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Oedipus Wrecks the Weltanschauung

Oedipus Wrecks: Or, How a Weltanschauung petrified Psychoanalysts

By Sharon R. Kahn, Ph.D


        Freud’s psychoanalytic theory projects more of his ruling conquistador Weltanschauung than it follows a rational trajectory of science.  His Oedipal theory reflected only the part of the story where Oedipus is king, not a cast-out.  Ferenczi’s two children therapy, by contrast, reflect his weltanschauung of star-crossed lovers and terrified children who must cooperate with each other to survive.  Ultimately, each one pursued their understanding to a conclusion where they could only end up speaking in confused tongues, at cross-purposes with each other.  A two children therapy demands the therapist mutually join with patients in their exploration; an Oedipal therapy demands the therapists separate from the patient, thicken their skin, and conquer the transferential demands.  This paper dissects the dueling weltanschauungs of Freud and Ferenczi to describe how Oedipus wrecked and left psychoanalysts believing they had to be conquistadors as well.

Oedipus Wrecks: Or, How a Weltanschauung petrified psychoanalysts.


            Szasz (1987) proposed that Freudian psychoanalysis was a weltanschauung, a philosophy of life and not a proper branch of science at all:

Psychoanalysis is one, a theory of human behavior both normal and abnormal…two, a system of therapy…in my view…[psychoanalysis] does not really qualify at all as a scientific theory…it’s an ideology of how human beings should be and should behave…That is legitimate but it’s not a science… it’s a secular religion…its impact on science is nil….Psychoanalysis and Freud…like Marx…had a tremendous impact on how we live today…(Szasz, 1987).

        Freud and Ferenczi,  the two friends and innovators both indicate in their self-analyses how their own  weltanschauungs  later informed their techniques as psychoanalysts.  Freud’s alluded to conquerors; Ferenczi’s to composers.  Ultimately,Freud’s Oedipus, insentient to trauma, bearer of thickened skin,  conquered the analytic weltanschauung. 

        In this paper, I will dissect the clashing weltanschauungs of Freud and Ferenczi as an example of how alternative psychoanalytic techniques were conquered through this zero sum game.   Oedipus wrecked Ferenczi’s  two-children therapy, which,  by contrast, offered as technique a cooperative therapy with its allusions to  Hansel & Gretel, abandoned children who must team up against the crone, Vorosmarty’s  (1841)Petike, laid low by spurned love and helped by a supportive mother to resume his quotidian tasks;  and  Heine’s  nightingale, who challenges the sphinx’s right to ask riddles, as opposed to readily responding to them.    Ferenczi focuses on the deserted, not devouring, children, contenders to authenticity;  not adults, pretenders to authority.

        First, I will present the Oedipus tale, which influenced Freud’s self-analysis; then the Greek creation myths to illustrate Freud’s identification as a scion to ancient conquerors.  Then I will present Ferenczi’s allusions as brought forth in his clinical journal and analyze how his cooperative approach challenges the conqueror.  Ultimately, I will conclude that the desire for the certainty of authoritarianism and not authenticity in each of us which creates the face of trauma.

        The analogy of the conquerer for the psychoanalytic weltanschauung extends only as far back as Freud’s self-analysis.  From his earliest years, he felt powerful feelings of love toward his mother; jealousy and rivalry to his father.  He used this retrospective memory as a connection to the Oedipus legend.  According to Kilbourne (2008), this self-analysis, “spared him the shame of having to reveal himself to another person.” (Kilbourne, 2008, p.4).  Instead of the word ‘shame’, after all introspection was a valid 19th century research technique;  perhaps the construct of vulnerability is more apt.    Freud averts his gaze from the onset of the story, where Laius the father begins the fatal trajectory of events through attempted filicide.  Or the part of the myth where the Sphinx, an authority figure, causes the Theban plague.  Freud only focuses on the patricidal son.   The Oedipal theory as delineated by Freud postulates murderous feelings of rivalry against the father for the mother by a young boy, who must deal with his fear of castration by his father as punishment for this desire.  Some note how Freud’s weltanschauung here depicts  his ambivalent relationship with his mother, (Ferenczi, 1933;  Kramer, 1995) his misunderstanding of feminine psychology (Horney, 1937), as degrading the mother (Fromm, 1955), his “failure to recognize the common bond between father and son.” (Colman, 2000, p.526), or his enmeshment in a patriarchal culture which emphasizes competition, jealousy, and prolonged dependency (Sullivan, 1925).  Freud’s Oedipus is blind to such critiicsms, he is a heroic conqueror, invulnerable, seeking no comforts save the usual externalia of such tales:  a queen and a kingdom.  Oedipus the conquerer has agency over his life and is not the victim of his fate. 

