The “pleasure animal” returns to work
On December 22 Freud makes no mention of the two letters he received. He does not consent to continuing the analysis by conespondence, as Ferenczi is ready to do; instead, loyal to the active technique, he invites him to collaborate in a common project: “Today I was in the university library to order the Lamarck for myself. I cannot stay completely idle, and our project, ‘Lamarck and Psychoanalysis,’ suddenly came to mind as hopeful and rich in content.” By refusing to interpret and continue the last segment of analysis in waiting, and inviting Ferenczi to take up his work again, is Freud acting as an experienced analyst, or is he looking for a way out of inextricable transferential entanglements? Perhaps, as we suppose, both motives are at work. The request is formulated in unambiguous terms: “I would only like to have the assurance from you that you will maintain your collaboration and do something serious in the near future, even though you don’t have as much free time as I.” Freud is also speaking as a friend worried about this immersion in the murky waters of tormented subjectivity, to which Ferenczi seems ready to dedicate all his energy. He warns him against this and advises some respite: “For that reason you seem to me to be just as urgently in need of a diversion.”
In his letter dated December 28, Ferenczi also uses a different tone. He has “attained a certain degree of normality,” and is capable of “putting thoughts on paper” once again: “I will gradually put forth proofs - possibly in connection with our joint plan of work.” And he says that he “still figure[s] on the possibility of [...] marriage” to Gizella. He describes his very busy working days: “I don’t know whether I (the pleasure animal) will be able to stand this life-style.” Without going into great detail as he did before, he makes an observation:
A basic symptom of my illness (indeed, of my character) is an exaggerated quest for pleasure (as you know, a reaction to deprivations of childhood). I was never able to bear suspense; loneliness was identical to boredom to me. -I was probably always waiting for some miracle or other, which would bring me happiness and ecstasy.
It is with this in mind that Ferenczi interprets the two symptoms that impelled him to request analysis: reluctance to settle down to intellectual work, and his complicated love life.
Working was always laborious for me (for that reason I first became a philosopher). Later, as well, I wanted to solve problems more speculatively, but I didn’t want to ‘espouse’ my ideas. As happiness in love I must have expected something that was not yet there. I wasn’t able to bear the difficulties that the relationship with G. brought along with it.
The year 1916, in which two arduous segments of analysis were conducted, seems to end with a promising renewal of friendship and collaboration between Freud and Ferenczi, who, nevertheless, remains cautious:
I hope that I will be satisfied with less than before, educate myself (old chap) some more, and give up the [previous] nonsensical melancholia (to which I still tend). But I don’t want to promise too much -1 also know that it won’t [be] without relapses.
During this trying war period and after the three segments of analysis in 1914 and 1916, the year 1917 would usher in a six-month period of convalescence, before Ferenczi’s triumphant return to the forefr ont of the analytic scene in 1918.
The year 1917 started under the best auspices; peace became possible to imagine, and after the tunnoil of the analysis, the working relations between Ferenczi and Freud seemed promising.
On January 1, Freud was very hopefill:
I am pleased to see that you are coming back to yourself from your depths. The first dove that you sent out was very pretty. Today I am enclosing a sketch of the Lamarck work, since I gather from your letter that you are keeping to the intention that you expressed back then.
Freud is referring to a common work project he had proposed to Ferenczi at the start of the previous year, while he was in a rather sombre period. Indeed, on January 6,1916, Freud ventured into a sphere of research which was to hold an important place in Ferenczi’s future work: “Don’t we already [...] know two conditions for artistic endowment? First, the wealth of phylogenetically transferred material, as with the neurotic; second, a good remnant of the old technique of modifying oneself instead of the outside world. (See Lamarck, etc.)” It was in January 1916, before the two segments of analysis, that the “Lamarck project” was conceived; and it is this project that Freud proposes to Ferenczi at the end of the year as a diversion, and as a means of distracting him from his exhausting preoccupation with the personal analysis. Very quickly, Ferenczi accepts these “auto-plastic” and “allo-plastic” functions. Many years later, he was going to develop the hypothesis Freud put forth at that time:
This ability, applied to certain unconscious activities, would result in the peculiar mimicry of the artist in being able to make his ideas about things similar to them and then being able to re-create these ideas - back to the outside world - anew, in the form of words, materials, colors [...] In the final analysis, the same roundabout way that is characteristic for the wish fulfillment of the artist in general.
