The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 2015, 75, (57–64) © 2015 Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis 0002-9548/15 www.palgrave-journals.com/ajp/
“FREEDOM TO GROW”* Kathleen Kelley-Lainé1
Writing is a dangerous activity, especially as it is seemingly harmless: we rarely know what we are getting into at the start. Continuing her work on the writings of J.M. Barrie, especially on the question of the “lost child” who never grows up, the author invites the reader to listen to Sándor Ferenczi’s “lost childhood” between the lines of his Clinical Diary. He begins the Diary on January 7, 1932 and the last entry is October 2 of the same year; Ferenczi died on May 22, 1933. The exceptional text of the diary is the fruit of his incisive clinical insights, his disappointment and anger with Freud and his ruthless self-analysis. The author pinpoints her reading of Ferenczi, the “wise baby—lost child”.
KEY WORDS: wise baby; precocious maturity; omnipotence; negation; narcissism; trauma; creativity DOI:10.1057/ajp.2014.57
All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another ﬂower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this forever!’ This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end. (Barrie, 1980, p. 1)
It is with these words that James Mathew Barrie begins his book Peter Pan or, the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up. As analysts we are very familiar with the ﬁgure of Peter Pan, sitting on our window-sill, and challenging us with his baby tooth smile. He seems “young, innocent and heartless” but we soon Kathleen Kelley-Lainé M.A., Psychoanalyst, Member of the Société Psychanalytique de Paris, IPA, Hungarian Psychoanalytical Society Address correspondence to Kathleen Kelley-Lainé, M.A., 109 rue de Vaugirard, Paris, 75006, France. *A version of this paper was presented at the conference: “Sincerity and freedom in psychoanalysis: A studio conference inspired by Sándor Ferenczi’s Clinical Diary”, October 2013, Freud Museum, London.
ﬁnd out that he is a “sad child”, a wise baby, forced by external or internal circumstances to be adult before his time. It soon becomes evident that the man or woman before us is unconsciously carrying his or her lost childhood as the most precious possession. I suppose that I became very conscious of the sad and smiling ﬁgure of Peter Pan when I wrote the book Peter Pan: The Story of Lost Childhood (Kelley-Lainé, 1997). It was quite by chance that I was reading Freud’s “Mourning and melancholia” (1917) preparing for a conference and simultaneously Peter Pan as a bedtime story for my son. Although I was acquainted with Peter Pan as a joyful ﬁgure of my childhood, this time I heard the sobbing of a sad child throughout the pages. This strange perception awakened my curiosity, and I asked friends visiting me from London to bring me a book about J.M. Barrie. When I learned that he had replaced an older brother who died tragically in a skating accident, I was taken aback as the subject of my conference was a patient who was also a replacement child. This odd coincidence encouraged me to make use of Barrie’s metaphors to illustrate the psychic processes of my patient. I was convinced that the story of Peter Pan could reinforce Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholia”. It was clear that Barrie had never become a mature man and had written the story to express his own sad childhood. I ignored that I was embarking on an adventure that would enable me to cry at last. Writing is a dangerous activity, especially as it is seemingly harmless: we rarely know what we are getting into at the start. What do we reveal unconsciously as we pour our most intimate subjectivity into metaphors that both expose and hide who we are? Barrie’s obsession was the ﬁgure of Peter Pan, a “cocky gay innocent and heartless” creature who never grew old and lived forever in the Neverland of Pirates, Indians, Mermaids and the Lost Boys, of whom he was the captain. In fact, Barrie’s ﬁrst version of Peter Pan was that of a baby who ﬂew out of the window at birth to play with the fairies in Kensington Gardens, but when he decided to go back to his mother, it was no longer possible. The lost child and the depressed, absent mother became the source of his creativity, locking him into his childhood tragedy for life. The subject of this paper is not to narrate the story of J.M. Barrie, but to invite the reader to attend to the “lost childhood” of Sándor Ferenczi as he attempts to grow and ﬁnd his personal path through writing his Clinical Diary (1932a). The metaphor of the “baby” and the lost child underline his creative research underlines about the development of the psyche, the process of maturation. The time has ﬁnally come to explore his relationship with Freud and wanting to recover his own identity as a psychoanalyst and an adult man (Aron, 1998).