        But, wrecking as a precursor to rule did not begin with Oedipus.  He is a much later dramatization of such earlier Greek creation myths, such as those of Uranus, Chronos, and Zeus. 

        According to Greek creation myths, the world begins with  Chaos, a void.  After that come Gaea and Eros.  Gaea brought Uranus, (the heavens and sky) Pontus, and the Mountains. Uranus was to surround and cover Gaea.  This was the first power couple.   Gaea with Uranus had 12 Titans, three Cyclops, and three Hecatonchires (hundred headed creatures). 

        Uranus feared a coup d’etat led by his progency; thus, he restocked Gaea’s womb with them, one at a time after their birth.  Naturally, this one-sided decision over the use of her body and the loss of her children created grief in Gaea, who countered by giving her youngest, Cronus, a sickle to castrate his father.  This blood later produced the Furies, Giants, and Melian nympths.  From the testicles grew  Aphrodite.  Cronus rescued his Titan siblings and shared the world with them.  He marries Rhea (his sister) and suffers the return of the repressed—the torment of being usurped by his children, thus, he swallowed his children.  Rhea, to  spare her youngest Zeus, gave Chronos a stone in his stead,  sending Zeus to Crete.  Zeus, in adulthood, rescues his siblings, usurps  Chronos and the Titans (their uncles and aunts) and establishes the rule of the Olympian gods.   (, n.d.).

        In all three Greek tales, one sees what can only be called the Gaea geste, where the wife colludes against her husband in order to save her son.  The female is the invisible but ultimate power in the relationships.  This motif appears in the overthrow of Uranus, Chronos, and (ineffectually) in Oedipus, as Jocasta urges Oedipus to avert his gaze and not investigate overmuch.  In each tale, inevitably the fatal coup comes as a surprise only to the tyrannical ruler.  And in each, if not for a Gaea geste, the world would become void.

        As Colman (2000) noted in his summary of such myths:  “one partner devours; the other is devoured…” (Colman, 2000, p. 522).   Steiner (1999)added:  “[The]child is required to submit in fear to the dominating power and control exercised by the father, if the child solves the problem of his hatred through identification he will in turn become afraid of being overthrown by his own sons and will treat them with the same tyrannical power his father used with him. (p. 23).

        This was the Freudian weltanschauung which resonated with well-educated males socialized within the Hapsburg monarchy.  In a monarchy, the only civil way a prince can attain full power is to be crowned king upon the death of his father.  Further complicating this is that in a hierarchical culture, adult princes who suffer the misfortune to have long-lived parents are often figures of public ridicule (Victoria's son Edward, for example, or Elizabeth's II Charles), for while the king has a fairly well-defined role, that of the prince is more ambiguous.  By contrast, in a democratic culture, mechanisms exist to insure routine transitions to power.   Adult roles are more fluid and less dependent on parental status.  

        Whether or prince or a king, power was a patrimony, to be kept from females.  This was the weltanschauung which created diagnoses such as hysteria, a disorder which reflected male ignorance of female sexual needs and male disdain for non-traditional feminine roles.  Males refused to see or believe that females could want to be, as Plath would later say,”the place an arrow shoots off from...  want[ed] change and excitement and to shoot off in all directions [themselves]” (Plath, 1971, p. 83).  Instead of understanding what females wanted was adult options, Freud chose to concretize their problems with a penis, ignoring the underlying interpretation.

        Options for everyone was not in the Freudian weltanschauung.  Freud despised democratic societies:  he loathed America, Americans, and American émigrés.  He once stated, “It is a mistake, a gigantic mistake.” (Jones, 1955, p. 60).  And so, within the psychoanalytic realm, Freud is the potentate, Ferenczi, as well as all of Freud’s other viziers are impotent:  biologically and metaphorically, as in such realms, the viziers serve solely at the king’s pleasure. Freud’s grand viziers were to learn Freud’s science and set up outposts in their territories.  As tokens of their status and as symbols of their favor, they were gifted with special signet rings.  They were not equals, but apostles.  And their status could be summarily stripped from them.  Freud  unilaterally expelled  Rank, Jung,  and  Adler and instructed the remainder to ostracize them.  (Ferenczi, 1932/1988).

