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Karon, B.P. (2003). Abstractions, The Psychoanalyst's Escape From Psychoanalysis: Ferenczi's “For Example” Revisited. Psychoanal. Rev., 90(3):363-379.

(2003). Psychoanalytic Review, 90(3):363-379

Abstractions, The Psychoanalyst's Escape From Psychoanalysis: Ferenczi's “For Example” Revisited

Bertram P. Karon

The two most useful words for a psychoanalyst, according to Sandor Ferenczi (1919), were “For example.” Everyone's problems are specific and concrete.

The heart of psychoanalysis is paying careful attention to the experience of our patients, neurotic, borderline, or psychotic. It may take a while to discover, but their problems are never abstract nor subtle.

It would be hard not to take castration anxiety seriously when a psychotic patient puts his hands over his genitals and yells, “Don't cut them off, Dad.”

On the other hand, the symptoms of an obsessive character included being unable to urinate in any men's room where the door was not locked, nor in the men's room on a train even if it was locked. The general problem turned out to relate to his mother, but the train symptom was different. The problem, he said, was that the conductor had a key. His associations led to his father. I said I wondered whether he was afraid his father might castrate him.

“No,” he said, “my father wouldn't castrate me. He'd kill me.” Only a fool would ignore his version of the truth.

We can talk about gender discrimination, but one patient described her mother who doted on her bright older brother. The mother acted as if he were brighter than her daughter, although he probably wasn't. The mother also doted on a younger brother who was not bright. At the age of nineteen, the older brother died of prostate cancer, an unusual tragedy.

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