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Stanton, M. (1997). On Strategic Misreading of Ferenczi: A Reply to Piers Myers. Brit. J. Psychother., 13(4):555-557.

(1997). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 13(4):555-557


On Strategic Misreading of Ferenczi: A Reply to Piers Myers

Martin Stanton

Since his death in May 1933, Ferenczi's work has suffered from various misreadings, most of them connected to judgements of his clinical practice. Ernest Jones (who underwent his ‘training analysis’ with Ferenczi) sketched out the base-line here by asserting that Ferenczi's later work was marked by a ‘mental disturbance (which) had been making rapid progress (with) violent paranoiac and even homicidal outbursts’ (Jones 1957, p. 190). Ferenczi's ‘mutual analysis’ and his reported willingness to hold and comfort distressed patients (sarcastically dismissed by Freud as the ‘kissing technique’) are cited as clinical examples of this ‘mental disturbance’. Even 30 years later, Peter Gay (1988) uncritically reproduces main aspects of the Jones line, dismissing Ferenczi's Clinical Diary, for example, as ‘woolly-minded, unworldly metaphysics’ (p. 581), and supporting Freud's view of Ferenczi's ‘Confusion of Tongues’ paper as ‘harmless, stupid, also inadequate’ (p. 583).

In the last five years, the publication of Ferenczi's Clinical Diary and two volumes of his Correspondence with Freud, as well as extensive original research on Ferenczi's life and work, have prompted a major critical re-evaluation of his importance. The ‘Ferenczi Renaissance’, as Emanuel Berman (1996) recently called it, has reestablished Ferenczi as a complex and sophisticated innovator, whose work pioneered the study of transference and countertransference issues in traumatic process, and whose ‘technical experiments’ consciously highlighted the special needs of dissociatively disordered people in analysis.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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