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Battle orders and transference disorder (May-December 1917)

On May 13, Ferenczi sets the tone: “Immediately after my arrival I plunged into work and am bearing it well for the time being.” He also mentions, in passing, that the reunion with Gizella went as he had hoped. The next day, Freud expresses his delight: “I count your news that you have reported back [...] so fresh in all your relations among the most hopeful.” Freud would like to believe that the difficult five-year period when their relationship was marked by turmoil while being punctuated by segments of Ferenczi’s analysis is now behind them: “That makes the impression of a final settlement.” In his reply, written the same day, Ferenczi is reporting on his search for a place where Freud can spend his summer holidays. He is also happy to announce the publication of “the first psychoanalytic work by an ethnologist of the first [order]”, his patient Dr G Roheim.

On May 27, Ferenczi reports that he has had a telephone conversation with Dr Freund about Freud’s stay in Hungary over the summer. In 1915, Freud had Rozsi, Anton von Freund’s second wife, as a patient in analysis. There is another piece of good news: “A young pupil of mine (therefore indirectly of yours) is about to write a book about children’s games in psychoanalytical [terms].” On May 29, Freud thanks Ferenczi: “So, your extensive energetic care seems to have bestowed an ideal summer place upon us.” But, given his “medical connection” to Freund’s wife, Freud hesitates to accept the latter’s hospitality. And now, after having awakened Ferenczi’s interest in the Lamarck project, Freud takes a step backwards: “I am not at all disposed to doing the work on Lamarck in the summer and would prefer to relinquish the whole thing to you. I also can’t take along so many books.” Strangely, on June 3, just when he is starting to back out of the common project, Freud informs Ferenczi about a new and promising contact with a newcomer. He intimates that Georg Groddeck could be Ferenczi’s interlocutor in the Lamarck project, since he himself intends to withdraw from it: “Next time I will send you the most interesting letter from a German physician that I have ever-received, the contents of which impinge lavishly on your pathoneuroses and the Lamarck idea. I have still to reply to him.” In fact, Groddeck was to play an even greater role in Ferenczi’s life than Freud would have wished. Soon, it was to this man, who became his friend and physician, that Ferenczi would be able to speak of his analysis in a very different way than he spoke of it with Freud.

Ferenczi is as pleased as Freud that they have rebuilt their friendship and work relations at this time when the psychoanalytic movement seems to gain momentum. He is also pleased - just as Freud is - that his relationship with Gizella is now untroubled. On August 18, he thanks his analyst for having weathered the transference: “[...] there became apparent in me the breakthrough of hitherto well-repressed feelings, which convinced me that your view that I have always been fixated on Frau G. [... ] is justified.” He is emphatic: “I thank you for having, in disregard for all my, in part, well-constructed objections to it, insisted on settling the matter in this way.” On August 20, Freud applauds his friend’s decision: “That is good news! You imagined it to be much more difficult. Now, no more hesitation; speed things up as soon as it goes. I have no doubt that you will bless the decision. But you won’t understand then why you made it so late.” The same day, Freud tells Frau G. how happy he is: “Hearty congratulations! Now you can cast aside all regrets that are left to you as remnants of a bad time and get serious, finally making a beautiful life for yourself and for him. I am enormously happy about the easy outcome.”

Ever since the announcement of Groddeck's letter on June 3, Freud and Ferenczi never stopped discussing him. Freud disagrees with Ferenczi’s initial reservations about the newcomer. He reiterates this on October 9: “I know and share your objections, but the heart of the matter coincides with your pathoneuroses and our Lamarck idea, and is certainly noteworthy.” At the same time, Freud sends him a little article by Groddeck, asking linn to write a “detailed, benevolent review” of it. Freud’s insistence that Ferenczi return to work soon bears fruit. On October 10, Ferenczi notes that his physical health and state of mind have returned to “normal”: “It appears to me as though I made the right decision about marriage after all; I see that from the consolidation of my physical health as well as the condition of my mind, which [could] be called normal.” He knows that this is due in great part to his analysis and to the psychic and physical turmoil that followed, the onslaught of affects and the worsening of his state of health: “Sometimes I feel as if I could observe with a kind of imier perception the displacements that are taking place with my libido.” He also knows that his present feelings towards Gizella are related to elements in his relationship with Freud which were revealed and transformed: “I get, for example, moods of tenderness and feelings of friendship with respect to you, as if I had previously been hindered in that by [certain] inhibitions.” These internal shifts are promising for the future: “I hope confidently that - when I can finally cany on a normal family life -1 will also be capable of work. I think I will then get serious with the work on Lamarck.”

On October 14 he writes that he appreciated Groddeck’s work, and that he has written the requested review. In addition, he is pursuing an endeavour that goes counter to the thrust of his two segments of analysis in 1916: “Now I will continue my history of illness (cine).” The perspective he has gained assured him of his progress: “As a sure sign of [the] fact that we have taken the right path, I can report an increase in potency; in relation to this I have become quite youthful, or more correctly: it turned out that I was only neurotically aged.” This recovery, both physical and psychic, releases and energises the work of reflection now transferred into the sphere of work created between Freud and Ferenczi, instead of remaining captive in the transference onto Freud.

