The actual analysis (1914-1916)

Little by little

During the latter part of 1913 and the first half of 1914, the exchange of letters allows Ferenczi to refer regularly to his love life. Although, following Freud’s implicit advice, he has apparently given up Elma, he has not yet decided to marry Gizella. The correspondence also allows Ferenczi to comment on the political situation at a time when a decisive confrontation is about to take place between Vienna and Zurich. There is complete disagreement about Freud’s theory' of the libido, and Jung is still President of the IPA and Director of the Jahr-buch. On February 11,1914, Freud informs Ferenczi that in these troubled times he is writing - “very assiduously” - “On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement.”

In 1912, as the situation involving Jung worsens, the Secret Committee comes into being. Ferenczi feels at ease in this small friendly circle with no institutional power, but endowed with unquestionable analytic authority. He is, however, less comfortable with Freud, who refuses to participate in the analytic reciprocity that Ferenczi seeks. On April 18, he writes to Freud:

A real circle of friends is gradually coming out of the ‘Committee,’ in which one feels well and secure. But I had to observe not without pain that my position with respect to you, specifically, is not completely natural, and that your presence arouses inhibitions of various kinds in me that influence, and at times almost paralyze, my actions and evert my thinking.

At first, this renewed reference to the paralysing inhibition present in his relationship with Freud seems surprising. Indeed, Ferenczi is clearly not hindered in his contribution to the development and transmission of Freudian theory'; after all, in the space of two years (1913-1914), he has written 38 articles of various lengths. What then, is the nature of his inhibition, and what does it have to do with the intuition he had in the spring of 1911 when he engaged in “intimate conversation” with Freud about “mental activity in general” - the only way to gain access to “true tarowledge” worthy of faith?

In other words, Ferenczi has doubts and raises questions: is the spirit of psychoanalysis best transmitted by means of classical teaching, or is it better served by another means of transmission? In his letter to Freud dated April 24, 1911, he did not answer this crucial question, merely reminding the latter of his own way of understanding and, above all, of adopting the Freudian doctrine:

If one hears something new, then one is really obliged analytically to test one’s personal relationship to the herald of the new doctrine in the most conscientious maimer before one can make a decision as to the real value of that statement.

Does this ambiguous formulation make it possible to sense the nature of the inhibition of which Ferenczi constantly complains? Is the obligation of the one who hears a new theory to examine scrupulously his own personal relationship -transferential - to the one who promotes this theory, or must he also examine in-depth the personal relationship between this herald of the theory and the doctrine he promotes? Is it not this double obligation that causes Ferenczi to stumble on a difficulty inherent to the transmission of psychoanalysis, which could be the source of his stubborn inhibition?

On April 18,1914, this difficulty is still present and rendered more acute by the fact that Ferenczi constantly questions his relations of dependence and independence to the inventor of psychoanalysis, while Freud is not inclined to dwell on the division Ferenczi introduces between the statement and the stating, or to disclose the personal narrative underlying his writings. But Ferenczi, with his frenzied passion for analysis, always asserted that beyond the Freudian theories he easily assimilated, he wanted to learn about Freud the man and the desire which animated him. This being so, is Ferenczi’s inhibition a personal incapacity or the encounter with an impossibility?

And why is this inhibition at once so insistent and volatile? Two months later, on June 4, it seems to have disappeared. Filled with enthusiasm, Ferenczi is effusive in his praise:

Just read Narcissism with delight. Haven’t had such pleasure in reading in a long time. But I also have to admit to you - and you can take this openness as a sign of the uninhibited inner freedom that is beginning to develop in me - that for years I have actually not been able to read anything thoroughly except your writing.

Why does Ferenczi use the verb “admit” rather than “confess,” if not because he knows that Freud is reluctant to be confronted with his affective (transferential) reactions?

On July 20, tensions arise once again between Ferenczi and Freud, when the former comments on the latter’s firm decision to break off relations with Jung unceremoniously: “Getting rid of Jung has meant for you to return to your original mode of work: to take everything into your own hands and not to rely on ‘collaborators.’” Thus, in July 1914 Ferenczi attributes to Freud a need for independence, a desire to go on alone [...] like the desire he expressed in Sicily, by which Ferenczi was hurt, when their planned collaboration on a text on paranoia was cancelled. Now, Ferenczi says that he is ready - reluctantly - to give up the “intimate conversation” whose virtues he values, and to be content with Freud’s texts:

But the main thing remains that we get as much as possible from you in writing, and to this end independence is the most beneficial thing. That also consoles me in the face of the loss that I, too, among your other collaborators, will sustain through this change of course. Petty personal interests must keep silent when it is a matter of such significant values.

Aware of the obvious ambivalence of his statements, Ferenczi goes on to say, dutifully, as if against his will: “As grateful as I am for the personal intercourse with you and for your interest in my advancement, I have been and am most grateful for your words, which have embellished my life and profession.” Two days later, appearing irritated, Freud responds with a denial: “[...] you overestimate Jung’s significance for my emotional life in much the same way he did. I don’t know of any new course with regard to my friends.” Freud refuses to be called to account, and in addition to showing his irritation, he firmly sets things straight:

I have also not sacrificed our usual get-together to comfort but rather to renewed work, for which I can’t use comradeship. I also don’t work easily together with you in particular. You grasp things differently and for that reason often put a strain on me.

The next day Ferenczi makes amends: “I concede that I may be overestimating Jung’s significance for your emotional life, as he himself did, and you can believe me when I say that I am not very [proud about] this symptom of unconscious identification with him.”

On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. In Vienna, conscription in the Austro-Hungarian Empire was announced on July 31. Freud’s sons, as well as Ferenczi, were drafted.

On August 24, 1914, as the start of the planned analysis approaches, Ferenczi tries to reassure Freud, knowing his reservations:

I promise to muster everything, in order to mitigate the difficulties [...] If things mni out differently to some extent, then that would be material for further analysis, whereby you would have to proceed with all necessary strictness. You know, of course, that I am suffering from the memory of the good father. Perhaps the bad one will loosen my tongue!

Five weeks before the start of his first analytic session, Ferenczi is drawing Freud’s attention to the probable presence, underneath the positive transference on the good father, of a negative transference on the bad father. On September 2, he reminds Freud that “I have on no account totally given up the other idea (to be analyzed by you),” if he is not called up.

One week later, on September 8, he sends Freud the self-analysis of a recent dream restructured, in view of publication, into a dialogue between an analyst and his analysand: “You will also recognise yourself in it - in the person of the doctor who doesn’t want to analyze me.” Written three weeks before the start of the adventure on Freud’s couch, this dream, called the “occlusive pessary dream,” proves to be even more enlightening than the two dreams Ferenczi analysed at length on December 26, 1912, when he made his first request for analysis.

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