Conference: Sincerity and Freedom in Psychoanalysis

A studio conference inspired by Sandor Ferenczi's Clinical Diary organised by The Freud Museum and IMAGO International

The conference celebrates the centenary of the British and Hungarian Psychoanalytic Societies, both founded in 1913, and the recent donation of the Ferenczi archive to the Freud Museum.

Day 1:

Facilitator: Tom Keve

Opening Session: Analysts, Scholars, Detectives and Patients: Who is who in the Clinical Diary?

Christopher Fortune- The Diary’s “RN”: Reflections of the Legacy Twenty years on

Twenty years ago, the first collection of papers on Ferenczi’s contributions was published as The Legacy of Sandor Ferenczi (Aron & Harris, 1993). One of the chapters in the book shed light on the background, life and work of “RN”, Ferenczi’s code-name in the Clinical Diary for his critical patient, Elizabeth Severn. The publication of the Diary had earlier revealed the profound importance of her case for Ferenczi’s developing ideas and practice. The chapter in the Legacy book titled: The Case of “RN”: Sandor Ferenczi’s Radical Experiment in Psychoanalysis (Fortune), presented biographical material and research, supporting and adding to, the rich clinical material already revealed in the Diary. Now, two decades later, RN has continued to secure her place as “one of the most important patients in the history of psychoanalysis.” In our first studio conference, I would like to revisit, reflect and bring forward new material and insights on the relationship between Sándor Ferenczi and Elizabeth Severn.

William Brennan – Decoding Ferenczi’s Clinical Diary

In The Clinical Diary of Sándor Ferenczi (1988) certain codes are used to refer to particular patients. The identity of some of these patients are known to us, notably, Dm (Clara Thompson) and RN (Elizabeth Severn), but the others have remained a mystery. We have the biographical data of many of Freud’s famous cases (the Wolf Man, Anna O, Little Hans etc) which contextualizes and enlarges our understanding. I propose a hypothesis of the code Ferenczi used to conceal his patient’s identities—revealing the identities and life stories. I will provide additional biographical notes to expand and contextualize our understanding of the lives of these patients—who were they? what kind of families did they came from? and what happened to them after their analysis? Included in their stories are tales of bobbed hair in the Amazon; ϋber wealth and aristocracy; parents who survived the Titantic; and FBI investigations for espionage. I will also address my own process in uncovering their identities and the ethics of writing about historical patients.

Emanuel Berman– Ferenczi and his analysands: A virtual therapy group

Ferenczi writes in the Clinical Diary, when dealing with the dilemmas of confidentiality in mutual analysis, of a “‘polygamous’ analysis, which roughly corresponds to the group analysis of American colleagues (even if it is not carried out in groups” (16 February, 1932; p. 34). In such a group there are no secrets among the participants. Although the setting of Ferenczi’s work in 1932 was of numerous individual analyses (some of them mutual), the process was actually also a group process. Many of the analysands knew each other and discussed their analyses with each other, making comparisons, competing with each other, reporting on one another, trying to influence Ferenczi in one direction or another, etc. This is clear from the text of the Diary, and becomes even clearer with the help of Brennan’s biographical explorations. I will demonstrate this emotional reality through several examples, and discuss its profound impact on some of the analyses described in the Diary. I will relate this situation to a common pattern in analytic training, when several candidates who know each other see the same analyst. In such situations we witness the emergence of “the reverse case conference” in which patients discuss their common analyst, often secretly. Such discussions never appear in print, but may have a strong and unacknowledged influence on the seemingly “individual” treatments.

Session 1: Sincerity, Honesty and Freedom

André Haynal – The environment of the Clinical Diary

In pursuing threads of the Correspondence with Freud and traces of the mutual analysis with Groddeck, this is an attempt at capturing the psychological atmosphere for Ferenczi around the time of the birth of the Diary. Mysterious and fecund moments follow difficulties that approach somatic breakdown.

Ken Robinson– Empathy, tact and the freedom to be natural

The clinical concepts of “empathy” and “tact” as Ferenczi uses them in the Clinical Diary, in “The Elasticity of Psycho-Analytic Technique” (1928) and in his correspondence with Freud in January 1928, have an enduring importance. I propose to explore them as part of a family of related concepts, founded in the analyst’s capacity to be “natural” and “sincere”, and to locate them in the wider context of the philosophy of “personal knowledge” associated with another Hungarian, Michael Polanyi.