“FREEDOM TO GROW”
In 1923 Ferenczi writes the “Dream of the wise baby” with naïve innocence, not suspecting that he will later be known as the “wise baby” of psychoanalysis. In a note 9 years later he writes, “The idea of a wise baby could be discovered only by a wise baby” (Ferenczi, 1932b). Here are his thoughts in 1923: It is not rare that patients narrate to one dreams in which new-born, very young children or babies in the cradle, are able to talk or write ﬂuently, treat one to deep sayings or carry on intelligent conversations, deliver harangues, give learned explanations, and so on. I imagine that behind such a dream content, something typical is hidden. The ﬁrst superﬁcial interpretation points in many cases to an ironical view of psychoanalysis, which, as is well known, attributes far more value and psychical effect to the experiences of childhood than people in general care to admit. The ironic exaggeration of the intelligence of small children, therefore, expresses a doubt as to analytical communications on this subject. (Ferenczi, 1923, p. 211)
In fact the irony, he believes, points to deeper and graver memories of childhood. “Therefore the wish to become learned and to excel over ‘the great’ in wisdom and knowledge is only a reversal of the situation in which the child ﬁnds itself” (ibid.). This phrase foreshadows his ambition to make as great a contribution to psychoanalysis as Freud. After many years of selfanalysis he concludes that the “wise baby” is the result of an infant being forced to “super-perform”, an unnatural state that in fact serves to hide repressed infantile passivity. Furious anger has also to be repressed by the infant, whose natural “passivity” has been interrupted. The prodigal child matures too early; such precocious maturity is often the reaction to mortal danger, a matter of physical or psychological survival (Ferenczi, 1923; also see Kilborne, 2011). Ferenczi wanted desperately to grow within the psychoanalytical movement, but also as a man, and counted on his spiritual father, Freud, to play the role of “good enough parent” to assist him. Ferenczi’s major articles from 1923 onwards illustrate the creativity of a “child prodigy” endowed with a special kind of knowledge that only children have before it is repressed in adulthood. But his encounter with psychoanalysis brings him in contact with “the problem of the sense of reality” that is so strange to a child “kept immune from pain”. Through empathy he was able to merge himself with the infantile mind to discover its “monistic” state at the beginning of life (Ferenczi, 1926, p. 233). To a small child sheltered from pain there is no difference between good and bad, the ego and the environment, inner and outer world—all is one with no distinction between alien and hostile. At this stage the child is omnipotent, at one with the mother, and clings to this feeling as long as possible. When ﬁnally there is confrontation with reality and the problem of the acceptance of un-pleasure becomes inevitable, the question is what
happens to the inner processes, the deeper foundations of the mind— especially the development of instincts and drives. Ferenczi commends Freud for his work on “negation” (Freud, 1925), which marks the beginnings of thought processes in their confrontation with reality. On this fundamental issue of drives, and at this point, Ferenczi admires the genius of his mentor for discovering the key to the “freedom to grow”. Negation is the transitional phase between the initial monistic, omnipotent state and the acceptance of reality, which entails displeasure and pain. It is only by denying it that reality can be accepted into the conscious processes. Ferenczi is stimulated to do further clinical research and observation of the complex processes involved in psychic movement and ﬁxation. Complete denial is similar to the ignorance of reality at the primary, omnipotent stage of development—his hypothesis is that the ﬁxation point of psychoses is found at this stage. When does one give up personal omnipotence in favor of reality? In other words, when does one start growing up? I called the ﬁrst phase of all, in which the ego alone exists and includes in itself the whole world of experience, the period of introjection; the second phase, in which omnipotence is ascribed to external powers, the period of projection; the last stage of development might be thought of as the stage in which both mechanisms are employed in equal measure or in mutual compensation. (Ferenczi, 1926, p. 239)
Again a certain reading of the article gives us profound insights into Ferenczi’s psychic investments: We may suppose that whenever adaptation is achieved a similar, as it were masochistic, alteration in the direction of aggression plays a part … the surrender of loved parts of the ego and the introjection of the non-ego are parallel processes … we are able to love (recognize) objects only by a sacriﬁce of our narcissism, which is after all but a fresh illustration of the well-known psychoanalytical fact that all object-love take place at the expense of narcissism. (ibid., p. 242).
