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The third segment of analysis

This third segment of analysis - about 40 sessions - tinned out to be the last. The state of upheaval in which Ferenczi is left testifies to the violence of the internal work that had to be accomplished and which, when left in suspense once again, leaves him divided between exaltation and his disillusion, between the certainty of progress and the awareness of persistent attachments to the past. This is made clear in the letter started on October 17, 1916, a breathless seven-page letter written over a period of six days, in which Ferenczi specifies the place and time of each entry: “October 17, 1916, 11:15 P.M.,” “October 18, Wednesday evening 11:30,” “Evening of the 19th. 12 o’clock/' before bedtime,” “October 20, afternoon. Between two [sessions] (a late patient),” “October 21. Morning [at] the hospital,” “Sunday. October 22. Night.” The formulation of the letter gives a glimpse of his internal turmoil. He senses that he is no longer exactly the same man, in his relations to Gizella, to his patients, to psychoanalysis, to himself and, of course, to Freud. Not wanting to “give [...] a false picture of the situation which has occurred,” Ferenczi allows himself some time before reporting on the internal changes that leave him temporarily destabilised.

As for his love life, although there is progress, nothing has really been resolved, hi a moment of exaltation, he has asked Gizella to many him, but she chose to postpone her decision because Elma is going through a difficult period. Although he seems to have finally made a commitment, Ferenczi is still attached to his fantasies of erotic adventure: “[...] the familiar motif of infidelity returned." But. at the same time, being aware of the transferential nature of the declaration of love made by a woman patient, his “clear insight’’ “cooled [him] off’ and prevented any inappropriate action. His disappointment in die face of liis lover’s cool response to his marriage proposal leads him to reflect on the maternal nature of her relationship with him. He even supposes that his own inhibition could stem from die fact that for a long time he wanted to believe diat she should make the decision; as a maternal figure holding the key to his future, she was die one who had to decide. This is another diing he learned from his analysis: “Only I am still hindered in deciding to want [...]” Thus, he has discovered, at the heart of liis neurosis, the fear- of his own desire and his tendency to hide it behind his concern widi what he supposes die other to be asking.

Ferenczi does not hesitate to describe with precision the quality of his sexual relations with Gizella, pointing out that he is now less perturbed by the visible signs of ageing he sees in her. It even seems that he has an unprecedented experience on the occasion of a “quite normal” coitus:

A significant difference from before is that forepleasure - which was almost absent before, especially the satisfaction in pressing my face against her -was very pronounced. So much so that, despite [complete] preparedness, I decided only reluctantly to go through with the intercourse. The satisfaction was complete. Immediately afterward still great feeling of tenderness (as before coitus).

Ferenczi becomes aware of the possibility of overcoming the split he has created in himself between the tender and the sensual currents of sexual relations. But this awareness does not prevent him from observing that the problem is not yet solved: “The second coitus was a conscious attempt, which, however failed; it came to an action that wouldn’t quit, which twice gave her satisfaction, but me not a single time.’’ But he remains optimistic about his progress in the analysis: “I have already attained so much that -1 think -1 am less dominated by unconscious forces and decidedly more capable of love than before.” He intends to put to good use this opportunity created by the strengthening of his capacity to love:

I am also determined not to let the present situation last long. Either we succeed in bringing our wishes into accord or it will have to come to a complete break in our relations. The capability for the latter has - strangely - also increased with the increase in the capability for love.

An imagined separation weakens the threat of fatal hold, love ceases to be an absolute which can swallow one up, and the fear of uniting dissipates.

The other internal change Ferenczi observes in himself is that in Gizella’s company he recovers the passion for psychoanalysis which he now sometimes finds lacking: “My interest is not totally there. But where is it then? The solution came to me through [this] realization: after the sessions I met Gizella, and - all of a sudden I was in a good mood.” He attributes this effect to his analysis:

Ergo: my libido has become partly [available] thr ough the analysis in Vienna. -The attempts to choose a new object floundered (as up to now, always). Only in Gizella’s company am I in a better mood and at the same time feel an interest in science.