Gábor Szőnyi– Challenges of honesty

There was one thing Sandor Ferenczi was committed to more than to Freud: psychoanalysis. Above all others, he took the method extremely seriously. Not in a descriptive sense, but by following its spirit and exploring it in its totality.

Ferenczi was willing to explore the whole domain of the basic rule: express – without any filtering – what you have on your mind. His personality was that of a researcher, for whom experimentation is natural. The famous – and scarily misunderstood – experiences with mutual analysis explored the limits of honesty in free association for both actors; the analysand and the analyst.

There are today three settings where the honesty of an analyst is at stake: his or her personal analysis; supervisions and case discussions; and the analyses he or she conducts. These require the capacity and the willingness to be honest. Being honest can always turn into a painful exercise. It is not just a given, even if the capacity is broad and the analyst has extensive training. Willingness to be honest needs to be rebuilt in every context again and again – which is a crucial point of self-analysis.

Ferenczi criticized the hypocrisy of doctors – and honesty, indispensable in self-analysis, is the opposite of hypocrisy. A hundred years after the formation of the British and Hungarian Psychoanalytic Societies, it is worth reviewing our training practices to see how much they help or hinder the growing capacity to be honest and the willingness to practice honesty in our daily work.

Facilitator: Joan Raphael-Leff

Session 2: Experiencing, Re-Experiencing, Symbolization and New Beginnings

Endre Koritar-Surviving Deadness in the Analytic Experience

The transference/countertransference (T/CT) analysis is considered to be central in the therapeutic effectiveness of the analytic process. Less emphasis has been placed on the actual experiences of analyst and analysand in the conflictual re-enactment of T/CT and its resolution.

In this paper, I will recount the experiences of a patient who was silent throughout most of the analysis, and my reaction, in fantasy and enactment, to this difficult experience-both for him and myself. I argue that it is the affective re-experiencing of past, repressed trauma of both partners in the analytic couple that has a therapeutic impact, leading to growth in the patient and also the therapist.

I contrast Freud’s emphasis on insight, making the unconscious conscious, with Ferenczi’s suggestion that the therapeutic impact lies in the repetition of past traumatic experience in the analysis but with the possibility of a different outcome with a more benign object, leading to symbolic representation of repressed trauma. I will review the works of Pearl King on the affective response of the analyst, Joseph Sandler’s work on Role-Responsiveness, Franco Borgogno’s work on Role Reversal, Ted Jacobs work on CT Enactment, Casement’s views on learning from the patient, and Ogden’s work on analysis of the analytic space in focusing on the actual experiences of both partners in the analysis.

Re-experiencing and symbolization in the T/CT of past traumatic experience can be an exit point from the endless repetition of trauma in internal and external object relations, and a new beginning in the patient’s life.

Etty Cohen- – The Vicissitudes of Enactment in Analysis of Traumatized Female Patients – From Freud and Ferenczi to Contemporary Psychoanalysis

The tears of doctor and of patient mingle in a sublimated communion, which perhaps finds its analogy only in the mother-child relationship. And this is the healing agent, which, like a kind of glue, binds together … (Ferenczi, 1932, p. 65).

Ferenczi departed from traditional psychoanalytic techniques and devoted part of his career to developing the role of action in the analytic treatment of difficult patients. He recognized the equal significance of verbal and nonverbal communications in the therapeutic dyad and believed that communication is in itself a form of action.

Traumatized patients generally engage with us through actions (enactments) rather than words. In this paper I will discuss the meaning and evolution of various enactments by Freud and Ferenczi as well as their female patients within the therapeutic process. These enactments allowed patients’ traumatic past experiences to emerge.

Freud’s patient, Dora, and Sándor Ferenczi’s patients, Dm and B, as described in his Clinical Diary (1932), were all severely traumatized.‬ By exploring Ferenczi’s and Freud’s clinical work, I will focus on the multiple meanings of the choices they utilized while working with traumatized patients. Distinguished formulations of therapeutic actions specifically addressing enactment will be addressed.‬

Franco Borgogno– “Coming from afar” and “becoming temporarily the patient without knowing it”: Two necessary conditions of analysing according Ferenczi’s later works

In this paper the Author will offer thoughts about the two necessary conditions of a true analysis according to Ferenczi’s later works: the “reciprocal coming from afar of the analyst and of the patient” and the “becoming temporarily the patient of the analyst without knowing it”.

