Ferenczi's deviation was different from that of Reich, Adler, or Horney, for he did not invoke sociological factors, and it was different from that of Jung, for he made no special appeal to a collective unconscious. Rather, he pointed to real sexual traumata from one or both parents, a notion that Freud had worked hard to repudiate after his own early adherence to this etiological position. Freud's response to Ferenczi was immediately disapproving. Now that time has passed, Ferenczi has perhaps come to seem more lucid with respect to the problems he was dealing with. He was convinced that primary repression could be lifted through his technique. In the course of severe regressions many patients repeat their original battle with reality, involving real difficulties and conflicts with the external world. To deal with this repetition, Ferenczi had to rethink and place in question the analytic framework itself. It is well known that the most difficult patients were often referred to him. Confronted with the depth of their regressions in a universe in which words and acts simply are and do not represent, Ferenczi reached those regions where the symbolic no longer applied, where saying and doing were telescoped into one and the same mode of expression. The patient became "really" a child. The only thing to do was to accompany her or him into this universe and "play the game," while attempting to repair the real damage that the patient had received or committed. Some of the issues concerning the framework of psychoanalysis were explored further in Winnicott's work. The framework is seen as the depository of the necessary
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mother-child symbiosis. Winnicott understood this, noting that Freud established the psychoanalytic framework in a certain way almost without realizing it. Freud was not so much interested in the need of the patient to regress in analysis, but rather in what happened in the analytic situation when regression was not necessary, when it was possible to consider the patient as already having benefitted from the work of mother and the primitive adaptation to the environment. Winnicott suggested that there were three types of analytic situation: in classical analysis, the setting is mute; in the second situation symbiotic problems appear in an episodic or limited fashion, permitting access to the psychotic aspects of patients who are not psychotic. In the most severe situation, the institution of the problematic primitive symbiotic relation is essential to treatment, as in psychotics and at times in borderlines.
Modern attempts to theorize about the appearance and organization of primary repression have described the mother as a stimulus barrier; this makes for an inevitable modification of the Freudian concept. In addition, such theories include the notion of a time when primarynarcissism and primary identification were the same in the infant's unconscious organization, which is narrowly dependent on that of the mother. This theorizing emphasizes the decisive role of the mother in the constitution of the self, prior to the development of object relations. It also emphasizes the consequences of the failure of the maternal stimulus barrier, which comes from the insufficiencies of the mother or from the perversity of the maternal unconscious. What is the contemporary clinical relevance of this later Ferenczi? Cahn thinks Ferenczi's work applies to psychotic regressions as well as to non-psychotic patients who nevertheless undergo such regressions from time to time. The only way to handle these clinical situations is to utilize the setting and its stimulus-barrier function as the zone of the repetition of past traumata and their eventual clearing. If things go well, the external stimulus barrier plays the double role of holding and allowing repetition of the traumata, thus reinforcing the ability of the subject to utilize his or her own stimulus barriers to re-establish a level of symbolic functioning. In a too strict adherence to the Freudian framework, with a failure to bring one's countertransference errors into the situation for analysis, the analyst risks missing material about the absences, unavailability, or failures of the primaryobject and the mutative effect of analyzing them.
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Wilson, E., Jr. (1989). Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLVII, 1983. Psychoanal. Q., 58:323-324