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Berman, E. (1997). Mutual Analysis: Boundary Violation Or Failed Experiment?. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:569-571.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:569-571

Mutual Analysis: Boundary Violation Or Failed Experiment?

Emanuel Berman

March 28, 1996. Glen O. Gabbard's “The Early History of Boundary Violations in Psychoanalysis” (JAPA 43/4) is an intriguing paper, and an important contribution to our understanding of this crucial ethical and clinical issue. I would like, however, to respond to a few points in his discussion of Ferenczi, in some instances in matters of fact and, in others, of interpretation.

1. “Ferenczi had previously analyzed Elma's mother, Gizella” (p. 1122). It appears clear that what Ferenczi means when he speaks of analyzing Gizella is something quite informal, attempts to understand Gizella's inner world as part of their mutual soul-searching during their long and intimate relationship. For this reason Hoffer puts the word “analysis” in quotation marks in this context (Falzeder and Brabant 1996, pp. xix, xliv-xlv). In contrast, Elma's analysis started as a structured treatment, which makes the issue of boundaries more relevant.

2. “Ferenczi...viewed Elma as psychotic or near-psychotic” (p. 1123). Actually, it was Freud's view, and his allusion to “dementia praecox” after first meeting Elma had “a rather depressing effect” on Ferenczi (Brabant, Falzeder, and Giampieri-Deutsch 1993, p. 253), who appeared to like Elma quite a lot (even though their relationship hadn't started then). It was only later that Ferenczi accepted, temporarily at least, Freud's emphasis on Elma's pathology (this was an aspect of what I call their joint Pygmalion fantasy; see Berman 1996, p. 409).

3. “Freud would write Ferenczi letters addressed ‘Dear Son’ in which he would suggest that they would have two analytic sessions a day while also having a meal together” (p. 1124). Freud addressed Ferenczi “Dear son” only once (Brabant, Falzeder, and Giampieri-Deutsch 1993, p. 314; for the unique context, see Berman 1996, p. 407), while the letter suggesting the combination of analysis and meals, written five years later, is addressed, as usual, “Dear friend” (Falzeder and Brabant 1996, p. 130; for the context, see Dupont 1994, p. 307).

4. “Hence, the analytic relationship occurred in parallel with other relationships. … Freud apparently wished that Ferenczi would ultimately marry his daughter” (p. 1124).

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