        Where does Sandor Ferenczi’s democratic weltanschauung arise?  Ferenczi was the eighth of twelve  children, born to Polish émigrés.  His father, Bernat came to Hungary to participate in the 1848 revolution and stayed on afterward. Democratic principles were his patrimony.  In 1879, when Sandor was six, their surname of Fraenkel was Maygarized into Ferenczi, with Bernat rejecting an  opportunity to ennoble the name with the prefix, ‘von.’ This represents a serious commitment toward the democratic ideal.  For a Hungarian Jew of Bernat’s generation, the opportunity to became a nobleman, or an “uri” represented the pinnacle of achievement.  Bernat’s contemporaries paid serious funds, endowed powerful others, or arranged marriages for their nubile children to garner the garland which  Bernat Fraenkel waived (Patai, 1999). Unlike Jacob Freud, who lost his heroic potential to his young son when he colluded with the established inferior social status of Jews by failing to protest when a gentile knocked his hat off, Ferenczi’s father was an honored hero who died when Ferenczi was 15, a critical period as adolescents  endeavor to establish a distinct identity for themselves, separate from their parents. At two crucial identity forming times—name change at age six, with its issue of who am I in my family; death of father at age  fifteen, with its issues of who am I in the world;  Ferenczi confronted identity issues both in the micro and macro world.   It comes as no surprise after growing up with revolutionary stories and adolescent orphans  that Ferenczi imagined mutual analysis as a dyadic cosmos replete with orphaned children who overthrow authorities.  In his Clinical Journal on March 13, 1932, he wrote:

            Certain phases of mutual analysis represent the complete renunciation of….authority on both sides; they give the impression of two equally terrified children….who compare their experiences and because of their common fate, understand each other completely and instinctively try to comfort each other.  Awareness of this shared fate allows the partner to appear….as someone one can trust with confidence (Ferenczi, 1932/1988, p. 56).

        There is a certain fairy-tale motif to the whole concept; like Hansel and Gretel, in a mutual analysis, two peers must cooperatively solve their dilemma, in opposition to the Oedipal theory, where there are no peers, only castrating rivals who must be neutralized if the hero is to succeed.

        Peers offer some value in a world where love is frequently lost or misplaced.  Ferenczi cites Heine’s (1969) poem, “The Book of Songs,” in his Clinical Journal (1932/1988).   The poem begins, “Das ist der alte Marchenwald!”  This was the forest of fairy tales.  The moon, notorious as a symbol of feminine power and feminine fertility cycles, has “seized” the narrator in her powers.  Non-maternal, female sexual power is a longstanding theme in Ferenczi’s weltanschauung, as evidenced not only here, but as later will be seen, in Vorosmarty’s (1841) poem, “Petike.”  As opposed to Freud, who, regardless of whether it was Dora or Frau Elfriede, could only view females as  normal within secure destined confines of daughter, wife, and/or mother (Freud, 1905/1963; Falzeder, 1994).

        In the Heine (1969) poem, as the narrator walked along the path, he heard a nightingale sing of “’love, and lovers’ pain.”  Her song caused the narrator to reminisce.  He then saw a castle of desolation, guarded by a sphinx, a “hybrid of lust and dread,/With a lion’s body, a lion’s claws/But a woman’s breast and head.”  He fell in love with the face and kissed it, which caused the “marble features [to come] to life.”  He cannot remove himself and began to suffocate from her ardor, he found his position tortuous but cannot leave, “ravishing torture and blissful pain!/Terror and ecstacy!”  Again, the female is described as a powerful raptor and the narrator is impotent to remove himself from the situation—it is the nightingale who tries to save him by questioning the sphinx’s right to kill by exploiting the desire she incites:  “The nightingale sang: ‘Oh beautiful sphinx!/…Why must your ecstasy by mixed/With such inhuman pain…Explain to me…Your riddle of laughter and tears!/For I have pondered over this/Thousands and thousands of years.” (Heine,1969).  

