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A criminal refusal?

Ferenczi has just learned that a former patient has shot herself. But analytic honesty forces him to be more precise: “It is actually not a case of a ‘former’ patient but rather of one who had ‘begun’ - and was then dismissed.” He saw the young girl, was moved by her distress, and since he could not take her into analysis right away, he advised her to write a journal and record in it her childhood history -that of an unwanted child, who was now haunted by thoughts of suicide. Thus, the treatment began and was quickly interrupted and put off indefinitely. The description of the patient as “one who had ‘begun’ - and was then dismissed” cannot fail to awaken an echo. Indeed, this experience of Ferenczi’s as an analyst occurred at a very significant moment: “She came to me - a very poor, very beautiful, very intelligent, affectionate girl - a year ago, before my therapeutic trip to the Sem-mering,” The young working girl was cruelly srrbjected to the experience of an analysis that started and was quickly interrupted by her future analyst, around Christmas 1916 or the start of 1917, when Ferenczi, the analysand, was still suffering the traumatic effects of the sudden and definitive ending of his own analysis with Freud. Dismissed just before the promise of analysis made to her was to be kept, the young girl killed herself. Was Ferenczi’s letter hying to tell Frettd that playing with transference has serious consequences?

Indeed, Ferenczi uses this tragic event to allow himself to benefit from another analytic session in writing. He does not conceal his troubling involvement in the young girl’s tragedy. “But I happened to be in a period of vacillation with respect to Frau G. - her youth and charm enchanted me. -1 gave way to a kiss. [The repetition of the case of Elma.]” It was in this transferential context, confused and difficult, that the beginning and the end of the working girl’s treatment were negotiated:

She wouldn’t allow herself to be dismissed in this manner and vehemently demanded analysis. I [...] gave her two homs a week - on principle charged three crowns an hour’ - she yielded something but seemed to want to stay longer in the transference (which is no wonder, in view of the above).

The analysis proved to be difficult: “The analysis flattened out more and more; after the interruption in consequence of my ilhiess she returned - for a short time - but soon asked for a new hiatus, which I granted her. I didn’t see her for a long time.” Thus, the analysis, which could have been resumed in May 1917, soon stopped. Ferenczi advised the young woman to put her story in writing.

Ferenczi did not see her again until the beginning of December, shortly after the suicide of a brother-in-law who desired her: “She came about two weeks ago -quite resigned with respect to the brother-in-law, but with the plan to continue the analysis. I avoided her - citing military agendas, etc., and consoled her with a later time.” But five days before Ferenczi wrote this letter to Freud, “[last] Friday she came for the last time. She inquired about the analysis again, told me she wanted to shoot herself, already brought and old revolver, etc.” Just as Freud had done with him, Ferenczi remained firm in his decision: “I beseeched her to wait for treatment.” The girl’s sister, who had come to inform him of the suicide, suspected that Ferenczi had wrongly suggested to the young girl that she was in love with her brother-in-law, to better cover up the fact that

her sister had died only because she had been in love with me, and, in fact, she had wanted to love the man and not only the doctor in me; since I didn’t love her, she went to her death. She bases this surmise on obscure statements of her sister’s.

Ferenczi is deeply affected: “The case depresses me extraordinarily; but I maintained my composure [before] the bearer of bad tidings (Which I interpret as a sign of [my] health). Nonetheless, my sleeplessness shows me that I unconsciously want to guilty of this death.” Ferenczi is unable to lie to himself: “The truth of the matter is also that my conflictual attitude ([towards the end]), perhaps, the fanatical refusal) [...] did not favorably influence the case - which was certainly [doomed in any case].” This is the sad analytic tale which prompted Ferenczi to extort another session in absentia from Freud.