To what extent is this recovery of Ferenczi’s capacity for love, which used to fail him as a result of an internal split, due to the waning of transference love? How closely is it tied to entering a time when Freud’s thinking is no longer the only means of access to his own inspiration? But is this new desire not opposed to Freud’s principles, given that Ferenczi rationalises the need for marriage as follows: “Consequently, she is the one whom I must finally secure for myself. My capacity to be able to work seems to depend on marriage to G. Tomorrow I intend finally to get serious with this thing.” With this relative progress in his relation to love and desire, to tenderness and the sexual, which Ferenczi welcomes, comes a change in his manner of practising analysis.

Ferenczi reports that the desire he invests in his activity, in his way of relating to patients in his daily practice, has changed:

In the analytic horns I notice that I judge the case of the patients much - much more soberly. In the process, to be sure, my earlier, almost passionate interest in analytic work is partly lost. At least, that is what I have noticed up to now.

To what extent is this new sobriety in relation to his patients the outcome of a less constraining transferential link to Freud, due to the latter’s firmness as Ferenczi’s analyst? Ferenczi tries to uncover what has changed in the quality of the desire which underlies his work with patients, by shedding light on its nature: “That is certainly tire consequence of the cooling off of the narcissistic relationship to everything that I accomplished myself’’ This narcissistic devaluation concerns specifically Iris idealisation of the image of himself as a man animated by a desire to treat and to heal. He questions the effect of tins passion - that of the physician - on his analytic practice:

It would be a pity (a great pity!) if it turned out that I can’t objectively bring up enough interest in scientific work and am actually one of those in whom the higher interests are pathologically determined and whose cure brings along with it the renunciation of certain accomplishments.

Later, Ferenczi would come to consider this passion for healing a consequence of post-traumatic maturation. A child traumatised by being unwanted, or by bad treatment involving abuse and its denial in the first years of life becomes - through a splitting mechanism - a wise child who will have to take care of his inadequate family environment, as well as of the crushed child he carries in himself. This desperate healing vocation is that of a child who had no childhood; even if it can lead to sublimatory successes, it remains the vocation of a wounded child. Ferenczi wants to believe that desire for analysis is a means to work through this childhood and overcome it. This attempt to define the distinction between a medical vocation and desire for analysis leads him to certain discoveries and to the acquisition of knowledge he attributes to the recent analytic work accomplished in Vienna.

For instance, he reports on a first scientific discovery' made as a consequence of his psychoanalysis. When the treatment is at a standstill, when the patient takes advantage of free association to talk endlessly about any subject - no matter how elegant his discourse - Ferenczi notices that insistent covert masturbation is going on, achieving a degraded form of substitute sexual satisfaction.

A small scientific discovery seems to be the idea of onania perpetua (incom-pleta), which I - as a supposition - believe I have found in my own case (as you perhaps still recall). My ‘rape patient’ seems to be such a person -masturbating literally day and night, however.

Speaking to complain endlessly, to contain the unknown or to make oneself dizzy could also be a substitute pleasure, loyal companion of secret imaginings or of unconscious fantasy. This allows Ferenczi to expand the application of the active technique initiated by Freud. Speaking of his patient, he describes the effectiveness of this new technique:

Tire treatment has been stalled for some time. - She spoke for horns only about the highest artistic and human accomplishments that she has attained or wants to attain. - I noticed that she lies for the whole hour with her legs crossed, and I instructed her to stop it.

Trusting his intuition that the unconscious expresses itself through representations constituting unconscious formations, but also through bodily events - sensations, gestures - Ferenczi interprets this position on the couch as a masturbatory activity, which he forbids. Once this pleasure revealed, the effect is evident at once:

An uproar ensued, an attempt at disobedience, etc. Finally, she relented, and in a single stroke the picture of the analysis changed: she remembered new details about the story of her ‘rape,’ especially those which made her complicity clear. Early erotic screen memories also came.

