This was a major reason for his eventual disputes with Sigmund Freud. Prior to this conclusion he was notable as a psychoanalyst for working with the most difficult of patients and for developing a theory of more active intervention than is usual for psychoanalytic practice. Ferenczi has found some favour in modern times among the followers of Jacques Lacan as well as among relational psychoanalysts in the United States. Ferenczi was president of the International Psychoanalytical Association from to Group photo in front of Clark University.

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You are on page 1of 7 Search inside document International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, Confusion of the Tongues Between the Adults and the Child The Language of Tendern ess and of Passion 1 Sndor Ferenczi It was a mistake to try to confine the all too wide theme of the exogenous origi n of character formations and neuroses within a Congress paper.

I shall, therefo re, content myself with a short extract from what I would have had to say on tha t subject. Perhaps it will be best if I start by telling you how I have come to the problem expressed in the title of this paper.

By that I mean the recent, more emphatic stress on the traumati c factors in the pathogenesis of the neuroses which had been unjustly neglected in recent years.

TheI should like to say imposingphenomena, the almost hallucinatory repetitions of traumatic experiences which began to accumulate in my daily practice, seemed to justify the hope that by this abreaction large quantities of repressed affects might obtain acceptance by the conscious mind and that the formation of new symp toms, especially when the superstructure of the affects had been sufficiently lo osened by the analytic work, might be ended. This hope, unfortunately, was only very imperfectly fulfilled and some of my patients caused me a great deal of wor ry and embarrassment.

The repetition, encouraged by the analysis, turned out to be too good. It is true that there was a marked improvement in some of the sympt oms; on the other hand, however, these patients began to suffer from nocturnal a ttacks of anxiety, even from severe nightmares, and the analytic session degener ated time and again into an attack of anxiety hysteria.

Although we were able to analyse conscientiously the threatening symptoms of such an attack, which seeme d to convince and reassure the patient, the expected permanent success failed to materialize and the next morning brought the same complaints about the dreadful night, while in the analytic session, repetition of the trauma occurred. In thi s embarrassing position I tried to console myself in the usual waythat the patien t had a much too forceful resistance or that he suffered from such severe repres sions that abreaction and emergence into consciousness could only occur piecemea l.

However, as the state of the patient, even after a considerable time, did not change in essentials, I had to give free rein to self-criticism. I wish to add that such periods of anger and hatred occurred only exceptional ly; very often the sessions ended with a striking, almost helpless compliance an d willingness to accept my interpretations.

This, however, was so transitory tha t I came to realize that even these apparently willing patients felt hatred and rage, and I began to encourage them not to spare me in any way.

This encourageme nt, too, failed to achieve much, for most of my patients energetically Translated by Michael Balint. Berne, Gradually, then, I came to the conclusion that the patients have an exceedingly refined sensitivity for the wishes, tendencies, whims, sympathies and antipathie s of their analyst, even if the analyst is completely unaware of this sensitivit y.

Instead of contradicting the analyst or accusing him of errors and blindness, the patients identify themselves with him; only in rare moments of an hysteroid excitement, i.

That means that we must discern not only the painful events of their past from their associations, but alsoand m uch more often than hitherto supposedtheir repressed or suppressed criticism of u s. Here, however, we meet with considerable resistances, this time resistances in o urselves as well as in our patients. This leads to the side issuethe analysis of the analystwhich is becoming more and more important. Do not let us forget that the deep-reaching analysis of a neuros is needs many years, while the average training analysis lasts only a few months , or at most, one to one and a half years.

A great part of the repressed criticism felt by our patients is directed towards what might be called professional hypocrisy. We greet the patient with politene ss when he enters our room, ask him to start with his associations and promise h im faithfully that we will listen attentively to him, give our undivided interes t to his well-being and to the work needed for it.

In reality, however, it may h appen that we can only with difficulty tolerate certain external or internal fea tures of the patient, or perhaps we feel unpleasantly disturbed in some professi onal or personal affair by the analytic session. Here, too, I cannot see any oth er way out than to make the source of the disturbance in us fully conscious and to discuss it with the patient, admitting it perhaps not only as a possibility b ut as a fact.

Now what brought about this state of affairs? It would almost seem to be of ad vantage occasionally to commit blunders in order to admit afterwards the fault t o the patient.

Your vanity, doctor, would like to make profit even out of your errors. The analytical situationi. When, in addition to the strain caused by this analytical situati on, we imposed on the patient the further burden of reproducing the original tra uma, we created a situation that was 3 Written Small wonder that our effort produced no better results than the original trauma.

The setting free of his critical feelings, the willingness on our part to admit our mistakes and the honest endeavour to avoid them in futu re, all these go to create in the patient a confidence in the analyst. It is thi s confidence that establishes the contrast between the present and the unbearabl e traumatogenic past, the contrast which is absolutely necessary for the patient in order to enable him to re-experience the past no longer as hallucinatory rep roduction but as an objective memory.

