In the Ferenczi renaissance of the last few decades it has become more and more important to elaborate and reconstruct the general shape, the “Weltanschauung”, of his psychoanalysis. The construct of his “psychoanalytic anthropology” is based on the relational nature of individual existence. Relationality pervades the life narrative through the concept and role of the trauma and is crucial to the understanding of Ferenczi’s self-concept. He understood the human individual as essentially fragmented in a “preprimal” way, in which the split self contains the child, as an active, always present infantile component. Through powerful allegories like the “Orpha” or the “wise baby,” Ferenczi suggested an essentially post-modern idea of self that can be connected and differentiated from Winnicott’s True and False Self.

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  1. 1.

    In 1996 Peter Rudnytsky, Patrizia Giampieri and, myself edited a volume (Rudnytsky et al., 1996) with the title Ferenczi’s Turn in Psychoanalysis. We used the same word that Freud had, but for us it suggested two very different positions. According to Rudnytsky’s Introduction “By the title of our book we mean to evoke both the radical innovations introduced by Ferenczi into psychoanalytic theory and practice and the renewed interest in his work that makes this his time” (p. 3).

  2. 2.

    In an earlier paper (Bókay, 1998) I tried to show, how the Rank debate in 1923–1924 signified, articulated a turn in psychoanalysis, how the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy style changed over into a “Berliner” and later an American psychoanalysis (also see: Dupont, 2012).

  3. 3.

    See a detailed description in Van Haute and Geyskens (2004) excellent book.

  4. 4.

    The other is, of course, the famous “Confusion of tongues between adults and the child”. The Diary—my main source in this paper—offers the most detailed, but also fragmented presentation of the child.


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Correspondence to Antal Bókay.

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A version of this paper was presented at “Sincerity and Freedom in Psychoanalysis” conference at the Freud Museum 2013.

1Antal Bókay, Ph.D. Professor of Modern Literature, University of Pécs, Hungary; founding member of the Ferenczi Society, Budapest; co-founder and co-director of the Psychoanalysis Ph.D. Program at the University of Pécs.

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  • self
  • relationality
  • child
  • wise baby
  • true self