The occlusive pessary dream

Once again, I leave to the reader the pleasure of discovering the daring feat consisting of the self-analysis - Freudian - of this dream in which the dr eamer introduces an occlusive pessary into his urethra. Ferenczi presents this dream as a dialogue between an analyst and an analysand, in a session. The analyst questions his patient on tire waking material that could have produced tire dream just recounted; the analysand answers, embarking on the associative work expected of him. Between them, as one continues to associate and the other to react, the interpretation of the dream reveals a powerful castration complex, feminine identification with the mother as teacher, a feminine position in regard to the father, auto-erotic pleasure and wish fulfilment: by performing this act, the dreamer gives himself the child that tire woman does not give him. There is nothing surprising in this classical Freudian interpretation. What we find astonishing about this dream is something else.

The dream sets out, almost word for word, the themes that were to be, and actually were, those of the three segments of the analysis to come: the fear of not being able to have children, the impediment to marriage, and the dissatisfaction of being unable to choose between the older and the younger woman. But this remarkable foreshadowing is not a complete surprise, since these topics were already present, and had been for several years, in the exchanges between Freud and Ferenczi. What is truly startling in Ferenczi’s account is the way in which the analyst and the analysand go from analysing the content of the dream to discussing its trans-ferential aspect. This interpretation concerns the very thing that later would, in fact, constitute a stumbling block for the termination of Ferenczi’s fixture analysis. In the fictional context of the pessary dream, Ferenczi shows the analyst going beyond the analysis of the instinctual and sexual content of the dream, and taking the initiative of examining its transferential dimension: “It is an ascertained rule of dream interpretation [...] that mockery and scorn are concealed behind such nonsense dreams.”

Thanks to his experience, Ferenczi, the astute analyst senses that behind the rich content of this dream which reinforces his Freudian perspective there is a more cunning intention and more aggressive impulses. Paying attention to negative transference allows the analysand to speak and to expose this negative transference:

My next ideas concern you, doctor, though I cannot just at once see that connection. I remember that yesterday you suggested to me that presently I should not require your services any longer, and that I could now manage quite alone. This, however, really only caused me regret, as I did not yet feel myself so far recovered as to be able to do without your assistance.

The potential conflict between the two partners involved in the analysis is clear, since one sees the work as nearing completion, while the other thinks that, on the contrary, there is still work to be done. One thinks that the analysand is settling into transference neurosis, while the other thinks his analyst is avoiding having to analyse negative transference. Indeed, this is exactly what happened two years later, in Ferenczi’s personal analysis, when Freud put an end to their sessions.

In the fictional context of the occlusive pessary dream, the analyst admits the relevance of his analysand’s intuition: “Now I understand. You mock at me by showing by the unskillful introduction of the pessary how wrong it is to leave you alone and to consider you capable from now on of being your own doctor.”

In this scenario, Ferenczi presents an analyst eager to separate from his analysand, and to send him back to self-analysis as soon as possible. This is what he tells his patient:

You may be partly right; on the other hand, the repeatedly confirmed transference to me that makes breaking off the analysis difficult for you shows itself in your dislike of my remarks. This tendency lets you under-estimate your own capabilities and exaggerates my importance and assistance.

Thus, about three weeks before the start of his own personal analysis, Ferenczi dreams of an analyst who could not only refuse to continue the analysis, but would like to avoid being the object of transference. To this end, he adds, to his previous interpretation, an interpretation of the pessary as a child: “The child that you were making for yourself would therefore also be your own self-analysis.” Exposed, the analysand responds by pointing out the limits of self-analysis, to justify his desire to continue the analysis on the couch:

I have repeatedly tried to analyse myself. I sit at my desk, I write what comes to my mind, I fill pages with my associations, without arriving at anything worthwhile. My thoughts flow into the immeasurable, I camrot collect them properly, I find no clue to the tangle. On the contrary I often marvel at the skill with which you can reduce to order what seems so disconnected.

Through the brilliant language of the dream, Ferenczi skillfully reveals the existence, between analyst and analysand, of an accessory misunderstanding not related to the inevitable subjective disparity between their- respective positions in the analytic process, but rather to the subjectivity evolving as the analysis unfolds. The analyst, rooted in his Freudian position, rightly considers that the time has come for the analysand to forego the transferential overestimation of the figure of the analyst, and to overcome the powerlessness caused by the underestimation of his own powers. This analyst thinks that it is time for the analysand to emerge from the trance of transference love, to wake up and to enter, at long last, the time of desire of a mortal man.

The analysand, Ferenczian or Lacanian ahead of his time, tries in vain to signify to his analyst that his subjective situation goes beyond the infantile dependence on the paternal figure of the analyst, suggested by the latter. The analysand knows that he is not merely immobilised in the jouissance of a regressive position repeated in the transference. Courageously, he defends his position. In the transference - whose value he recognises - he also needs the echo provided by what we call analytic dialogue, for lack of a better term. This analysand knows that he cannot fully trust the thoughts that fill his mind, he knows that he can only take hold of the sparks of truth in his own discourse through the echo sent back to him by the one who hears them. Without commenting, this “other” answers by letting him hear the words that strove to emerge in his associations on the couch, as he now sought himself in vain in his auto-analytic rantings.

The pessary dream Ferenczi describes is astounding, as we said earlier. A few days before starting his actual analysis, Ferenczi already knows what obstacle will cause the analysis “to end without being terminated,” for better or for worse. The analysand in Ferenczi already knows that the analyst in Freud will concentrate on the difficulties in Ferenczi’s love life, rather than on the more delicate matter of his transference on his analyst.

The question is, why is it that on the brink of his analysis Ferenczi has this dream and recounts it to Freud or, to be more exact, intends to publish it? And why, in view of publication, does he present it as a discussion on the termination of an analysis? Is it a personal premonition or a preventive warning addressed to Freud? It was in this setting, when the brutality of world history, the upheavals of the analytic movement and the humble personal stories of analysts intersected, that Ferenczi arrived in Vienna on October 1, 1914, to start his analysis.

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