Suppressed criticisms felt by my patients, e. I am n o less grateful to those of my patients who taught me that we are more than will ing to adhere rigidly to certain theoretical constructions and to leave unnotice d facts on one side that would injure our complacency and authority. In any case , I learnt the cause of my inability to influence the hysterical explosions and this discovery eventually made success possible. After that the patient started to do everything she wa s asked to do.

We talk a good deal in analysis of regressions into the infantile , but we do not really believe to what great extent we are right; we talk a lot about the splitting of the personality, but do not seem sufficiently to apprecia te the depth of these splits.

If we keep up our cool, educational attitude even vis--vis an opisthotonic patient, we tear to shreds the last thread that connects him to us. The patient gone off into his trance is a child indeed who no longer reacts to intellectual explanations, only perhaps to maternal friendliness; wit hout it he feels lonely and abandoned in his greatest need, i.

I may remind you that patients do not react to theatrical phrases, but only to r eal sincere sympathy. Whether they recognize the truth by the intonation or colo ur of our voice or by the words we use or in some other way, I cannot tell. To deceive a patient in this r espect seems to be hardly possible and if one tries to do so, it leads only to b ad consequences.

Now allow me to report on some new ideas which this more intimate relation to my patients helped me to reach. I obtained above all new corroborative evidence for my supposition that the trau ma, especially the sexual trauma, as the pathogenic factor cannot be valued high ly enough. Even children of very respectable, sincerely puritanical families, fa ll victim to real violence or rape much more often than one had dared to suppose. Either it is the parents who try to find a substitute gratification in this pa thological way for their frustration, or it is people thought to be trustworthy such as relatives uncles, aunts, grandparents , governesses or servants, who mi suse the ignorance and the innocence of the child.

The immediate explanationthat these are only sexual phantasies of the child, a kind of hysterical lyingis unfor tunately made invalid by the number of such confessions, e. That is why I was not surpr ised when recently a philanthropically-minded teacher told me, despairingly, tha t in a short time he had discovered that in five upper class families the govern esses were living a regular sexual life with boys of nine to eleven years old.

A typical way in which incestuous seductions may occur is this: an adult and a c hild love each other, the child nursing the playful phantasy of taking the rle of mother to the adult. This play may assume erotic forms but remains, nevertheles s, on the level of tenderness.

It is not so, however, with pathological adults, especially if they have been disturbed in their balance and self-control by some misfortune or by the use of intoxicating drugs.

They mistake the play of childr en for the desires of a sexually mature person or even allow themselvesirrespecti ve of any consequencesto be carried away. The real rape of girls who have hardly grown out of the age of infants, similar sexual acts of mature women with boys, and also enforced homosexual acts, are more frequent occurrences than has hither to been assumed.

It is difficult to imagine the behaviour and the - emotions of children after such violence. One would expect the first impulse to be that of rejection, hatred, disgust and energetic refusal.

These children feel physically and morally helpless, their persona lities are not sufficiently consolidated in order to be able to protest, even if only in thought, for the overpowering force and authority of the adult makes th em dumb and can rob them of their senses. The same anxiety, however, if it reach es a certain maximum, compels them to subordinate themselves like automata to th e will of the aggressor, to divine each one of his desires and to gratify these; completely oblivious of themselves they identify themselves with the aggressor.

Through the identification, or let us say, introjection of the aggressor, he di sappears as part of the external reality, and becomes intra- instead of extra-ps ychic; the intra-psychic is then subjected, in a dream-like state as is the trau matic trance, to the primary process, i. In any case the attack as a rigid external reality ceases to exist and in the tr aumatic trance the child succeeds in maintaining the previous situation of tende rness.

The most important change, produced in the mind of the child by the anxiety-fear -ridden identification with the adult partner, is the introjection of the guilt feelings of the adult which makes hitherto harmless play appear as a punishable offence.

When the child recovers from such an attack, he feels enormously confused, in fa ct, splitinnocent and culpable at the same timeand his confidence in the testimony of his own senses is broken. Moreover, the harsh behaviour of the adult partner tormented and made angry by his remorse renders the child still more conscious of his own guilt and still more ashamed. Usually the relation to a second adultin the case quoted above, the motheris not i ntimate enough for the child to find help there, timid attempts towards this end are refused by her as nonsensical.

The misused child changes into a mechanical, obedient automaton or becomes defiant, but is unable to account for the reasons of his defiance. His sexual life remains undeveloped or assumes perverted forms. There is no need for me to enter into the details of neuroses and psychoses wh ich may follow such events.

For our theory this assumption, however, is highly i mportantnamely, that the weak and undeveloped personality reacts to sudden unplea sure not by defence, but by anxiety-ridden identification and by introjection of the menacing person or aggressor.

Only with the help of this hypothesis can I u nderstand why my patients refused so obstinately to follow my advice to react to unjust or unkind treatment with pain or with hatred and defence.

One part of th eir personalities, possibly the nucleus, got stuck in its development at a level where it was unable to use the alloplastic way of reaction but could only react in an autoplastic way by a kind of mimicry. Thus we arrive at the assumption of a mind which consists only of the Id and Super-Ego, and which therefore lacks t he ability to maintain itself with stability in face of unpleasurein the same way as the immature find it unbearable to be left alone, without maternal care and without a considerable amount of tenderness.