Session 3: From Babies to Maturity

Facilitator: Gianna Williams

Shaul Bar-Haim – “Infants do not love; they must be loved”: Omnipotence, dependency and the Ferenczian notion of childhood

On the 7th of August 1932, Sandor Ferenczi wrote in his Clinical Diary the following words: “The newborn child uses all its libido for its own growth; indeed, it must be given additional libido to ensure that it grows normally. Normal life thus begins with exclusive, passive object-love. Infants do not love; they must be loved” (Clinical Diary, 189). This quotation represents Ferenczi’s much wider understanding of childhood, as he perceived it in the early 1930s – the last years of his life. In a series of notable publications, he portrayed childhood as a state of passivity, dependency and weakness. In order to survive, he argued, children must not only learn their carers’ formal language, but also to fully internalize their carers’ unconscious wishes and desires. To survive, he believed, children must develop an ability to ‘identify with an aggressor’, who he often saw as being their own parents. Childhood, according to the later writings of Ferenczi, is a matter of survival.
But this was not always the case. In his early psychoanalytical works, and mainly in his influential essay, ‘Stages in the Development of the Sense of Reality’, published in 1913, Ferenczi had a different picture of infancy and early childhood. Children, he then thought, are motivated by their feelings of omnipotence. From a very early stage, perhaps from the moment of birth, they perceive themselves as capable and powerful beings. According to this perception of childhood, infants believe in their power to make their carers attune to their needs rather than to attune themselves to their carers’ desires.
So what happened to the ‘Ferenczian child’ between ‘The Stages of Development’ and ‘The Clinical Diary’? My aim is to provide a short history of the changes in Ferenczi’s concept of childhood, during the two decade period, 1913-1932. This might help us to have a better picture of the ways in which Ferenczi thought of childhood – from a state of ‘omnipotence’ to a state of what he famously described as a ‘confusion of tongues’. It will also be argued that the reasons for this change are not solely related to Ferenczi’s own personal life, but also to some historically major changes in the psychoanalytical understanding of childhood, and the emergence of child-psychoanalysis after the First World War.

Antal Bókay – The Idea of the Child – Ferenczi and Others

The paper discusses the idea of the child as a projection, a construction of the self in psychoanalysis and in literature. The major “psychoanalytic philosopher” of the idea of the child was Sándor Ferenczi who wrote several important papers (pre-eminently, the “Confusion of tongues between adults and the child”) and discussed the theme in his Clinical Diary. Ferenczi’s reflections on the meaning of trauma and seduction for understanding neurosis and mental illness lead to a powerful restatement of the distinction between the child and the adult and of the anthropological difference that is connected to it. For Ferenczi the trauma is not only the cause of neurosis but also a constitutive factor of human subjectivity. The child, who resides in us, is a trauma product, a deeply hidden special narrative, a heterogeneous unfolding of inner energies inscripted by early primary events as signifiers. The primary source of the trauma is relational: the irreconcilable difference of the child and the adult. Before the trauma there exists a tie of love between the adult and the child. The child plays out its desire on the level of tenderness, imagination and play. The adult has a different form of desire, he interprets the process sexually, with the language of passion. Adult passion intrudes into the child’s world brutally, the child starts to panic. To defend itself its only possibility is to identify with the aggressor. Not becoming aggressive, but accepting as normal its position and also introjecting the guilt feeling of the aggressor. Connected to the psychoanalytic views of Ferenczi I discuss parallel philosophical positions (Merleau-Ponty, Giorgio Agamben) concerning the figure of the child and analyze a few literary-poetical examples.

Julianna Vamos – Free to Move – Free to Be

The Hungarian Pikler-Loczy Institute for Infants’ Well-being and Healthy Development could not have been created without the fundamental contribution of the Budapest School’s approach to Object Relations. For historical reasons, there is very little known in psychoanalytical circles about this extraordinary experience.
The space for partnership and reciprocity, and space for “true” autonomy, is an original model created by Pikler, with central importance given to the baby’s self-initiated motor development: “freedom to move”.
We will present video sequences of this universe of solicitude. The atmosphere of this world around babies is en resonance with Ferenczi’s reflections in his Clinical Diary, and what he “dreamed” of as the necessity of a caring early environment provided through adult tenderness.

