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Ferenczi for Our Time

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Ferenczi for Our Time presents contributions from British, French, American and Hungarian analysts of the second, third and even fourth generation, who deal with different dimensions of experiencing the external and internal world. These papers explore linkages between Ferenczi and the works of Winnicott, Klein, Alice, Michael and Enid Balint, the British Independents as well, as French analytical thought related to Dolto and beyond. The reader will also become acquainted with original documents of a revived Hungarian psychoanalytical world and new voices of Budapest. 'The Balints' chapter invites the reader to listen to colleagues sharing memories, recollections and images - allowing a personal glimpse into the life and professional-human environment of these extraordinary personalities.The topics discussed here are wide ranging: possibilities and impossibilities of elaborating social and individual traumata, child analysis and development, body-and-mind and clinical aspects of working with psychosomatic diseases. Functions and dysfunctions of societal and individual memory are explored as signifying 'blinded' spots in our vision of external and psychic reality as well as the vicissitudes of generational transmission of trauma. The scope of these papers covers methodology, theory and clinical practice.

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CHAPTER ONE: From patient to founder of a psychoanalytic school: Ferenczi’s influence on the works of Melanie Klein

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Gábor Flaskay

Nobody within the psychoanalytic community doubts that Melanie Klein was one of the most influential contributors to our discipline after the first great generation of psychoanalysts. Her findings on the early mental development of the child and the derived theoretical conclusions have had a great impact on general psychoanalytical theories and practice.

Life and work of Melanie Klein (1882–1960)

Melanie Klein was born in Vienna in 1882. She married in 1903 and moved to Rózsahegy (Rosenberg, Ruzomberok), a small town in the region of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy with a Hungarian, Slovak, German, and Jewish population. She became acquainted with the languages spoken there. She had an unhappy marriage, with significant periods of separation, and she divorced in 1922.

Klein moved to Budapest in 1910 and enjoyed the intellectual vitality of the “big town”. Sandor Ferenczi saw her for the first time in 1912, in order to treat her depression. Her sporadic visits to Ferenczi’s office were changed to a formal psychoanalytic treatment in 1914; soon after that, Ferenczi was called up to serve in the army, stationed 120 km away from Budapest. He visited Budapest occasionally and continued sporadic analysis with his analysands (including Géza Róheim and Klein). Ferenczi was transferred back to Budapest in 1916.

 

CHAPTER TWO: The “here-and-now” in Ferenczi’s thinking and its influence on Melanie Klein

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Meira Likierman

The influence of Ferenczi upon Melanie Klein was obviously complex, and is best understood in the context of their analytic and mentoring relationship. In this respect, it involved far more than Klein’s acquisition of a handful of concepts. Ferenczi did indeed pass on to Klein both concepts and themes, which she then went on to develop.

However, I would like to look at Ferenczi’s influence more broadly, and think of it as arising from a multi-layered contact between them. Both personal and analytic aspects of Ferenczi influenced Klein—his cherished beliefs, his unique personal idiom, and his overall vision of mental life. I am assuming that these more personal elements were absorbed by Klein in unconscious, and not only in conscious, ways. Elements of Ferenczi’s thinking are, thus, apparent, not just at the beginning of Klein’s career, when she was still in contact with him, but are also reflected throughout her complete life’s work, well after their contact ceased (Likierman, 2001).

 

CHAPTER THREE: Early emotional development: Ferenczi to Winnicott

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Margaret Tonnesmann

Ferenczi wrote his paper, “Stages in the development of the sense of reality” (Ferenczi, 1913) just two years after Freud had published his “Formulations on the two principles of psychic functioning” (Freud, 1911b), because he felt that Freud had not explained how the transition from the pleasure principle to the reality principle takes place during early infancy.

Ferenczi’s paper acknowledges the classical instinct theory of the time: the reproductive libidinal instincts and self-preservative instincts, which, at that time, were called “ego-instincts”. Ferenczi reasons that development from the pleasure principle to the reality principle is probably due to the replacement of childhood megalomania by the recognition of the power of natural forces, and that this constitutes the essential content of ego development. He draws attention to the famous footnote in Freud’s paper, that an organisation that is a slave to the pleasure principle and that can neglect the reality of the external world is a fiction, but is almost realised provided one includes with it the care a child receives from its mother.