The freedom to grow therefore implies a partial destruction of the ego, but is worthwhile only if this painful process contributes to the strengthening of the ego, making it more resistant. The role of Eros is essential in this subtle economic system: I have no hesitation in regarding even memory traces as scars, so to speak, of traumatic impressions, i.e. as products of destruction, which, however, the tireless Eros nevertheless understands how to employ for its own ends, i.e. for the preservation of life. Out of these it shapes a new psychical system, which enables the ego to orientate itself more correctly in its environment, and to form sounder judgments. In fact it is only the destructive instinct that “wills evil”, while it is Eros that “creates good” out of it. (ibid., p. 243)
“FREEDOM TO GROW”
Freedom to grow entails sincerity, that is freedom from deceit, hypocrisy, falseness, or duplicity. It means earnestness, genuine, real. Ferenczi was Freud’s most sincere supporter of the “cause” of psychoanalysis and that is why he fought so earnestly for the “freedom to grow” as an analyst. In his letter to Freud on December 25, 1929 he spells out his genuine orientation, deﬁning himself as “non-political” whereas he knows how important the political aspects of the movement are for Freud, and probably suspects that giving up of his “neurotica” was in fact a political move: “ … my interest turned to much more important things; my actual disposition is, after all, that of an investigator, and, freed of all personal ambitions, I immersed myself with redoubled curiosity in the study of my cases …” (Freud and Ferenczi, 1920–1933, p. 375). He points out that his research results are directly opposed to Freud’s renunciation of his “neurotica”: “In all cases in which I penetrated deeply enough, I found the traumatic-hysterical basis for the illness” (ibid., p. 376). He then goes on to say that psychoanalysis deals far too one-sidedly with obsessive neurosis and character analysis, that is ego psychology, while neglecting the organic-hysterical basis of the analysis. This results from overestimating the role of fantasy, and underestimating that of traumatic reality in pathogenesis. He clearly opposes Freud, as would a young son who has de-idealized his father, in his letter of January 17, 1930: “ … in the relationship between you and me, it is (at least in me) a matter of the most diverse conﬂicts of feeling and attitude. First you were my revered teacher and unattainable model, for whom I harbored the, as you well know, not completely unalloyed feelings of an apprentice. Then you became my analyst … ” (ibid., p. 382.) The omnipotent parent, Freud, is seemingly being knocked off his pedestal. Where the son expected tenderness and good will, of a true parent–analyst who could survive the son’s negative transference, instead he was abandoned by a weak, narcissistic father. Just as his own father had died when he still needed him: For that, a very laborious self-analysis was necessary, which I carried out quite methodically afterwards. Naturally, this was also connected to the fact that I exchanged my somewhat boyish attitude for the insight that I should not rely so completely on your goodwill, i.e., that I should not overestimate my signiﬁcance for you. (ibid., pp. 382–383)
Ferenczi accuses Freud of “a certain inhibition” in him, by the severity with which “you punished my obstinate behavior in the matter of the Schreber book. I still ask myself, even now: Would not leniency and consideration on the part of the bearer of authority have been more correct?” (ibid., p. 383).
Freud becomes increasingly severe, saying that Ferenczi’s recent development cannot lead to any desirable goal. Ferenczi ﬁghts back: “Do you consider it out of the question that, after the maturity that is expected by you, i.e., after the turnaround, I will be able to produce something that is practically or even theoretically useful?” (ibid., p. 419). Ferenczi decides to fall back on his “wise baby” sensitivity and begins writing his “clinical diary” trying “self-analysis” as the way out, having failed to persuade Freud to help him ﬁnd closure for his negative transference. He begins the Diary on January 7, 1932, opening it with the title “Fühllosigkeit” (insensitivity), literally the “state of feeling loss”, which reminds us of Freud’s “Hilﬂosigkeit”, the state of help loss (helplessness) of the newborn infant, which becomes the Freudian paradigm for anxiety. The insensitivity of the analyst with “so-called free ﬂoating attention, which ultimately amounts to no attention at all … (1) the patient is offended by the lack of interest, or the total absence of interest” (patient Ferenczi–analyst Freud), “(2) … does not want … to regard the analyst with disfavor, therefore thinks the cause is his fault”, and “(3) ﬁnally he doubts the reality of the content, which until now he had felt so acutely”—and “introjects the blame”… (Ferenczi, 1932a, p. 1). You don’t believe me! You don’t take me seriously what I tell you! I cannot accept your sitting there unfeeling and indifferent while I am straining to call up some tragic event from my childhood! … Natural and sincere behavior constitutes the most appropriate and most favorable atmosphere in the analytic situation. (ibid., p. 1)