Kathleen Kelley-Lainé – Freedom to Grow: Inspired by Ferenczi’s Clinical Diary

This paper will explore how psychoanalysis can create a space in which immature, infantile psychic processes can be identified, elaborated and transformed, enabling the subject to emerge. A clinical example will illustrate the case of a young woman who after three years in analysis was able to break free of archaic, infantile fantasies and develop her career as a musician.

Evening Session: Kino-analytical Panel

Two films by Em Cooper, Confusion of Tongues and The Nest, introduced and discussed by Kata Lénárd and Petra Kovács, with Em Cooper
Facilitator: Kanaan Navaratnam

British film director Em Cooper was inspired by Sándor Ferenczi’s ‘confusion of tongues’ theory. The film (2010) of the same title combines animation and live action seeking to capture the chaotic inner experiences, complex psychic, perceptual and memory distortions of the person suffering from trauma.
Please note that the films themselves have been cut from this recording.

Confusion of Tongues

The short film – using only a scarce number of words – depicts with incredible power a trauma that can hardly be recounted verbally. Rapid changing of images, colours and shapes, the transitions of contoured and obscure, shifts between ’real’ and ’imaginary’ figures – this visual montage synthesizes multiple ideas in a powerful visual language. The blending of animation and live action creates a chaotic, surreal world that is both frightening and moving. The film, as a work coming into existence in transitional space, zooms in and out.
Em Cooper’s movie helps encounter what is incomprehensible, inexplicable and impossible to apprehend.
The film is about a young woman haunted by a recurring childhood memory. Gripped by her fear of a window left open she begins to recall a much deeper trauma. Likewise in some sentences of the Ferenczi-essay, heavy layers of meanings are building upon each other through the images of the movie. The text and special language of the original paper is turned into a visual language with astounding accuracy – thus the inner content of the coherent text, the non-narratibility of the trauma are transformed into an experience affecting our primary senses through images and sounds difficult to reflect (upon) and integrate.
In our lecture we observe the role of live action and animation in capturing the dynamics of confusion of tongues and how it affects the receivers/audience. How is confusion of tongues portrayed today in an animation employing oil-painting technology? What extra meanings are given by images, colours and sounds to the issues of seduction and trauma, construction and reconstruction, narrative and objective truth? The real, live hand, flashing onto the screen, sketching up the animation parts of the film may also actuate thoughts concerning the processing of the trauma.

The Nest and trauma

The short film of British film director Em Cooper The Nest (2010) tells the parallel story of a domestic abuse. The very same morning is shown first from the mother’s point of view, then from her daughter’s angle. The ”dissociated” images of the film blur the line between past and present, fantasy and reality, mother’s and daughter’s story. Is it the mother’s or the daughter’s trauma? Or the trauma suffered by the mother is mirrored in fantasy, and this unprocessed trauma presents itself in the dynamics of the father-daughter relationship, or even, in all three lives?
After watching the film we will discuss how stories that are verbally ’non-narratable’ but live deep inside us can emerge, come back to life, be animated through various media, e.g. the visual arts. The director employs the ambiguity, “double senses” (M.L. Hernandez) immanent in animation to represent the interplay between fiction and reality. The intermediality of animation and live action helps getting to a closer understanding of domestic violence, the dynamics of abuse and transgenerational trauma.

Day 2:

Session 1: Therapeutic Ethics and Analytic Concepts

With: Julia Borossa and and Hayuta Gurevich
Facilitator: Antal Bókay

Julia Borossa – Translating Ferenczi’s Therapeutic Ethics for our Time: The Question of Being Alongside

Ferenczi’s practice and therapeutic ethics as exemplified in the Clinical Diary reveal a profound sensitivity to the question of authority and freedom. This paper will engage with the ways in which this question has been taken up elsewhere and has become central to post war extensions of the psychoanalytic field, such as group analysis. A particular comparison will be made with group analytic notions of leadership and horizontal ways of relating, ie how to be alongside one another. It will be suggested that the translation of Ferenczi for our time opens up onto the question of the adaptability of psychoanalysis to different and changing socio-political contexts.

