Ferenczi and His World: Rekindling the Spirit of the Budapest School

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This volume honours Sandor Ferenczi, a central character in the birth of psychoanalysis, whose warm and passionate personality, ideas, and teachings permeate his world and his work, shaping psychoanalytical thinking of generations.

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CHAPTER ONE: Ferenczi remembered

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Tom Keve

Had Vitamin B12 been identified and isolated twenty years earlier, Sandor Ferenczi might have survived for many more productive years, instead of passing away at the age of fifty-nine. As it was, Ferenczi died at his home in the early afternoon of Monday 22 May 1933 from complications caused by pernicious anaemia.

The event was reported by the evening newspaper, Az Est, as follows:

A member of the Hungarian medical community of international renown, Dr Sandor Ferenczi, neurologist, founder and president of the Hungarian psychoanalytical Association passed away on Monday at 14.30 hours, in his villa in Lisznyai utca. Sandor Ferenczi had been suffering from severe anaemia for several months. A world famous physician, he would have completed his sixtieth year in July. In the course of his medical career, he came to know Freud, the grand master of psychoanalysis, with whom he formed a long, close friendship. Sandor Ferenczi had written numerous works in the field of psychoanalysis. His books and articles were published in Hungarian, German and English. Twenty years ago, he founded the Hungarian Psychoanalytical Association, which has been active under his presidency ever since. His funeral will be held this Wednesday afternoon, at 16:00 in the Farkasrét Jewish Cemetery.

 

CHAPTER TWO: Sandor Ferenczi the man

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Imre Hermann

Ifirst met Sandor Ferenczi in 1911 when he was thirty-eight years old and in the initial phase of his career as a psychoanalyst. I was twenty-two, a fourth-year medical student at the time; I had heard that Ferenczi was recruiting students for an introductory course in psychoanalysis that he was about to start. I presented myself and was given a friendly reception.

After his last lecture, Ferenczi invited remarks and criticism from us students—an invitation that I took up. In a token of friendship, Ferenczi invited me to the evening meetings of his circle of friends, which included the writers Ignotus, Frigyes Karinthy, and Dezso Kosztolány,2 the pianist Sándor Kovács, the drama critic Sándor Hevesi, and the manufacturer Antal Freund.

The years passed. I had been on voluntary service in the army for a year, followed by four years of wartime service. At the end of this period, in January 1919, Ferenczi not only had me admitted to the Hungarian Psychoanalytical Society (founded in 1913) but had me elected secretary.

 

CHAPTER THREE: Some social and political issues related to Ferenczi and the Hungarian school

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Ferenc Eros

After a long history of preparation in Freud’s personal and institutional conflicts, as well as in his self-analysis, which already implied some of the major later trends, psychoanalysis appeared on the European scene in the early years of the twentieth century. Psychoanalysis was part and parcel of the conflicting intellectual, ideological, and spiritual tendencies of the age: for example, the belief in the omnipotence of science vs. the disillusionment with a unified natural science capable of understanding all sectors of the human individual; individualism vs. collectivism, liberalism vs. anti-liberalism, rationalism vs. irrationalism. Psychoanalysis shared with other social and political theories of the age a spirit that was directed against the illusions of the enlightenment. It showed the fundamental and tragic weakness of the individual in the face of greater forces within and without the individual psyche; the irrational and unconscious background of all rational thinking and action; the irresoluble conflict between our desires, our strivings for happiness, and our social roles; the hypocrisy and the double standards of the bourgeois society, which does not tolerate us to talk publicly about all these things we know and practice privately. Thus, psychoanalysis was one of the great “unmaskers” that made an essential contribution to the ideological breakdown of classical bourgeois society. The breakdown of bourgeois society and the coming of the age of the masses gave rise to various mass movements, such as Fascism, Nazism, and Bolshevism, that formed the basis of totalitarian regimes. The fictitious world of totalitarian ideology and propaganda (Hannah Arendt) was based on one main fiction: the abolition of the splitting between the public and the private sphere of the individual through the total identification of the individual members of the mass with the movement and its leader. Psychoanalysis, on the contrary, shed light on the fictitious or illusory character of this identification. This was only possible because psychoanalysis was equipped with an inner safeguard against totalitarian ideologies, not so much with a conceptual safeguard as, rather, with a practical one: the nature of the therapy itself. That is, its roots in the very nature of the relationship between the analyst and the patient, which cannot be controlled by any external agency, let alone by the authority of the psychoanalytic movement itself. Paradoxically, secrecy, this absolute privacy of the analytic relationship, became the last bulwark of the autonomous, free, bourgeois individual. In this respect, it might be said that psychoanalysis was the last truly liberal psychology, internally safeguarded against any attempts to control individuals externally, either in a technological way (utilitarian psychology) or in an ideological way (totalitarian psychology).

