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Stanton, M. (1993). Introduction. Brit. J. Psychother., 9(4):428-429.

(1993). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 9(4):428-429

Sandor Ferenczi (1873-1933)


Martin Stanton

Richard Sterba in his Reminiscences of a Viennese Psychoanalyst (1982) recalls humorously a lecture that Ferenczi gave in Berlin in the 1920s, during which he advocated that analysts should see only one or two patients a day. This went right against the trend in Berlin where analysts were increasingly encouraged to see more and more patients, so there was considerable lively controversy at question time. After the lecture a group took Ferenczi to a popular night-club, where Josephine Baker was to perform her celebrated ‘exotic dance’. Much to the surprise of the analysts, after losing many of her clothes, Ms Baker danced her way through the packed room towards their table where she proceeded to sit herself on Ferenczi's knee and, much to his glee, affectionately rubbed his bald head! Sterba viewed this incident as illustrative both of Ferenczi's unique personal charisma and the total impossibility of ever generalising his ‘new’ technique: the only person who could ever be an analyst in the Ferenczian mould was Ferenczi himself!

This view has proved remarkably resilient as there is still as much biographical fascination with Ferenczi as there is interest in his ideas. The publication of his Clinical Diary in 1989, and the forthcoming publication of the first volume of his correspondence with Freud, have only further fuelled this fascination - though as much to Ferenczi's detriment as to his aggrandisement: the Diary has re-opened old controversies about his expriments in ‘mutual analysis’, that is, allowing the patient to act as analyst in certain circumstances (which Freud dubbed the ‘kissing technique’), and the Letters are sure to fuel dispute about both Freud and Ferenczi's total lack of confidentiality and manipulative use of analysis to resolve their personal problems (notably in the case of Ferenczi's affair with Elma Palos - his patient and daughter of his lover).

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