        This lethargy through vexed love motif is repeated in “Petike,” where the lover is a schoolboy, unwilling to engage in a life where his love is not reciprocated:

Little Peter sits there, mournful and sad, Ha ha ha! ….His mother regards him with faithful eyes… She thinks that perhaps her dear son is ailing…(Vorosmarty, 1841).

        In this poem, the challenger is the protagonist’s mother, who tries to offer solace, only to find what she offers if of little value, as her son wishes only for death, saying, “I have but a single friend/And that is death….” (Vorosmarty, 1841).   Mother does not collude in this desire, and as she cannot replace his love interest, she structures the alternatives compellingly and returns him to life:  “Rascal Peter! So that’s what was wrong!....He doesn’t want to eat or drink,/But only to dally with Juliette….And now get up! To school with you….And don’t let me catch you moping about, ../Enough of these sighs and tears!” (Vorosmarty, 1841) Love’s life threatening commands pale when faced by the force of the life-giving mother.

        Ferenczi’s protagonists are lovers who will not separate from their beloved, though they  must abjure life itself.  As Dryden (1678) once said of Cleopatra, “All for love; or the world well lost,” they are eventually conquered by the erotic object of their lust unless an external agent assists them.  

        Freud’s Oedipus by contrast, is the lone resolver, who does not deviate from the destined path.  He is purposeful:  a man blocks the road—he slays him; a sphinx asks a riddle; he responds.   The right of the Sphinx to cause plagues or pose riddles is not of his concern.  There is little introspection and less pondering about right or wrong.  Freud’s use of the story allows no negotiations, no compromises.   

        Besides the heroic father who died while he was at a vulnerable age, Ferenczi’s larger world was the equal-opportunity Hungarian republic.  The Law of Reception was passed while Ferenczi was entering young adulthood, according Judaism full equality with Christianity.  Jews were allowed access to the professions.  Although it was still difficult to enter the civil service,  many Jews, including Ferenczi, entered the medical profession.  (Patai, 1999).

        During the Great War, Ferenczi treated traumatic disorders.   In a letter to Freud on 2/22/15, he wrote of the analytic treatment of his army commander who was suffering from the trauma of a grenade explosion.   He was still invested in intrapsychic causation here, it was not so much the grenade as “in reality [commandant] suffers from libido difficulties.” (Falzeder, et al, 1996, p. 50). The Great War rendered great trauma within  Hungary—this country lost 93% of her armed forces as casualties and later, 71% of her territory due to the Treaty of Trianon. (Katzburg, 2007).    Soon after, Hungarian analysts left for Berlin, such as Franz Alexander, the Balints, and Melanie Klein.  Others, such as Sandor Rado, Geza Roheim, and Sandor Lorand; left for New York (Moreau-Ricard, 1996).

        The Law of Reception lasted until 1920, when it was replaced by the Numerus Clausus which limited Jewish freedoms as well as imposing quotas on Jewish admissions to the university and the academy.  No longer were Jews to be considered the equal of Christians. A genocide of Jews sanctioned by the fascist government depopulated towns.  (Katzburg 2007).

        Ferenczi certainly never denied having experienced trauma in his childhood. The fact that his father died  is an expectable, ordinary woe of life, but not a trauma.   However, as a middle-aged man, Ferenczi was repeatedly exposed to or suffered from adult onset trauma.  The Great War, the defeat of the Central Powers, the rape of Hungary, and the repeal of the Law of Reception,  alongside the White Terror of Horthy.  Few challenged the torturing sphinx.  Fewer protested or protected.  

        During Horthy’s White Terror, Ferenczi lost his professorship and resigned as the president of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA).  London, not Budapest became the IPA’s headquarters.  (Berman, 2007).   Around this time, Freud also showed indications of adult-onset trauma: within a short space of time, he experienced not only  the death of his daughter  Sophie, but those of his favorite grandson, Heinele,  a nephew, Theo, pregnant niece, Cecelie, and a supporter, Anton von Freund.   (Lieberman & Kramer,  2012).  After his grandson’s death, Freud said,  something in him was “killed” and  he was “never able to form new attachments.” (Schur, p. 359).  His response to this trauma was to retreat further into what Ferenczi(1932/1988)  would later call his “well-ordered superego, “ and taking psychoanalysis  further intrapsychic.  After all, how can Freud compete with a conquistorador like Death.