 

CHAPTER FOUR: Ferenczi in context

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Edith Kurzweil

Much has been written about Ferenczi’s and Freud’s relationship, their close personal friendship and theoretical disagreements, but not much attention has been paid to the influence on them of their surrounding milieu, the contradictions within the Kaiserreich, its rampant anti-Semitism and hypocrisy hidden beneath a veneer of politeness and Gemütlichkeit, which they took for granted. Of course, both Freud and Ferenczi were delving into individuals’ psyches to reach their unconscious, but I am wondering to what extent Ferenczi’s subsequent influence, or neglect, by psychoanalysts—on the European continent, in the UK, and the USA—has been due to cultural factors. Therefore, I am using my sociologist’s viewpoint, that is, a so-called “scientific bird’s eye perspective”, that requires a knowledge of psychoanalysis but focuses on the differing cultural circumstances.

So, when asking, for instance, “Why were Ferenczi’s innovative techniques forgotten or even maligned?”, I cannot zero in on the validity or the details of the disagreements between him and Freud, on the rivalry between the disciples for succession, or on unconscious motives for these. Instead, I have to examine the social context within which these questions arose. This is not to say that sociologists know more than psychoanalysts: they are just as tempted to go beyond their professional expertise, as are psychoanalysts.

 

CHAPTER FIVE: Ferenczi now and then: an introduction to his world

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André Haynal

It is instructive to embark on a “now and then” trip, a journey back and forth between problems of contemporary psychoanalysis and some stimulating ideas from the work of Ferenczi. In the first place, Sandor Ferenczi was a clinician. Examining his world and its possible extensions can provide a better understanding of the psychoanalytical process.

As a matter of fact, from the beginning of the psychoanalytical process there is an “entanglement” of the ongoing relationships. The understanding of this imbroglio—”you take me for somebody else”— is what the psychoanalytic process consists of. Who would have shown this if not Ferenczi, especially in the case of RN, as presented in his Clinical Diary (Ferenczi, 1932). By living in these interactions, based on very archaic scripts, the analyst’s efforts are directed toward disentangling them by interpretation, thus achieving a resolution of this adventure that is psychoanalysis. Therefore, for him, there is little difference between psychoanalysis and real life or, in other words, between the inside and outside of the treatment. Psychoanalysis was the world in which Ferenczi lived; for him there were no clear boundaries between life and psychoanalysis, but a continuity between both. Freud’s attempt, on the other hand, to draw a clear line between the two areas is somewhat artificial: when Ferenczi came to Vienna to have analysis with him, Freud told him that he “should at least have one meal with us daily”, but that “technique will require that nothing personal will be discussed outside the sessions” (Freud, 1916, p 130).

 

CHAPTER SIX: Healing boredom: Ferenczi and his circle of literary friends

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Michelle Moreau-Ricaud

“Ferenczi’s turn must come”

(Andreas-Salomé, 1913)

Iwould like to suggest, first, that I experienced a theoretical and aesthetic shock with Hungarian psychoanalysis and literature during my analytic training and later.

As I was in difficulty in my first analysis under supervision (called analyse quatrième in my organisation), I was looking for enlightenment in historical articles on the subject. I discovered Kovács, and my very first paper compared her innovation to that of Eitingon’s (Moreau, 1977). As I was interested by Ferenczi, the Balints (Michael and Alice), Róheim, Loránd, Peto, etc., I chose to write on the Budapest School for my second doctorate.

On top of this, I fell in love with Kosztolányi (and early twentieth century literature). His Kleptomaniac Translator is so funny and so well observed. Was he a pre-Lacanian? He shows us that the symptom might change but the structure does not. An aesthetic shock during a public reading drove me to learn Hungarian. But, alas, it was so difficult and, to investigate the influence of analysis on Hungarian writers, I asked Peter Adam to help in my research. The results were beyond my expectations. Unlike in Vienna, the cultural circles were open to the new, the modern. The reception of psychoanalysis in Hungary, so long and so difficult in the medical field, was, on the contrary, immediate and passionate in Les Belles Lettres. It was Ferenczi (1876–1933) who had brought about this cross-fertilisation.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: Ferenczi and Ortvay: two boys from Miskolc

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Tom Keve

Ortvay

Rudolf Ortvay was a distinguished Hungarian scientist, Professor of Physics first in Szeged and later in Budapest. He was a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and is still commemorated today: there is an annual Rudolf Ortvay International Physics Competition for high-school students world wide and Ortvay Colloquia are held regularly at ELTE Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.