Illustrating the richness of then dialogue, at the end of his letter dated January' 17, 1916, Ferenczi presents an idea that emerged as a response to Freud’s proposition:
something that came to my mind [...] You say that the preconscious psychic cathexis is essentially word cathexis of tiring presentations. But observation of the deaf and dumb shows that one can also perform preconscious psychic functions without word symbols. (I am thinking of [untrained] deaf and dumb people.)
Stimulated by the work of reflection in which Freud invites him to participate, Ferenczi puts forth a hypothesis advanced earlier: “It is also conceivable that [...] the preconscious can perhaps also form out of things other than word symbols (in the deaf and dumb perhaps out of the traces of sensations of imitative body' innervation).” This valuable living dialogue with Freud allows Ferenczi to voice his difference and his singularity: “I have not yet completely understood your idea of artistic creation, but I feel that the solution is to be found in this direction.”
A year later, in January 1917, Freud counts on the fact that Ferenczi can certainly be persuaded to succumb once again to the charm and the benefits of this exclusive intellectual relationship, which is much less exhausting for him than the analytic relation in which his analysand would like him to remain. The events that followed seemed to prove him right. On January 2, Ferenczi replied: “So I am making a solemn decision to collaborate on that nice plan (Lamarckism). I will consider your notes as a basis for the work.” It seems that Ferenczi believes once again that collaboration with Freud on common projects is possible, despite his painfill experience in Palermo in 1910, when this type of collaboration had seemed impossible. Now, he is enthusiastic: “First I want to copy' and send in the notes that I made on this theme. Then I will ask you to designate what is useful in them and to propose specifics about the division of labor.” Freud replies on
January 4: “I conceive of the work on Lamarckism in such a way that each of us reads, if possible, everything that is noteworthy, until more specialized areas can be separated out [...]” Could it be that both men have finally emerged from the furnace of transference? Was Freud, the analyst, right to demand that his analy-sand decide about his love life and return to work?
On January 9, Ferenczi confinns his commitment to their common project: “I am sending you enclosed, with the request that you return it, the copy of the aphorisms, which perhaps justify my collaboration on the work on Lamar ck.” His consent is somewhat cautious: “In principle, I agree with the manner in which you conceive of our working together. But how it will be in practice very much depends on the condition of my health.” Indeed, aside from the memory of what happened in Palermo, there is the reality of Ferenczi’s poor health. Despite tire fact that he seems cured of his neurotic symptoms, he is plagued by physical symptoms:
The psychic upswing that I last informed you about was immediately wrested down by influenza. I felt physically very weak, even after the cessation of fever, and Dr. Lexy ascertained an increase in the Basedow symptoms, as well as a renewed flare-up of the nephrosis. Naturally I immediately used this situation for a psychic depression [...]
The situation is alarming enough for the doctor to prescribe “[...] eight weeks’ leave [...] of which, according to his way of thinking, I would have to spend at least fottr weeks in the mountains.” Ferenczi finds this state of ill health perplexing. For the first time since the end of the third segment of analysis, he asks himself if it might not be usefill to have a fourth: “The leave (which, in Dr. Levy’s view, can still be extended) would allow me to collaborate properly on the Lamarck work. - Or should I also pick up the thread of the analysis again? I await your advice.” In fact, Ferenczi spent three months in a Semmering clinic in the Tatra Mountains. During this period of convalescence (after the analytic procedure?), far from Gizella and from Freud, he took the time to clarify the elements in his body and soul that the analysis had stirred up.
On January 12, less adamant than usual, Freud sends a carefully worded answer: “I am sony to hear that your health has again been shaken. I also don’t know how to advise you about anything expedient from here [...] We don’t want to consider resuming tlie analysis.” hi the same letter, he informs Ferenczi of the progress of the Lamarck work. He also proposes a slight change in the manner of their collaboration: “I flunk each of us should complete the thing as though we were alone, and then we should get together.” Freud feels helpless, both as Ferenczi’s analyst and as his friend.