reply, no doubt because the suggestion comes too late and is not to his liking.

Ferenczi considers that the honest discussion he proposes is the least one should expect of analysts who share a belief in the virtues of Freudian methods. He proclaimed this point of view publicly as early as the spring of 1910, in the “Introduction” to the proposal for the establishment of an International Psychoanalytic Association:

Moreover, the older and younger children united in this association would accept being told the truth to then face, however bitter and sobering it might be [...] it can be taken for granted that we should endeavour to tell the truth without causing unnecessary pain [...]

For a community of analysts to avoid the well-known pathology of “organised groups” and to keep personal passions in check - the love/hate relation to the father, attachment and jealousy between brothers - a second condition is required. It concerns the figure of the father:

It [this association] wottld be a family in which the father enjoyed no dogmatic authority, but only that to which he was entitled by reason of his abilities and labours. His pronouncements would not be followed blindly, as if they were divine revelations, but, like everything else, would be subject to thoroughgoing criticism [...]

The obstacles that arose in the space of two years between the father of psychoanalysis and Jung, his chosen heir, revealed the utopic character of Ferenc-zi’s idealised vision; in fact, Ferenczi himself had since revised his position.

Whereas he initially spoke of “mutual surveillance” between “the psychoanalytically trained” - this training then referring to in-depth self-analysis - he now refers to another training, one acquired through the experience of being analysed on Freud’s couch. But Ferenczi’s new act of faith, in its turn, met with a reluctance that took tangible form in the organisation of the psychoanalytic movement. In the summer of 1912, Jones and Freud proposed an institutional option instead of the analytic option based on Ferenczi’s faith in the unconscious as a tool to define the new relations to be established between analysts. The creation of the Secret Committee sealed the decision against Ferenczi’s proposal.

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