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Vida, J.E. (2001). Ferenczi's “Teratoma” A Result, not a Process. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 10(3-4):235-241.

(2001). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 10(3-4):235-241

Ferenczi's “Teratoma” A Result, not a Process

Judith E. Vida, M.D.

In Martin Stanton's 1990 monograph Sandor Ferenczi: Reconsidering Active Intervention, one of six exegetical chapters was titled “Teratoma”, using Ferenczi's own word for malformations of (psychic) development. Since then, there has been a tendency in the larger Ferenczi literature to use “teratoma” as a metaphor, leading to the creation of many odd readings and contexts for this very specific, medical, anatomic term. When Stanton becomes expansive in viewing the teratoma as a “transitional object” which “negotiates a relationship between the growth of ideal-ego ideas in oneself and the outside ‘influence’ of inner systems of thought” (p. 176), he is entering the play-space that opened between Ferenczi and Groddeck during the 20s as Ferenczi's relationship with Freud became increasingly constricted. What this misses is that Ferenczi was a physician, as was Groddeck. For all their fanciful explorations of mind and body relatedness, for both Ferenczi and Groddeck there would be a shared background of certain basic terminology. In that medical terminology, “teratoma” refers to variable numbers of primordial germ cells in the embryo, which in the course of development become displaced, sequestered and grotesquely overgrown; they can never become the tissues they were meant to be. Their potential is forever squandered. “Monsters” they may be; “doubles” they may seem; but they are utterly non-viable. In his metaphorical application of the term “teratoma” to the natural history of (psychic) trauma, Ferenczi proposes a biological and psychological isomorphism that is both clinically illuminating and intuitively prophetic of the course of treatment of trauma, which he was discovering. Clinical and literary material are used to explore the gap between the anatomic teratoma and the psychic teratoma.

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