        Ferenczi, unable to achieve the solace he craved within the authoritarian relationship extended by Freud, initiated a relationship with Georg Groddeck in September, 1921, shortly after the death of his mother.  He suffered from nephrosclerosis and headaches at that time and sought treatment from Groddeck, as well as offering himself as an emissary and conduit to Freud. Groddeck interpreted his disease as a somatic manifestation of the individual’s straddling “two things…to be both childlike or grownup.” (Groddeck, 1923/1961, p. 188).     Ferenczi found his stays there an “analytical holiday;” Groddeck reciprocated Ferenczi’s enthusiastic feelings.  Writing of Ferenczi, he stated: “I feel so close to him…we have become good friends.” (Grossman & Grossman, 1965, pp.125-126).  Ferenczi shaped his relationship with Groddeck into another sibship, where “disillusionment with parents, teachers, and other heroes, children unite among themselves and form alliances.” (Ferenczi, 1932/1988, p. 56).  The accumulation of micro and macro post-war losses may have recapitulated him back into the time when the presence of his siblings helped to stabilize him then.  When peril is perceived, younger children use their elder siblings as coping models.  Perhaps Groddeck served such a stabilizing function here.  Ferenczi’s letters to Groddeck were intimate and analytic, making him into a confederate against that austere Freud.  He wrote to Groddeck about his early childhood sexual traumas, difficulties with his mother, and his continuing desire for Elma. (Fortune, 2002).  The disclosure of trauma and of being heard and accepted, creates a new cohesion and renews ties to the larger world.

        Indeed, Rudnytsky viewed this dyad as offering a mutual analytic therapy:   “Each man became for the other a surrogate for Freud, with the result that both men’s relationship with Freud…cooled.” (Rudnytsky, 2002, p. 170).

        Groddeck’s own weltanschauung was a vigourous counterpoint to the Oedipal, as he proclaimed that “I have never met any man who at the death of his mother has not had the feeling, ‘I, her son, have murdered her.’”(Rudnytsky, 2002, p.191). Groddeck, unlike Freud, had little problems assuming a maternal imago: “An analyst could be a mother figure, peer figure, any type of figure.” (Rudnytsky, 2002, p. 188).  Furthermore,  Groddeck, like Ferenczi, was attuned to the powerful role of the female.  Unlike Freud, who believed females envy male prowess as concreted by the penis;  Groddeck believed males envy female prowess, as concretized by the ability to give birth.   

        However different their actual techniques,  both Ferenczi and Groddeck wanted to provide a curative setting for the patient.  As opposed to “learning” from them or “making money” off them, or fearing being made insane from the mere exposure to them.  Ferenczi believed that mutual analysis, with its emphasis on empathy, validation, and congruence, offered curative elements for the patient.  What ultimately held resonance for Ferenczi was in perfecting his version of mutual analysis.  Mutual analysis owes its creation to the initiative of Ferenczi’s patient, Elizabeth Severn.   Originally, this meant a literal role-reversal, with back-to-back sessions, one with him as analyst to the patient; one with him as analysand  for the patient.  Severn remembered markedly traumatic childhood experiences with adults who would not maintain appropriate sexual boundaries.  Ferenczi wrote in 1932:

        Where the first shock occurred at the age of one and a half years (a promise by an adult…to give her ‘something good,’ instead of which,drugged and sexually abused…At the age of five, renewed, brutal attack; genitals artificially dilated, insistent suggested to be compliant…stimulating intoxicants administered…suffering…helplessness…despair of any outside help, propel her toward death; but as conscious thought is lost, or abandoned, the organizing       life instincts…awaken. (Ferenczi, 1932/1988, p. 8)

        Mutual analysis is a therapeutic remediation of the core trauma:  authority figures who created what Ferenczi was to call a confusion of tongues:  the child wants adult nurturance and affection but is sexually violated in return; the analysand wants analytic empathy and validation, but is emotionally violated via analytic austerity and skepticism.  The patient comes enters in pieces, dissociative.  Experiences with authority figures were toxic, tortuous, leading to physical and emotional destruction. (Ferenczi, 1932).  