What if “natural and sincere” were the key to reading the “wise baby’s” unsaid text, a kind of kabala where one discourse hides and reveals another? Like the language of the “unconscious” that seemingly hides the truth of id while it expresses its secret drives by talking through the ego in what sounds like a coherent discourse. “Mutual analysis” then is a magical attempt at bringing back the lost object Freud, to recreate the missing “mutuality” of former years. The last few pages, written on August 24, 1932, are increasingly eloquent about Ferenczi’s suffering and his incapacity to heal himself. Fear of suggestion in psychoanalysis is one of the headings on that date. Psychoanalysis tries to bring traumatic experience into consciousness, out of repression, he writes. The analytic technique creates transference, but then withdraws, wounding the patient without giving him a chance to protest or to go away; hence interminable ﬁxation on the analysis while the conﬂict remains unconscious … but if the patient really feels … that we take his infantile need for help seriously (and one cannot offer a helpless child, which is what most patients are, mere theories when it is in terrible pain) … (August 24, 1932, ibid., p. 210)
“FREEDOM TO GROW”
On being alone is another heading from August 24, elaborating: The childish personality, as yet barely consolidated, does not have the capacity to exist, so to speak, without being supported on all sides by the environment … . Children have no ego yet, but only an id; … The analysis should be able to provide for the patient the previously missing favorable milieu for building up the ego, and so put an end to that state of mimesis which like a conditioned reﬂex only drives the person toward repetition. (ibid., pp. 210–211)
The last entry in the Diary, on October 2, 1932, is entitled Regression in ψ—φ Embryonic state during analysis (in organic disintegration). The text we read is tragic as it announces Ferenczi’s death instead of growth: “Further regression to being dead … is a new kind of solution to the personality problem possible after such sinking into the traumatic?” (October 2, 1932, ibid., p. 212). He is conscious that his “blood-crisis” arose when he realized that he could no longer rely on Freud, the “higher power”, if he went his own way—“trampled underfoot by this indifferent power as soon as I go my own way and not his” (ibid.). His self-analysis here is ruthless, no concessions: he realizes that he has not “grown up” because his creativity relied on the support of another power: “Scientiﬁc achievements, marriage, battles and formidable colleagues—all this was possible only under the protection of the idea that in all circumstances I can count on the fathersurrogate” (ibid.). He asks himself whether he should give into this power and lose himself: And now, just as I must build new red corpuscles, must I (if I can) create a new basis for my personality, if I have to abandon as false and untrustworthy the one I have had up to now? Is the choice here one between dying and “rearranging myself”? (ibid.)
Sándor Ferenczi died on May 22, 1933 not having been given the freedom to continue to grow. Ferenczi’s life is a tragic story about a creative, sensitive, earnest man who was not able to grow into an adult capable of defending himself in the stormy beginnings of the psychoanalytical movement. But it is probably the child, the “wise baby”, that leaves us such a precious legacy for practicing psychoanalysis, and his work is ﬁnally being recognized for its true worth. The Clinical Diary is beyond doubt an exceptional text, written with his blood, transmitting his clinical experience and the perils of his subjectivation. NOTE 1. Kathleen Kelley-Lainé M.A., University of Toronto, Canada; University of Geneva; Sorbonne; Nanterre; Psychoanalyst, Member of the Société Psychanalytique de Paris, IPA, Hungarian Psychoanalytical Society
REFERENCES Aron, L. (1998). “Yours, thirsty for honesty, Ferenczi”: Some background to Sándor Ferenczi’s pursuit of mutuality. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 58(1), 5–20. Barrie, J.M. (1980). Peter Pan. London: Hodder and Stoughton (Original work published 1911). Ferenczi, S. (1923). The dream of the ‘wise baby’. In J. Borossa (Ed.) Sándor Ferenczi: Selected writings (pp. 210–213). London: Penguin, 1999. (Original work published: Der Traum vom ‘gelehrten Säugling’. Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 1923, 9(1), 70). Ferenczi, S. (1926). The problem of acceptance of unpleasure (advances in knowledge of the sense of reality). In J. Borossa (Ed.) Sándor Ferenczi: Selected writings (pp. 233–244). London: Penguin, 1999. Ferenczi, S. (1932a). The clinical diary of Sándor Ferenczi. J. Dupont (Ed.), M. Balint & N. Z. Jackson (Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988. (second printing, 1995). Ferenczi, S. (1932b). On Lamaism and Yoga (31 November 1932 [Notes and fragments]). In Final contributions to the problems and methods of psychoanalysis (p. 274). London: Hogart Press Reprinted, London: Karnac, 1994. Freud, S. (1917). Mourning and melancholia. Standard Edition (Vol. 14, pp. 237–258). London: Hoggart. Freud, S. (1925). Negation. Standard Edition (Vol. 19, pp. 233–240). London: Hoggart. Freud, S. & Ferenczi, S. (1920–1933). The correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi. Volume 3: 1920–1933. Edited by E. Falzeder & E. Brabant with the collaboration of P. Giampieri-Deutsch. Translated by P.T. Hoffer. Supervising editor: A.E. Haynal. With an Introduction by J. Dupont. Cambridge, MA and London; England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2000. Kelley-Lainé, K. (1997). Peter Pan: The story of lost childhood. N. Marshall (Trans.). Shaftesbury, Dorset and Rockport, MA: Element. (Original work published, Peter Pan ou l’enfant triste. Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1992). Kilborne, B. (2011). Trauma and the wise baby. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 71(3), 185–206.
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