 Hayuta Gurevich – The Return of Dissociation as Absence within Absence

My aim is to translate Ferenczi’s central concepts of the intrapsychic impact and imprint of early developmental trauma into both revived and contemporary conceptualizations.
The concept of dissociation was central to the Seduction Theory renounced by Freud, yet it is returning as a cornerstone of recent Trauma Theories. Ferenczi, following Freud, usually used the concepts of repression and splitting, but definitely used them in the sense of an intrapsychic imprint of early external trauma, that is – as dissociation, i.e., fragmentation of consciousness itself. Furthermore, early trauma is double: an absence of protection that threatens existence of the self, combined with an absence of attachment and of recognition of this threat and terror; thus – an absence-within-absence. This contemporary conceptualization entails a widening of the intrapsychic realm to include an intersubjective one, and regards dissociation as a unique and complex intrapsychic absence, which is a negative of the external absence-within-absence in the early environment.

Session 2 –Ferenczi’s “Others” – Jung, Klein, Lacan

With: Tom Keve, Isabel Halton, Yves Lugrin
Facilitator: Giselle Galdi

Tom Keve – The Jung-Ferenczi Dossier

The acquaintance between Ferenczi and C G Jung, pre-dates their first encounter with Sigmund Freud. Later, a triangular relationship developed when the three men crossed the Atlantic together and spent an extended period in one another’s company. Ferenczi’s friendship with Jung could not survive the latter’s break with Freud, but it’s development between 1907 and 1913 is evidenced by unpublished letters from Jung to Ferenczi, found in the Ferenczi Archive, now at the Freud Museum.

Isabel Halton – Mrs Klein and the Diary

In 1959 Klein wrote “While living in Budapest. I had become interested in psycho-analysis…I went into analysis with Ferenczi, who was the most outstanding Hungarian analyst, and he very much encouraged my idea of devoting myself to analysis, particularly child analysis, for which he said I had a particular talent.”
Ferenczi had an important influence on Melanie Klein’s ideas. In this talk I want to look at the clinical diaries and try to map the kind of influence he had on Mrs Klein’s work.

Yves Lugrin – Lacan-Ferenczi … a paradoxical kinship?

“In my teaching, I always give a special consideration to Ferenczi’s spiritual line of thought” : here is what Lacan confides in 1953 to M. Balint, “one of the best trained psychoanalysts in Ferenczi’s school of authenticity”. Nevertheless, this tribute paid to the author of “the luminous paper on psychoanalytical elasticity” is not given without strict, sometimes unfair criticism.
Moreover, from 1963 onwards, Ferenczi seems to disappear from Lacan’s horizon of thought, most of his students neglecting Ferenczi’s crucial role in the history of psychoanalysis, and failing to realize that his work should not be forgotten. Yet today, more than thirty years after Lacan’s death, we discover that in his own destiny as an psychoanalyst, he remained stangely loyal to “the passion for analyzing” that he early detected in Ferenczi whom he considered as “the most pertinent” among the pioneers “in his questioning what is required from the psychoanalyst, and specially about the end of the cure”
Each in his own psychoanalytical singularity, Lacan and Ferenczi were both “the most tormented by the psychoanalytical action”. But was it the same torment? And what were the differences?

Session 3 – Freedom, authority and the social unconscious

With: Ferenc Erős, Jonathan Sklar
Facilitator: Lene Auerstad

Ferenc Erős – Freedom and Authority in the Clinical Diary

In my paper I will examine the challenges of some twentieth century political theories and ideologies (like Marxism, socialism, feminism, postmodern thinking) for psychoanalysis. I will raise the question: after the experiences of historical traumata, totalitarianism and dictatorships, what psychoanalysis today can say about the non-traumatic, democratic social processes and about the threats they have to face with. To attempt to outline a possible answer, I will go back to Ferenczi’s early writings that explicitly deal with social and political issues, especially to his manuscript “Psychoanalysis and liberal socialism”. I will also discuss the ethical and political-philosophical implications of Ferenczi’s Clinical Diary, especially for the concept of freedom and authority.

Jonathan Sklar – Psychoanalysis, Analytic Societies and the European Unconscious

In this paper I address the impact of transgenerational conflict on European analysis and Societies.
How can one think about trauma in the individual without thinking of it in generational terms? In a similar way the cultural heritage that formed the backdrop to the development of psychoanalysis from within the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its aftermath has its own value transmitting unconscious imprints on analytic societies. What are the interfaces between personal and historical trauma, and in particular the interface with unconscious processes? Totalitarian regimes in the 20th century have, of course, had a massive impact on Europe including analytic societies, which I will argue is ongoing. How can the mind take a measure of history, when history will submit neither to the reason of the world nor to the mind that confronts it?

Plenary Session: Internal and External Reality: The Ferenczi Project

With: various Speakers


Leave a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *