13th International Sándor Ferenczi Conference

Ferenczi in Our Time
and
A Renaissance of Psychoanalysis

May 3-6, 2018
Florence, Italy

This Conference is organized by the newly formed International Sándor Ferenczi Network (ISFN). We invite those who are interested in taking part in the conference to become members of the ISFN.

Ferenczi 2018 Preamble

Ferenczi Renaissance 2018 is appropriately being held in Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance in the 1500’s, which initiated a rediscovery of Classical Greek and Roman knowledge and wisdom, neglected and forgotten during the Dark Ages. Likewise, Sándor Ferenczi’s original ideas and research on theory and technique, as well as the legacy of his example as a sensitive clinician, attuned to the patient’s needs, were once consigned to oblivion. Fortunately though, Ferenczi’s work has been rediscovered by a new generation of psychoanalysts who find his ideas quite relevant to contemporary relational analytic approaches especially with disturbed and traumatized patients.

This conference will bring together an international gathering of clinicians, researchers, and academics to discuss and debate the present-day relevance of Ferenczi’s ideas and work.

The themes of the conference, Introjection and Transmission; Trauma, Fragmentation, and Narrative; and Innovations in the Clinical Encounter: Elasticity, Relaxation, and Mutuality, are indicative of the breadth of Ferenczi’s creative psychoanalytic thinking and research. On these broad themes, contributors and audience are invited to add their own creative narratives based on collegial discourse with colleagues in a Ferenczian Psychoanalytic Renaissance.

Theme: Introjection and Transmission

In this section, we invite proposals for papers and panels on an important interlocking set of topics, which preoccupied Ferenczi throughout his life as an analyst.

Introjection – an early and enduring interest – led Ferenczi (1909) to think about what and how a person takes in the world, particularly the object world, how mind and body are shaped and mutually influenced in encounters with others, as described in his concept of “Dialogues of the Unconscious” (1915). Linked to this cornerstone concept is one centrally important aspect of introjection: the transmission of trauma from other lives, generations, and histories. History leaks across the generations, becoming the often-secret elements in unwitting hosts.

Theme: Trauma, Fragmentation and Narrative

Ferenczi’s insights and theory of trauma offered new perspectives in understanding the complexity of the traumatization process. He described the interpersonal, intersubjective and the intrapsychic dimensions of trauma considering environmental events as primarily important in the subsequent cause of psychopathology. Environmental trauma may be manifold: Individual, societal, or cultural. Trauma caused by people against people could be individual (even in smaller or larger communities) or societal (discrimination, migration, war, genocide etc.). Thus, Ferenczi’s conceptualizations on trauma and healing are applicable to discourse in a wider sociopolitical context.

Based on clinical observations, many of them courageously described in his Clinical Diary, Ferenczi recognized different unconscious interpersonal interchanges between the victim and the aggressor such as “identification with the aggressor”, “pleasure principle in trauma” and the “terrorism of suffering”. He also recognized the process of fragmentation and disintegration during trauma and the importance of a “sincere” and “welcoming” therapeutic environment for the working through process after the traumatic experience. When the traumatized person shares his/her experiences with a trusted and receptive person, a healing process is initiated, resulting in fragmented memories becoming integrated into a coherent narrative.

Theme: Innovations in the Clinical Encounter: Elasticity, Relaxation and Mutuality.

Ferenczi, unlike Freud, was interested in applying psychoanalytic concepts and developing new approaches working analytically with patients weighed down and suffering with significant psychopathology. Throughout his life, Ferenczi was a courageous psychoanalytic researcher and innovator. The results of his researches and ideas arguably were the seeds that grew into what we would consider today as contemporary psychoanalysis. The analysis of countertransference and use of tact (elasticity), the relaxation of standard technique (neutrality and abstinence) in regressed patients, learning from the patient’s experience and field theory (mutuality) were recommendations Ferenczi made almost 90 years ago but have come to be accepted therapeutic approaches in psychoanalytic praxis only in the last few decades. In the spirit of Ferenczi’s research, we welcome clinicians’ submissions, describing their own analytic experiences and innovations.