Here we have to revert to some of t he ideas developed by Freud a long time ago according to which the capacity for object-love must be preceded by a stage of identification.

I should like to call this the stage of passive object-love or of tenderness. Ve stiges of object-love are already apparent here but only in a playful way in pha ntasies. Thus almost without exception we find the hidden play of taking the pla ce of the parent of the same sex in order to be married to the other parent, but it must be stressed that this is merely phantasy; in reality the children would not want to, in fact they cannot do without tenderness, especially that which c omes from the mother.

If more love or love of a different kind from that which t hey need, is forced upon the children in the stage of tenderness, it may lead to pathological consequences in the same way as the frustration or withdrawal of l ove quoted elsewhere in this connection.

It would lead us too far from our immed iate subject to go into details of the neuroses and the character maldevelopment s - which may follow the precocious super-imposition of love, passionate and guiltlo aded on an immature guiltless child. The consequence must needs be that of confu sion of tongues, which is emphasized in the title of this address.

Parents and adults, in the same way as we analysts, ought to learn to be constan tly aware that behind the submissiveness or even the adoration, just as behind t he transference of love, of our children, patients and pupils, there lies hidden an ardent desire to get rid of this oppressive love. If we can help the child, the patient or the pupil to give up the reaction of identification, and to ward off the over-burdening transference, then we may be said to have reached the goa l of raising the personality to a higher level.

I should like to point briefly to a further extension of our knowledge made poss ible by these observations. We have long held that not only superimposed love bu t also unbearable punishments lead to fixations. The solution of this apparent p aradox may perhaps now be possible. The playful trespasses of the child are rais ed to serious reality only by the passionate, often infuriated, punitive sanctio ns and lead to depressive states in the child who, until then, felt blissfully g uiltless.

Detailed examination of the phenomena during an analytic trance teaches us that there is neither shock nor fright without some trace of splitting of personality. It will not surprise any analyst that part of the person regresses into the st ate of happiness that existed prior to the traumaa trauma which it endeavours to annul. It is more remarkable that in the identification the working of a second mechanism can be observed, a mechanism the existence of which I, for one, have h ad but little knowledge.

I mean the sudden, surprising rise of new faculties aft er a trauma, like a miracle that occurs upon the wave of a magic wand, or like t hat of the fakirs who are said to raise from a tiny seed, before our very eyes, a plant, leaves and flowers. Great need, and more especially mortal anxiety, see m to possess the power to waken up suddenly and to put into operation latent dis positions which, un-cathected, waited in deepest quietude for their development.

When subjected to a sexual attack, under the pressure of such traumatic urgency, the child can develop instantaneously all the emotions of mature adult and all the potential qualities dormant in him that normally belong to marriage, materni ty and fatherhood.

One is justifiedin contradistinction to the familiar regressio nto speak of a traumatic progression, of a precocious maturity. It is natural to compare this with the precocious maturity of the fruit that was injured by a bir d or insect.

Not only emotionally, but also intellectually, can the trauma bring to maturity a part of the person. The fear of the uninhibited, almost mad adult changes the child, so to speak, into a psy chiatrist and, in order to become one and to defend himself against dangers comi ng from people without self-control, he must know how to identify himself comple tely with them.

Indeed it is unbelievable how much we can still learn from our w ise children, the neurotics. If the shocks increase in number during the development of the child, the number and the various kinds of splits in the personality increase too, and soon it be comes extremely difficult to maintain contact without confusion with all the fra gments each of which behaves as a separate personality yet does not know of even the existence of the others.

Eventually it may arrive at a state whichcontinuing the picture of fragmentation one would be justified in calling atomization. One must possess a good deal of optimism not to lose courage when facing such a stat e, though I hope even here to be able to find threads that can link up the vario us parts.


'Confusion of Tongues', Sandor Ferenczi

Recalling the central Freudian thesis of the Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality d , Ferenczi expounded most eloquently in this text the notion of the hypnotizing and the terrorizing effects of suffering, which, because they are passionate punishments coming from the adult, allow the child to feel even more attached to that person: "The same anxiety, however, if it reaches a certain maximum, compels them to subordinate themselves like automata to the will of the aggressor, to divine each one of his desires and to gratify these; completely oblivious of themselves they identify themselves with the aggressor. In this text he created his daunting metaphor for post-traumatic precocious maturity: "The precocious maturity of the fruit that was injured by a bird or insect" p. The conclusions he came to on the basis of this pathological model had a bearing also on the practice of analysis; while they were not very well received at the time, some have turned out to be quite pertinent. Confusion of tongues between adults and the child.


Sándor Ferenczi

According to this concept, trauma develops as a result of the sexual seduction of a child by a parent or authority confusin. Amazon Restaurants Food delivery from local restaurants. Psychoanalysis Adlerian therapy Analytical therapy Mentalization-based treatment Transference focused psychotherapy. Top Reviews Most recent Top Reviews.




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