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Stanton, M. (1993). Psychic Contusion: Remarks on Ferenczi and Trauma. Brit. J. Psychother., 9(4):456-462.

(1993). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 9(4):456-462

Psychic Contusion: Remarks on Ferenczi and Trauma

Martin Stanton

Few would now question that Sandor Ferenczi was an important pioneer in formulating psychoanalytic approaches to trauma. Unfortunately, however, this critical celebration is accompanied by a set of grossly distorted readings of Ferenczi's texts, as well as by serious misrepresentations of his radical transformations of psychoanalytic technique to work with trauma victims. The main distortions are that Ferenczi rediscovered the ‘truth’ of the seduction theory at the end of his life, so advocated that many mental disorders in adult life related to the traumatic experience of sexual abuse in childhood (cf. Masson 1984). Of course, it is neither hard to see why this argument has become so current, given the discovery of the importance and extent of child sexual abuse during the last decade; nor, in this context, is it hard to see why Ferenczi has become characterised as the one analyst who was prepared to say that abuse was real, as opposed to constructed through fantasy, though in fact he said nothing of the sort. Moreover, this view of Ferenczi as the discoverer of the reality of trauma - specifically sexual trauma - has led to equally distorting conceptions of his so-called ‘radical’ revision of psychoanalytic technique to adapt to this increased awareness of real sexual abuse: particularly prevalent here is the notion that he championed empathy, and advocated that analysts should go out of their way to be warm and understanding with their patients in order to facilitate the trust needed for disclosure of the trauma.

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