 

CHAPTER FOUR: “Thalassa to the ocean”: from Sandor Ferenczi to Françoise Dolto

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Kathleen Kelley-Lainé

Freud’s “Oceanic feeling”, Ferenczi’s “Thalassa”, and Dolto’s “Wave and the ocean” all take us back to the question of our origins, when we felt “one” with our environment, before even the word “mother” existed, because it was not necessary. Before language, before separation, before conflict—is this the place of returning that forever fascinates us, engenders our curiosity, and from where all theories arise?

Sandor Ferenczi and Françoise Dolto, perhaps more than others, based their clinical work, as well as their conceptualisation of psychoanalysis, on the fundamental enigma of human existence: “where babies come from and where the dead go”. Ferenczi and Dolto were creative innovators who were admired by their colleagues, but marginalised institutionally in official psychoanalytical circles for what were considered to be unorthodox thinking and methods. Ferenczi’s ground-breaking work on “counter-transference” and the importance of the person of the analyst, might have threatened Freud’s attempts to establish psychoanalysis as a science. He actively opposed Ferenczi’s presentation of “The confusion of tongues”, a paper that seemingly attacked Freud’s cold and rigid attitude to patients. Dolto’s innovative conception of the child as a “person” to be spoken to and treated as a human being from before birth was certainly revolutionary in a society whose word for child (enfant) means “he who does not speak”. Her exceptional success in the treatment of psychotic children through her particular use of language was highly appreciated by some and became the subject of strong suspicion by others.

 

CHAPTER FIVE: Michael Balint

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Harold Stewart

We are devoting this section to the work of Michael Balint and two of his wives, Alice and Enid. Judith Dupont will discuss Alice, Hidas will talk about Mészáros Street 12, Jennifer Johns will review Enid and Catherine Reverzy, and I, Michael.

I first met him in the 1950s at the Tavistock Clinic, when I went to see him for advice on psychotherapy training. He was then a solid middle-aged man with a marked Hungarian accent and a direct and forthright manner. When he later supervised my psychoanalytical training case, I came to value this directness, together with his ability to admit error: yet others occasionally found him rather bullying, particularly in seminars. However, we all accepted his capacity to challenge and question everything, never to take things for granted in order to help people to think for themselves. You either loved him or hated him. You could not be indifferent.

He was born in 1896 in Budapest into a medical family, his father being a general practitioner. He qualified in medicine, developed a liking for psychoanalysis, and went into analysis with Hanns Sachs in Berlin. Feeling dissatisfied with Sachs, he returned to Budapest for analysis with Ferenczi, a man Balint revered all his life. He came to England in 1939 and he, together with Klein, Winnicott, Bion, and Fairbairn, became one of the progenitors of the British Object Relations School. He became a President of the British Society, but died of a heart attack in 1970 while in office.

 

CHAPTER SIX: The Balints and Mészáros Street 12, Budapest

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György Hidas

It is a great honour for me to have the opportunity to recall the Budapest years of Michael Balint. I begin with some personal and subjective memories. As a junior high school student, age ten, I was a classmate of John Balint, Michael’s son, in a school in an inner district of Buda, until the Balints emigrated to England in 1939. During the winter, John and I skated together in the City Park, and I saw Michael Balint several times when he came by car to fetch his son from the skating rink. “What a lucky boy,” I thought, “his father drives him home.” I played often with John and other children in the Balint home. I was impressed not only by his miniature train and ship models, but by the intellectual and artistic environment as well. When I learned that the parents were psychoanalysts, all my visual impressions were interspersed with this somewhat mysterious profession. As I realised later, when I studied psychoanalysis, their house at Mészáros Street 12 was famous. The house was owned by the Kovács family. Vilma Kovács, also an analysand of Ferenczi, was the mother of Alice Balint. It was in this building that the Psychoanalytic Institute and Clinic, directed first by Ferenczi and later by Balint, was subsequently housed. Perhaps these impressions contributed to my early decision to become a psychoanalyst.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: Alice Balint, a short but productive life

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Judith Dupont

If one walks around Buda, and climbs to the top of the Naphegy, Mount Sun, there is a nice round park. At the corner of this park and the street called Orvos utca, the Doctor street, there is a huge building of glass and metal, not at all in harmony with the rest of the houses. Before 1945, instead of this building, there was a nice house surrounded by a garden. It was the home of the architect, Frederic Kovács, who lived there with his wife Vilma and the three children Vilma had with her first husband, Lajos Székely.