After the great scientists, the likes of Eugene Wigner, John von Neumann, Theodore von Kármán, George Hevesy, Dennis Gábor, and others left Hungary in the 1920s and 1930s, Ortvay became the number one physicist in this country, by default. He never attained the international fame of the others, but he was in close contact with the leading physicists of his day, the émigré Hungarians, especially von Neumann, Wigner, and Hevesy, but also with others like Wolfgang Pauli and Werner Heisenberg. Ortvay’s correspondence with these men is full of deep, insightful ideas on many subjects on Ortvay’s side, while the replies from these younger men are respectful, friendly, with some personal information, but short on technical content. Quite possibly, Ortvay was a disappointed man, for although he was in the number one spot in Hungary, his younger émigré colleagues undoubtedly excelled him both in original published work and in international fame and recognition.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: Ferenczi and trauma: a perilous journey to the labyrinth

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György Hidas

The interpersonal context of trauma, its effects on the psyche, and resolution of its consequences were fundamental problems for Sandor Ferenczi in his psychoanalytical career. The topic of trauma was central in his therapeutic activity, especially in his healing experiments in the last decade of his life. The innovations of his healing work, the method of child analysis with adults, relaxation analysis, and mutual analysis were grouped around the concept of trauma. Considering Ferenczi’s analytical life’s work, a hypothesis offers itself, which is that the trauma concept and the associated neocatharsis were a return of the repressed in his personal world. Taking a look at the personal, the subjective aspect, a touch of “psychologising”, seems to be permissible in this case; making the reservation, however, that the role of this problem in Ferenczi’s world might have been over-determined in several aspects.

Ferenczi was a medical student in Vienna, and graduated there in 1894. In the spring of 1908, soon after he met Freud personally, he delivered a lecture in Budapest with the title “Actual and psycho-neuroses in the light of Freud’s investigations and psychoanalysis”. In this paper, Ferenczi wrote,

 

CHAPTER NINE: Regression post-Ferenczi

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Harold Stewart

The topic of regression in analytic therapy will always be associated with the name of Ferenczi, since he was the first of the psychoanalytic pioneers to understand and experiment with its potential as a therapeutic agent and ally. It is a lengthy and controversial issue and only a selection of the issues involved are presented here. We should first clarify the way the term regression is used, since, as Michael Balint pointed out in his book of therapeutic regression, The Basic Fault, the term has four functions, “(1) as a mechanism of defence (2) as a factor in pathogenesis (3) as a potent form of resistance, and (4) as an essential factor in analytic therapy” (Balint, 1968, p. 127). Regression refers to a reversion to an earlier state or mode of functioning, and in therapeutic regression, it is of the formal type associated with the patient’s increasing dependence on the analyst.

Freud had first experimented with the earliest regressive technique, hypnosis, before he discovered its limitations. The aim of the hypnotherapy had been to achieve emotional abreaction of repressed traumatic experiences that had given rise to hysterical symptoms. When he next started to use the technique of free association, which itself tends to give rise to regression from secondary to primary process thinking, he still had the same aim but it soon changed from the exploration of pathogenic traumatic experience to the exploration of the patient’s drives and unconscious fantasies. However, it was Ferenczi who persisted in the belief of the importance of early environmental traumata as a result of his own experiences of the analysis of patients.

 

CHAPTER TEN: Imre Hermann: researching psyche and space

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Sára Klaniczay

Imre Hermann was my analyst and trainer for seven years. He died twenty years ago, at the age of ninety-five.

Hermann lived in Hungary and he worked there all his life, even in the years of Nazism and Communism.1 He played a very important role in the survival of psychoanalysis in Hungary and in preserving the legacy of the Budapest School for the coming generations. He was a doctor of medicine and also a researcher: he observed and described psychological phenomena and searched for their organic basis.

Hermann was a polymath. Besides being an expert in psychology, he was familiar with different natural and social sciences and various branches of the arts. He was very much interested in what we call “talent”; he studied the nature of the process of creation. The most significant step in his career was the discovery and description of the instinct of clinging.

A short summary of Hermann’s theory of clinging

Hermann was interested in the behaviour of apes from the very beginning. The inherited clinging reaction of apes has been described by many. It is a well-known fact that apes spend the first months of their lives clinging to their mother’s bodies. The essence of Hermann’s theory is that the instinctive behaviour of the ape infant, that is, its clinging to the mother, is an existing but inhibited instinctive drive in the human infant as well. Moro, the German paediatrician, described the reflex movement of the arms that can be triggered in the three-month-old infant. This movement resembles the embracing reflex movement of apes and, thus, might have philogenetic origin.

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN: Physics, metaphysics, and psychoanalysis

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Tom Keve

Niels Bohr, the famous Danish physicist, owned a wooden cottage in the country where he liked to invite his physics colleagues for long and deep discussions. One day, a distinguished visitor was surprised to see a horseshoe hanging on the doorframe. “Is it possible, that you, of all people, believe this will bring you luck?” he asked. To which Bohr replied, “Of course not—but I understand it works whether or not you believe.”

This chapter is about coincidences of history and coincidences of ideas. You do not have to believe, but I am told it works anyway.

In 1909, the triad of Ferenczi, Freud, and Jung travelled together to the USA, Freud and Jung as invited speakers at the Clark University 20th anniversary celebrations, and Ferenczi as Freud’s intellectual “assistant”. All three of them thought of this as a very significant event in their lives. Freud always considered that his international acceptance started with this conference. It was also the first exposure of Jung as an analytical expert in his own right and, in Jung’s view at least, it was on this trip that the seeds of his break with Freud were planted.

 

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