But we could easily imagine that such a letter, once written, has already filled its allo- and self-analytic function. Why, then, does Ferenczi send it to Vienna? What unconscious transferential impulse prompts him to do so? He asks himself this question: “To this extent the matter is clear to me. I probably wouldn’t have needed to send the letter off at all. But it would be nonsense to withhold from you just this chapter.” Why should Freud not be deprived of precisely this chapter, if not because it has close relevance for him, given that it is an account illustrating the dangers of an analysis that begins and is left in suspense, not terminated, like Ferenczi’s analysis with Freud? A few weeks after the end of his analysis, when he was still obsessed with dreams of triumphant youth, which Freud expected him to give up, Ferenczi, perhaps as a gesture of defiance, Ferenczi gave free rein to his demons with this touching young girl. But the careless solicitude he showed in the face of her distress, overlooking the furnace of transference -which he himself lit - left the young girl more alone than ever with her painful experience of life. Whether intentionally or not, the interruption of the treatment promised and expected proved deadly. Contrary to Freud, who didn’t give this case particular attention, we venture to say that Ferenczi never forgot this dreadful experience.

In fact, in 1929 he had the story of the young girl published - this young girl whom he had advised to write while waiting for analysis. His account was entitled “From the Childhood of a Young Proletarian Girl”. In his foreword to this publication, Ferenczi makes no mention of the intersecting transferential elements between himself and the young patient, and between him and Freud. But the fact that this text was published the same year as “The Unwelcome Child and His Death-Instinct” allows us to suppose that its subtitle could have been: “The Unwanted Analysand and His Death-Instinct”.

At the end of December 1917, Freud is not moved by these tragic events, and draws no conclusion from them. He does not intervene now, as he did so promptly six years earlier, when Ferenczi found himself in an awkward situation in Elma’s analysis. On December 25,1917, Ferenczi’s letter makes it clear that he has noticed Freud’s reserve, when he speaks of putting the incident behind him: “I don’t want to leave you [...] in the belief that the gruesome story about my patient that I told you has had a lasting influence on me.” But he goes on to say that someone else provided the possibility for dialogue he probably would have liked to have with Freud: “But the correct estimation of the case did not come in a logical way, but rather according to - and in consequence of - a talk with Frau G.” Strangely, and despite evidence to the contrary, Ferenczi wants Freud to see him as being flee of any neurotic guilt about this affair:

It corresponds completely to your views on the feeling of guilt - as far as I know them - that, since this moment, I don’t feel the slightest trace of guilt over the case that I reported, even though I am still genuinely sorry about the girl.

He presents himself as a man fitting what he supposes to be Freud’s ideal: “You see - I am beginning to live the life of a normal husband, with the obligatory' fantasies of infidelity and reconciliations.” On December 27, Freud is laconic and justifies his silence: “You will probably have understood why I haven’t answered your next-to-last letter. I saw that you are filling up the waiting time with a repetition of the same trick - now, to be sure, already diminished, and not without good support from external events - and I consoled myself with the conviction that you won’t do it anymore when the provisional [period is past].” Freud is counting on his conviction that marriage will put an end to Ferenczi’s habitual subterfuges. His letter makes no mention of the young woman.

In this last letter of the year, Freud announces the bad news that their common project on Lamarck will very likely not be completed.

Indeed, at the end of 1917 Freud relegates Ferenczi to the solitude of Iris own responsibility for his marital affairs, and to the freedom of choosing the direction of his thinking, now that the personal analysis of the past two years has made him the analyst he is. The analytic adventure on Freud’s couch had been preparing in the wings since the two men first met in 1908, even though the request for analysis was only made at the end of 1912. The actual analysis that took place in three segments conducted in 1914 and 1916 was followed by immediate aftermath effects throughout 1917. We think we are justified in equating the year 1917 with a five-year subjective period extending between 1912 and 1917.

We might even say five years or more, since it was not until 1918 that Ferenczi took the leading role he deserved in the movement, and not until 1919 that he carried out Freud’s wish by marrying Gizella.

Despite this clear progress he and Freud were both happy to acknowledge, Ferenczi had to wait until the end of 1921 to form a more nuanced judgement on his treatment, with its benefits as well as its serious failings or impasses. And it was not until 1922 that he attained independence of thought. From then on, he was able to cope with what had not been worked out in his analysis. Better still, what he failed to find in his personal analysis served as the basis of the analytic path he never ceased to define and explore, and which would be uniquely his. After the analysis, and thanks to its enlightening and its shadowy aspects, Ferenczi resolutely enters the time of desire. More determined than ever, he advances on the analytic scene. In September 1918, the fifth International Psychoanalytic Congress was a true consecration for Ferenczi.

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