Now, becoming more detached from his analysis by undertaking its account in writing, Ferenczi is able to seize and soon truly make his own an idea casually proposed by Freud two years earlier. So that, on October 14, 1917, Ferenczi feels free to announce to Freud that he has had a new idea:

Something also occurred to me about the Lamarck idea. Man has almost completely renounced autoplasticity and is adapting heteroplastically. But he is enabled to do this only with the aid of a remnant of the old plasticity which has been preserved. I am thinking of the plasticity of striated musculature, which, under the influence of the will, immediately assumes precisely the form and consistency required. It is this alteration of self which ultimately makes possible the alteration of the outside world.

Through the effect of transference in collaborative work, a casual observation of Freud’s became, for Ferenczi, an idea he would develop at length, and make into one of the pillars of his future research on the practice of analysis.

On November 3, Ferenczi reports that he is very busy in his practice. He has an abundance of patients: “I could easily have two or three times as many patients as I can accept. But I don’t seem to like to separate from old patients - most have been with me for over a year! There is some error in this!” True to his inclination to provide in-depth treatment, Ferenczi is the first analyst to conduct long-term analysis. On February 6, Freud grows impatient, seeing that Ferenczi’s matrimonial arrangements “are going [...] too slowly for me.”

hi his reply, in a long letter dated November 18, Ferenczi speaks as Freud's analy-sand: “After all, you are not only my friend, whom I have to spare my ‘transformations of libido,’ but also the physician to whom I owe a report about - the last, I hope - phase of my neurosis.” He has trouble putting into words not the self-analysis he is forced to carry out, but the slow working through - work of the unconscious - that unfolded in him. Indeed, how can he speak of something that took place unbeknownst to him?

Now, how should I tell it to you? And how did this come over me? I certainly can’t call it “illumination,” since it was [only] able to penetrate with such difficulty - mostly only as a small glimmer, which was soon extinguished, in order to make room for darkness again. But I don’t want to get poetic. Let’s rather remain precise.

He then explains that since the summer, when they met, he went through “a peculiar time” he finds it hard to describe. This strange experience showed him that the obvious improvement in his physical state doesn’t guarantee that the same is true of his psychic state: “But I was not completely satisfied with myself, mentally.” He discovers that he has been lying to himself, that he has been playing his role as Frau G.’s future husband “[as] if mechanically, dutifully [...]” The “duty-like character of the execution of this love” forces him to admit that this is not “true love”. But he has made progress, because he kept all this to himself instead of cruelly confessing it to Gizella. He knows that it is he himself who has to understand these things and work through them. He now acknowledges that his analyst was right a year earlier, when he insisted forcefully that his patient make a clear decision. “You were right again. It was difficult for me to get anything analytically; I had to be really obligated, as I am now, in order to bring about significant psychic progress.” After analysing one of his own dreams, Ferenczi again thanks his analyst: “I have decided to thank you for the tenacity with which you have held to your original view and not let yourself be scared off from the necessity of marriage by my pessimism.” Now that he can be attentive to the subject of the unconscious in himself, Ferenczi can finally take it into account and adopt a new position in regard to his symptoms: “I won’t let myself be made a fool of by these hypochondrias anymore.” At last, he accepts the obvious:

I finally think that I believe that I have summoned both Gizella’s outward appearance as well as childlessness, the psychic and somatic illness, as bogeys against marriage to Gizella, with whom I have obviously been in love, irretrievably and for a very, very long time.

This is what became very clear to Ferenczi, the obvious that was so difficult to describe because it was not an awareness gained after lengthy reflection. But another event was even more revealing.

This awareness, gained in a flash of lucidity, regarding his conflicting love interests and his relation to Freud brought with it an unexpected theoretical discovery, at a time when his “otherwise very rich scientific fantasy even dried up for a while.” “In this dull tension [...] the solution first [emerged] a few days ago from a scientific quarter.” This fertile moment in his intellectual work came about before the clarification of his romantic feelings, which the dream revealed to him. Learning from the in-depth work with his patients, Ferenczi takes a crucial step in determining the orientation of his analytic research: “From the analysis of a [female] patient which is meeting with complete success, and from similar earlier and present observations, there arose a plan for a work on ‘hysterical materialization phenomena.’” But for now, he is content with pointing out the possibilities of the new research field he intends to open: “I don’t want to speak now of the interesting connections of this theme with the theme of Lamarckism [...] about the roots of genitality [...] That should really be written down some time.” The article on this theme would be written in 1919. In addition to the reference to Lamarck, a few paragraphs further Ferenczi makes a playfid reference to the man in Baden-Baden: “Alia! Dr. Groddeck!”

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