        This entry also offers a biographical and a most succinct summary of  the traumas in Petike, Book of Songs, and Hansel and Gretel.   Petike, in despair over unreturned love, wants  death.  Heine’s narrator is suffering and helpless in the arms of the sphinx, even as he is propelled to her, and Hansel and Gretel are abandoned, left with no adult help, to be enslaved and imprisoned.

        The two children are an analogy  for Ferenczi’s analysis—abandoned, alone in a world without being adequately prepared to care for themselves and having to use their wits to survive and succeed.  The two children make mistakes, for example, the use of breadcrumbs as a trailmarker.  However, they survive and recover from this, which is a hopeful parallel for analysis.

        Freud rejects such parallels.   Disappointed by a father’s passive acceptance of anti-semitic brutality as an ordinary facet of everyday life and the traumas of his post-war life.  Freud created himself as a superman, a thick-skinned conquerer.[2]

        Skin became an important metaphor within the psychoanalysis of trauma, a metaphor which became concretized.  Let us explore the meaning of skin, outside from the real dermal covering. When patients makes intimate disclosures to their therapists, they are skinned, raw, exposed before authority figures.  Like a pupae, they have shed skin.

        Skin is porous, a conductor for various agents, infectious,irritating, or emolliative and emulsifying.  Skin serves a barrier function between the internal and the

        external environment. (Madison, 2003; Proksch, et al 2008).  However, it also allows oxygen to enter. (Stucker, et al 2002). Thick skin, in the form of a scar, is a potential indication of ill-healing, as is a callous.  Is this really the metaphor of choice for psychoanalyists?

        Infants require skin to skin contact to develop normally.   The King’s touch cured scrofula.  Groddeck offerd vigorous massages to his patients. Therapies  were historically contact occupations.   However, contact need not deteriorate into sexual plays, as Freud feared from the conduct of Jung with Spielrein and Ferenczi with Elma Palos.  It is the awesome vulnerability, the psychic skinlessness of the patient which renders the analyst unprepared for the overwhelming reaction of their own bodies to the pained neediness combined with sexuality.  Like Heine’s narrator, they cannot detach themselves.   

        Freud rejected any vulnerabilities within himself.  Freud was first Hannibal, sworn to revenge, and later, Oedipus, conquerer.  Examples abound of Freud’s superman fantasies.  Freud advised his fiancée to fortify herself with injections of cocaine as insurance that she could tolerate the rigors of their nuptials.  Subsequently, and in serial order, he refused the offers of Jung, Ferenczi, and Groddeck to analyze him, as he was unable to cede his authority to anyone. By 1920, Ferenczi could not console himself with such a myth

        Instead of awe, Freud elected to grow a thick skin and scarify.  Growing a thick skin is more akin to entombing trauma, not conquering it, an indice of healing gone awry.  Falzeder, 1994 states the cause for  Freud deriding the notion of psychoanalysis as a curative therapy was caused by his failure with his “grand-patient,” Frau Elfriede Hirschfeld.  After this failure, Freud advised his viziers to “never let our poor neurotics drive us crazy.” (Falzeder, 1994, p. 308).  Instead, one has to “develop the thick skin we need….to dominate countertransference.” (Falzeder, 1994, p. 310).

        The issue of being skinless, of vulnerability and causality is to Boulanger(2007), a specialist in adult-onset trauma, a research issue in itself. Boulanger reports when patients recount great trauma, they seem “dissociative.” as Ferenczi earlier noted with Rn.  Her understanding of this phenomena is that this a way for the patient to keep both safe, if bored., stating, “All too often the psychoanalytic clinician will avert her gaze… the corporeality of the body that is most obviously vulnerable during trauma…When the sense of physical cohesion is threatened during trauma, there is a fragmentation of bodily experience, leading to depersonalization, out of body experiences, and derealization. (Boulanger, 2007, pp. 185,187). Freud averted his gaze and went to Oedipus, an intrapsychic cause.   Ferenczi did not. He believed in the reality of Severn’s trauma and could not detach himself.  Since there were no techniques available to treat her, in order to liberate both of them, he, as one of the two terrified children, had to take guidance from her, thus, mutual analysis.

