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A second letter written in the après-coup of analysis

In this letter written at 6 AM on November 18, 1916, Ferenczi discusses at random his complicated relation with Gizella, his moods and state of health and, of course, the dynamics of transference in this period when it is not clear to him whether the analytic sessions with Freud are definitely over or simply suspended.

His relation to women remains confused. For instance, he allows himself an episode of mutual sexual caresses with Saroltà, Gizella’s sister, and tells Freud that he once had intercourse with her, just after being with a prostitute. As punishment for this - he says - he was afflicted with a great fear of syphilis. He tries to analyse the episode that just took place:

My relationship with my mother has worsened significantly in the last few years. I think there is a causal connection here to my relationship with Gizella. I am taking out on my mother what I am sparing Gizella and am thereby returning to the original source of my hatred of women.

Despite the clarity of this insight, he plans to show Gizella Freud’s last letter: “I will show your letter to Gizella. (At the same time I am sorry that Gizella, who reveres you so, also has to be injured from your part.)” The prospect of a separation allows Ferenczi to realise all that this woman he has known since 1900 has meant to him: “Only now do I see how I experienced my whole life, the smallest triviality, ‘sub specie Gizellae.’ Twenty times I caught myself with the idea, ‘I will tell her that when she comes in the evening.’” Then he points out how greatly this emotional dependence weighs on him. “It now appears to me very plausible that, now freed from the compulsion to love her, my relationship with Gizella will become more normal.”

These continuous and tormenting psychic contortions affect him body and soul: “In the morning very sad, hour-long funeral-march melody in my head. Tears [...] But [this separation] seems more and more impossible to me.” His despondency is severe: “[...] deepest states of depression with uncontrollable inclination to cry (tears flowed inexorably). I must interpret this symptom, which can almost be called hysterical, as a sign of mourning; they were expressions of feeling caused by Gizella’s departure.” Devastated, Ferenczi seems ready to accept Freud’s last assessment claiming that the situation is without reprieve. At the same time, he still ventures to imagine other possibilities: “Afternoon, analyses. A free hour; restlessness. Nasal breathing very disturbed, tachycardia (continuously 120 beats per minute).” Ferenczi relates his physical symptoms to his romantic situation: “I make plans to mediate, e.g.: ‘I am only lacking the legality of the relationship. That’s why I was healthy until G. made her refusal known.’”

Informed of Ferenczi’s somatisations and involved as his analyst and as a third party in reality, did Freud have any other option than to acknowledge that in these circumstances the analysis could in no way be continued? Ferenczi records the aggravation of his state:

I notice how greatly my mood, which was so passionate yesterday, has been alleviated since the talk with Gizella. Had diimer with her last evening. During the meal very strong palpitations; I hardly had the strength to give your letter to Frau G. to read. I made ten false starts before I did it. It was as though I were handing the death sentence over to her.

Fortunately, this deathly terror does not last; Ferenczi explains how he manages to put an end to it: “As long as I saw expressions of pain in her, I was almost cold. Only when she regained her kindness and became forbearing with me and spoke tenderly again - albeit wistfully - with me did I thaw out again.” Now he finds himself in a paradoxical position. While Freud, making firm use of the active technique, treats him harshly and rebuffs him, he discovers that Gizella offers another kind of listening and consolation.

In the immediate aftermath of this third segment of analysis, Ferenczi the anal-ysand is still in the furnace of transference - and Freud the analyst is caught up in his madness. The letter stalled on November 18 is ample proof:

I know that I no longer have the right to speak to you as if to my physician, that I must not speak freely and out of context but rather measure my words against reality. But I can’t refrain from taking an hour one last time (is it really the last time?) [...] I have been suffering [...] increasingly since Gizella’s refusal.

Ferenczi is in the grip of an unthinkable double mourning, as if he had to give up his love relationship with Gizella, and at the same time his still passionate transferential relationship with Freud. And yet, he is suspicious of his own pain:

“I notice something forced, unreal-dramatic in my maimer of writing. Does all my sadness conceal my joy about [...] becoming free?” Similarly, he asks himself if the breaking off of the analysis, which he so greatly regrets, might not be something fortunate: “Perhaps analytic monologue will bring me inner peace.” He also wants to know Freud’s position. Does he really intend never granting him another segment of analysis? He even wonders if Freud really thinks that his situation with Gizella is hopeless:

Naturally I thought (with the malicious distrust of all analysands) that it was a trick on your part when you gave your definitive view of my relationship with Gizella. You wanted to free me from the suggestive influence of your earlier-view (to many G.) so that I can decide freely.

Strangely, in this moment of defiance, Ferenczi borrows a word once employed by Jung: he believes Freud capable of using a trick.

The next day, in a calmer state of mind, and without doing it deliberately or even knowingly, he reminds Freud of something the latter had taught him: that through and beyond the person of the analyst, the transference is addressed to a specific psychic agency. And he adds that he can’t imagine doing without the mediation of this agency, clearly indispensable to his psychic life: “I still don’t want to refrain from noting the internal and external process further. The psychic contents (at least in me) only become completely conscious through communication to a third person.” Here, Ferenczi adds a valuable dimension to “third person” as the term is used in the context of the joke. The one who lends his voice to the words that come to him cannot grasp the cleverness of the quip falling from his lips until his interlocutor returns them to him. As a third person, in the silence conducive to the effects of resonance, he can become the receiver of the message that he originally emitted. In the aftermath of analysis, Ferenczi tells Freud once again what he has been repeating since their first meetings before the analysis. Ferenczi maintains that this applies to analytic treatment as much as it does to working relations between analysts engaged in a common combat for the development and transmission of psychoanalysis. He asserts that a psychoanalyst is created in this analytic mode trot reducible to any particular teaching.

Even in scientific things I have my best thoughts while I am communicating. This must have a connection with the fact, ascertained by you, that with me the scientific interests have not been entirely sublimated but are still closely bound to the love object.

We can glimpse the divergence existing between what Freud and Ferenczi consider the nature of transference. Freud thinks, with good reason, that transference love, nourished by the idealisation of the knowledge supposedly held by the “other” as a paternal figure, is alienating and creates dependence. But this transference love is not at all faith in the unconscious knowledge that can emerge in the space of discussion between truth-loving men. Ferenczi, who holds dear this faith in the unconscious, does not see it as sterile alienation, but rather the guarantee of a space of freedom in which thought can flourish. The fact that the two men are unaware of this divergence leads to a misunderstanding in the transference.

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