Vilma had been married, against her will, at the age of fifteen, to a man more than twenty years older then she. She had three children in three years, Alice, Olga, and Ferenc. Exhausted by her three pregnancies, she became very ill with tuberculosis, and had to enter a sanatorium, leaving her children with her elder sister. There she met a man of her own age, Frederic Kovács, and they fell in love. She wanted a divorce, but her husband refused. Nevertheless, she left him, and thus was blamed for the separation. The children remained with their father, and Vilma had no right to see them. She refused to accept this and met them almost every day on their way home from school, to see and talk with them.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: Thrills and progression: Hillary, a philobat on Mount Everest

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Catherine Reverzy

Balint and Ferenczi inspired me to write my book Femmes daven-ture (Reverzy, 2001) about risk-taking, motivation, and self-realisation. Intended for a broader public, it draws on my personal encounters with, and readings of, renowned female navigators, climbers, pilots, and explorers. In this chapter, I examine both the attraction to, and the fear of, adventure and the unknown. I am also looking at one’s capacity for facing danger and returning unharmed to share the experience.

What is the spirit of adventurousness? To understand such a state of mind, it seems necessary to go far back into early childhood, where our primitive yet determining attitudes towards the world are shaped. I have chosen a psychoanalytic viewpoint—though other perspectives could be equally valid. Within this context, I have looked to Balint, whose original and fascinating work presented in Thrills and Regression (1959), was a great help in my explorations. Balint mentions outdoor sports, and climbing in particular. Several times he quotes Hillary, who conquered Mount Everest in 1953, only a few years prior to the publication of Balint’s book.

 

CHAPTER NINE: The Enid files

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Jennifer Johns

My knowledge of Enid Balint and her style is based primarily on the eight years I spent in analysis with her in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Later, I talked with her, of course (but not nearly enough), and read her papers—both the ones she published with Michael Balint and her own published ones—and the book she was beginning to prepare for publication when she died in 1994 (at the age of ninety).

Michael Parsons, in his introduction to Enid’s book, Before I was I, writes about his experience of having been in supervision with Enid. He was advised to go to her by his own analyst, who said, “Supervision with Enid is a rather particular sort of experience.” Writing about the supervision, Michael felt what he especially gained from her was something about how to be with an analytic patient, rather than simply being told how to frame an interpretation or relate what he was observing with theory (though he was told both those things as well). My own experience with her was that of being her patient, and, on reading what Michael had written, I recognised the reciprocal of it: she as my analyst had been with me, and though there were interpretations I remembered as having been incisive and accurate, sometimes rather alarmingly so, it had been the “being with”, that undoubted attention and reliable concern for me, that had helped me shed whatever it was that made me so intolerably tense and unforgiving of myself.

 

CHAPTER TEN: Survival strategies: a psychoanalytic view

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Judit Szekacs-Weisz

“Being alone leads to splitting. The presence of someone with whom one can share and communicate joy and sorrow (love and understanding) can heal the trauma”

(Ferenczi, 1988, p. 200)

Hungarians are professional survivors. No wonder they are; history made them learn the arts-and-crafts of survival.

To understand an essential feature of “East-European existence”, one has to recognise the fact that in this part of the world historic changes did not leave much time for psychodynamic working through. Dramatic events, elementary changes in the perception of values, functions and social roles came in a rapid flow. Whole nations and generations lived under the influence of cumulative traumatisa-tion.

After the Second World War, new concepts of state, establishment, organisation, institute and executive bodies emerged in these countries. The structure and functions of the totalitarian state determined human conditions, existence, and relationship in professional, official, and private areas. Adaptation to the conflict-ridden power structure and realisation of contradictory interests raised many basic questions concerning the development of individual and group identity. This is why I suggest that when we look at Eastern Europe, no psycho-dynamic study analysing possible reactions to, or consequences of, social traumata can be meaningful or valid unless it is done through the prism of historic transformations.

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN: “In more favourable circumstances”: ambassadors of the wound

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Rachel Rosenblum (pour Henri Danon Boileau)

This chapter starts with an empirical question. Why is it so dangerous for survivors of major traumas to tell their story? Why do they often pay the price of telling the “ghastly tale” by committing suicide? Look at Jean Amery, Primo Levi, Paul Celan, Piotr Rawicz; look also at more ambiguous cases like those of Romain Gary, Georges Perec (illness), G. Sebald (accident). What do these writers share besides the intensity of their traumatisation and the decision to confront their past? What are the gestures that increase the dangers inherent in addressing past traumas? Are there safeguards against such dangers?

