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Maccoby, M. (1995). The Legacy of Sándor Ferenczi: Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris (Eds.). Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1993, 294 pp., $43.95.. Psychoanal. Psychol., 12(2):321-323.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 12(2):321-323

The Legacy of Sándor Ferenczi: Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris (Eds.). Hillsdale, NJ: The Analytic Press, 1993, 294 pp., $43.95.

Review by:
Michael Maccoby, Ph.D.

Psychology and psychoanalysis are beginning to catch up with Sándor Ferenczi. Renewed concern with the sexual abuse of children confirms Ferenczi's findings. Confusion over the veracity of childhood memories of such abuse makes his observations especially valuable. More than any of the other original analysts, Ferenczi emphasized using the countertransference to understand the patient. He argued forcefully that analytic neutrality was a fiction that covered a sadistic attitude which recreated psychologically abusive conditions of childhood.

Ferenczi was one of Freud's first disciples and became his “favorite son.” He was a warm enthusiastic person, dedicated to his patients and to Freud. However, his eventual critique of psychoanalysis as overly intellectualized and his analytic experiments (mutual analysis, affectionately touching patients, etc.) angered the patriarch of psychoanalysis, who warned Ferenczi that he was stepping on a slippery slope that could lead to sexual affairs with patients. Eventually, Freud rejected him. Ernest Jones, Freud's official biographer and Ferenczi's analysand, maintained that these radical ideas were caused by a mental illness, which caused Ferenczi's death in 1933. This charge has been firmly rejected by friends who saw Ferenczi during his last year, and it is contradicted by the brilliance of his final papers, especially “Confusion of Tongues Between Adults and the Child,” read at the Psycho-Analytic Congress in Wiesbadeu, September, 1932 (Ferenczi, 1932/1980).

In that paper, Ferenczi argued that abuse, both seduction and punishment, can be psychological as well as physical. It can lead to identification with the aggressor and “traumatic progression” or precocious maturity in which the child becomes finely attuned to the abusive adult and feels compelled to try and alleviate the adult's suffering.

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