Sandor Ferenczi, a Reference in Psychoanalysis

Sandor Ferenczi was recorded in history as the “enfant terrible” of psychoanalysis. This wonderful man of science was born on July 7, 1873, in Hungary. His original name was Alexander Fränkel. However, his father adopted the surname Ferenczi in 1880 and he, for his part, was left with the diminutive of Alexander, “Sandor”.

Ferenczi had 11 brothers and lost his father prematurely. The mother took charge of the home, attending a family bookstore. It is said that a good part of this psychoanalyst’s thesis derived precisely from that singular family nucleus. Freud, who was later his teacher, came to speak of the “fraternal complex of Ferenczi”.

“Psychoanalysis has the task of exhuming the problems caused by sexuality that languished for centuries in the poisons that science has in the closet.”

-Sandor Ferenczi-

As he himself commented, his childhood was spent in the midst of a great lack of love. His mother was very strict and expressions of affection were almost forbidden in the family. At the same time, the bookstore allowed him to enter the reading from a very young age and become a poet early. Being very young he moved to Vienna and went to university to study medicine.

Ferenczi and his encounter with psychoanalysis

Sandor Ferenczi obtained his medical degree at the age of 21. Then he specialized in neurology and psychiatry. Between 1899 and 1907 he published a large number of articles in a Hungarian journal specialized in medicine. That production is known as The Budapest Writings. In them he makes a first approach to psychoanalysis.

First Ferenczi was impressed with the work and ideas of Carl Gustav Jung. When he visited Hungary, they had the opportunity to meet. Jung manages to get Ferenczi and Sigmund Freud to know each other, since he thinks they can have a very enriching exchange of ideas.

Since then, an intimate friendship between Ferenczi and Freud has begun. Good part of the biography of both and of the history of the psychoanalysis is clear from the profuse correspondence that they maintained during several years.

The passion dramas of Ferenczi

Sandor Ferenczi had a love life full of storms and contradictions. Many assure that this life exemplified a thousand wonders of various concepts of psychoanalysis, such as the Oedipus complex and the compulsion to repeat. At 31, he falls in love with Gizella, a married woman 8 years older than him. She wanted to divorce, but her husband did not. So the relationship with Ferenczi remained in the clandestine plane.

Elma, Gizella’s daughter, feels deeply depressed and her mother advises her to do psychoanalysis with Ferenczi. He receives it in consultation and soon begins to feel that he can not maintain his analytical neutrality. He falls in love with his lover’s daughter. He gives up doing psychoanalysis with her and refers her to where Freud. He attends her for three months and then returns her to Ferenczi’s office.

Meanwhile, the relationship between Ferenczi and Gizella has been reborn. In consultation, Ferenczi convinces Elma, Gizella’s daughter, to go away. He, finally, marries the mother of the girl, but that relationship never manages to overcome the traces of those years. What does all this drama have to do with psychoanalysis? The love triangle reveals to Ferenczi his own neurosis. Many of his conclusions come from these experiences.

The theses of Ferenczi

One of Sandor Ferenczi’s most memorable works is Psychoanalysis and pedagogy. In it he analyzes the effect that the so-called education has on the traumas and neuroses of human beings. He goes on to say that pedagogy seeks to deny the emotions and ideas of people. Finally, this leads the child to learn to deceive himself, denying what he knows, what he feels and what he thinks.

He argues that psychoanalysis must be a process that allows the individual to break with the prejudices that prevent him from really knowing himself. It also introduces valuable contributions to what should be the technique to carry out the psychoanalytic process. One of them is what ended up being called “didactic psychoanalysis”. That is, the principle that every psychoanalyst must go through his own psychoanalysis, before attending to patients. It is clear why I saw it important.

He also devised the so-called “active technique”. This involved great flexibility in the psychoanalytic setting, which depends on the characteristics of the patient and the specific circumstances of the problem. The concept has been very questioned, but even today it has its followers. In the same way, he developed the concept of “identification with the aggressor”, although this is generally attributed to Anna Freud.

One of his biographers describes Ferenczi as “a peculiar, dreamy and sensitive psychoanalyst”. Many claim that his work has not been sufficiently valued. It may be so. His amorous vicissitudes earned him the antipathy and rejection of many of his colleagues. Maybe that’s why his name has not been written in gold letters inside that school.