Those who return to past traumas often succeed in not returning alone. Sometimes, they return with psychoanalysts as travelling companions. Sometimes, they do so with companions they had never actually met, but encountered in literature, philosophy, or art. In the first case, facing the past trauma might become a shared experience. In the second case, the experience might also be shared, but indirectly: it takes place via screen texts, narratives of the traumas endured by others. In the first case, the sharing occurs in the same physical space, in the same room. In the second case, the sharing is distant, oblique. In both cases, companions act as “ambassadors” in charge of connecting victims to their wounded self, making it easier for trauma victims to address an unbearable past. Thus, some psychoanalysts became “ambassadors” of the wound, companions of the trauma victims. Was it their role? If not so, what should be their role?

 

CHAPTER TWELVE: Psychosomatics and technique

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Jonathan Sklar

The writer Aharon Appelfeld, when eight years old, witnessed the pogrom in his home town of Czernowitz. He saw the murder of his mother and, separated from the rest of his family, survived by scavenging in the forests. Remembrance was complicated, he thought, by his having been too young a child to process much of what he saw. The past remains entirely physical for him: “etched inside my body but not in my memory”. After more than half a century, his feet still cause tension in his legs and this instantly transfers him back to the years in hiding. The very act of sitting or standing can conjure up hellish visions of packed railway stations. Rotting straw or the call of a bird trigger visceral memories deep within his body (The Observer Book Review, 21 August 2005).

The ability to free associate is both protected and inhibited by the movement of affect into the body acting as a container and away from the mind with thoughts and associative strands. A particular part of the body with its physicality, such as a feeling of body rigidity or a certain sequence of movements, can contain that which must not be felt and integrated.

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Close to the body: an analyst’s daily work with cancer patients

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Ágnes Riskó

This chapter is a result of my experiences at the National Institute of Oncology in Budapest. Since 1990, I have worked as a psychoanalyst with an oncohaematology team. I treat in-patients and outpatients suffering from malignant lymphomas with psychoanalytical psychotherapy, and treat some survivors with psychoanalysis.

When I began to work at the oncohaematology department, my medical oncologist colleague, Tamás Fleischmann, noted that oncology is a difficult field for psychologists and psychiatrists. They find working with cancer patients complicated; it is easy to get lost because there are no well-beaten paths of treatment for them to follow. I would like to talk about some of my observations at the oncohaematology department—observations concerning cancer patients undergoing oncological treatment, medical doctors and nurses, and the main psychoanalytical experience gained from our common work.

Entering any oncology department, you can feel that somehow every phenomenon, event, and act is in a very deep connection with the body, with the body-ego, or (after Ferenczi) with the “archaic part” of the personality (Ferenczi, 1955). The cause of these special psychic processes and this atmosphere is the sudden and overwhelming bodily and psychic crisis evoked by learning of the diagnosis of cancer. As Balint wrote (1957), the cancer disease represents the basic fault and the fearful inner “bad”, which attacks and fills the diseased person from the inside with oral aggressiveness. That is the main reason for the patients’ anxiety—especially their growing death-anxiety—and psychic regression, which are independent from their actual knowledge about the chances for recovery.

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: “Poor Konrad”: the body and the soul seekers

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Ferenc Eros

In a letter dated 27 April 1910, Sandor Ferenczi reacted with embarrassment to Freud’s suggestion to invite Abraham Brill to their planned common vacation in Sicily. Ferenczi was far from happy about this plan, which, as he wrote, “immediately aroused my slumbering brother complex” (Ferenczi, 1910, p. 167). He continues:

I can’t raise any objection to the invitation other than the unjustified infantile desire to be the first and only one with the ‘father’. I like Brill very much and [am] in complete agreement that you should invite him. But between the two suggested modalities I would still like to choose the one that states the three of us make only a part of the journey. That is not only a small concession to my complexes (which I usually handle as badly as Spitteler does his ‘poor Konrad’), but also has its logical foundation. There are questions (of both personal and scientific nature) which we can settle much more economically alone than in Brill’s presence; these should also get their due. (Ferenczi, 1910, p. 167)

 

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