Ferenczi remained loyal to this hypothesis, which he developed further: the unconscious speaks not only through interpretable unconscious formations, but is also expressed in the life of the body, in that which is repeated through the traces and scars whose memory it bears. As early as the fall of 1916, Ferenczi had the intuition that analysis can unearth material buried in the farthest depths of the unconscious, a fact he attributed to the insistence of certain wounds (rape as the primary figure of trauma) which resonate with early childhood experiences.

As far as he himself is concerned, Ferenczi has just made another discovery, thanks to a slip that brings him face-to-face with a false fantasy. Returning home after a rendezvous with Gizella, he finds hidden in his wallet the key of a cupboard, that he was sure he had lost. He interprets this slip in light of his previous reflections. For a long time, he had wanted to believe that the key to his destiny was held by the other (Gizella) hi the love relation; now, he discovers that he holds the key to his own future. In the transference, he understood that he had only “simulated” its loss, adding “for my father’s sake.” He submits this strategy to an Oedipal interpretation. In order to escape the father’s scrutiny, he presents himself as the one who has lost the key - the key giving access to the mother - even though this is a lie. Of course, it is clever to present oneself as a man inhibited in his thinking and circumspect in his words, as someone seeking ultimate knowledge which resides with the other (Freud), because this preserves a secret onanistic pleasure; but Ferenczi discovers that this is also dangerous: “With time I succeeded in leading other people but also myself astray (through my ‘disinterest’ in believing in the mother).” Thus, the tables have turned. “Out of conscious deception arose unconscious deception (i.e., also self-deception).” Ferenczi is aware of the importance of discovering this lie in the fantasy, which associated pleasure with the unpleasure of the symptom. He had learned long ago the classic art of interpreting such an unconscious formulation, as the psychopathology of everyday life teaches it, but now he was able to distinguish between his previous theoretical knowledge and this other knowledge that informs him now that his experience on the couch places the parapraxis in a sharper light. Thus, this ordinary slip is transformed into a fundamental fantasy which, as Ferenczi suddenly discovers, has long been orchestrating all his neurotic life experience, his relations with the opposite sex, his relationship with Gizella and, what is more, even his relationship with Freud: “Everything that I wrote earlier about the supposed mistake was misplaced, even if something in it can be tme. - This is my first scientific accomplishment since Vienna.” This new relation to knowledge, not Freud’s or his own, but the knowledge emerging from the experience of the analysis, renews his desire to work. He therefore includes this post-scriptum in his letter: “I wanted to have the notes in this letter sent back, in order to revise them partially into essays.”

In this long letter dated October 17, 1916, in which he describes the effects of his recent segment of analysis, Ferenczi discusses one subject at length - the one that matters most: his relationship with Freud, as the analyst analysed by his master, colleague and friend. He realises the very complex nature of this plural relationship. He speaks at once of the unease he feels now that he is writing to Freud about their recent speaking-and-listening work together: “I notice that for the moment I haven’t found the tone with respect to you. Evidently the transition from penitential child to amicable letter writer has been too rapid.” He now has trouble free-associating in writing, as he felt himself able to do before the analysis, and he asks himself: “Do I want to conceal something? -1 am supposed to be finished with my analysis already! So say you, at least. I, too, notice the progress, but perhaps I am still not quite capable of action.” But although he now has trouble associating, he does not hesitate to speak of the disagreement that has come up between the analysand and the analyst. We can guess that Freud considers his patient, if not cured, at least able to act on his own and to decide, and that in his opinion the analysis is finished.

When Ferenczi expresses satisfaction at having overcome the split that denied him access to tenderness in his sex life, he attributes to Freud some of the reasons for the meandering that delayed the resolution of this problem.

In the process the following thought came to my mind: I have been occupied for more than 1 14 years with the problem of coitus, which I wanted to explain from the perspective of biology (- with the use of psychoanalytic experience, to be sure). I recently told you that that was perhaps the reaction to your statement that you can’t explain pleasure (i.e., I wanted to know more than you).

This lengthy labour accomplished dispassionately was completed in 1924, when Thalassa was published. It had been not so much freely chosen research as an investigation motivated by Ferenczi’s transference to Freud.

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