Ferenczi approached the traumatic event and its working through in therapy from the point of view of  the individual within the community:

….before the  trauma…atmosphere of trust between …..child…and adults…which is destroyed by an extreme rise in tension in the relationship…. The child seeks help from precisely that person…responsible for this rise… If this help is not forthcoming…there will be a split…one part which suffers….another which observes unemotionally and as from a distance and offers comfort…“The involvement of the analyst, the ‘CT’ becomes an important tool.” (Ferenczi, 1932/1988, p. 13).

        This countertransference elevates the patient from a one down position into an equal.  Instead the of the patient becoming part of the problem, they are part of the solution.  From here on is a logical next step to the idea of a two children analysis.   The authority figures are of little use or more harm.  Hence, in Heine’s poem, the nightingale  unlike Oedipus, doesn’t accept the right of the sphinx to riddle.   Ferenczi’s nightingale challenges the sphinx’s right to riddle and cause pain.          

        Despite these earlier psychoanalytic anti-Oedipus’s, the eldest son Oedipal narrative remained the dominant one in psychoanalysis.  What is it within us that privileges that, when we have alternatives from Ferenczi? 

        There are atavistic desires operating within which conspire to reinforce the primacy of the Oedipus.  In my university classes, I show the Milgram documentary of his Obedience studies.  Milgram formed learner/teacher dyads, where the teachers believed that they were participating in studies which evaluated the effect of receiving painful shocks on learning.  Over 65 % of  his participants obeyed the researcher and gave the learner what they believed were extremely painful shocks. (Milgram, 1963).  Later, Zimbardo unwittingly conceptually recreated this phenomena with ordinary undergraduates. (Haney, et al 1973).  Decade after decade, humans fail to retain the ability of agents within hierarchical organizations to deliberately harm others who are beneath them, but not to challenge others who are above them, lest they risk their wrath.   Indeed, even Ferenczi feared mutual analysis would “blossom into gangsterism.” (Ferenczi, 1932/1988, p. 74).  But he viewed this as a positive step, leading to “a founding of a new social order, in wich all hypocrisy is absent, receives a new or different kind of support in the extension of mutuality.”  He did not view this gangsterism in the sense of lawlessness, but in sense of a pro-social gang of peers.  However, “it will become obvious that when we have been offended, disturbed, or injured, we all have the reactions of gangsters.” (Ferenczi, 1932/1988, p. 12).  But the cure, as always, is the acknowledgement of the problem.  Throughout his Clinical Diary runs the weltanschauung that natural and sincere behaviors are the best practices.  As Gabbard, 2005, stated, “The failure to be human in extraordinary situations maybe a more grievous error.” (Gabbard, 2005, p.3) This explains why Oedipus won.  Conquerers do not apologize to the conquered.  Oedipus  never faced trial for killing Laius.  Little has been done that meaningfully diminishes the current hegemonies.  Whether soldiers or doctors, professionals, including psychoanalysts,  train in hierarchical organizations.  Success entails learning to suppress your sensitivity to the suffering of those in the inferior ranks.  Ultimately, this entails saying silently in mantra fashion as you passively witness brutality, “At least it wasn’t me.”  The puissant, not the patient, is prioritized.  

        It is not a matter of choosing sides—neither Freud nor Ferenczi has the monopoly on therapeutic techniques.  It does not further trauma to have an abstinent approach; depending on the patient and the timing, it may offer the more salient entry.  An eclectic approach and a keen therapeutic attunement offer the best entries:  timing, set, setting.

        Milgram found that the more salient the victim was to the teacher, the more likely the latter was to disobey authority and stop shocking.  And that is the appeal Ferenczi offers: in an Oedipal empire, where success entails the suppression of sensitivity, he always found the victim salient. The weltanschauung of  hierarchical structures, such as analytic institutes, hospitals, and,  clinics, make us prefer heroes, not victims.  Blame seeps down to the least protected, the least potent, the most vulnerable, the most terrified are sacrificed. .   Freud gives psychoanalysts a superman, Oedipus; Ferenczi gives them none, only vulnerable victims straggling through a forest seeking their home.  Freud found the Oedipus myth offered him insight and was a useful tool to open a window.  Other psychoanalysts have found classic literature to offer an aperture..  Why the Oedipus complex and not the Gaia geste?  Ultimately, psychoanalysis is about telling stories and who owns the narrative.  And Oedipus conquered and thus effaced the face of trauma.


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