Ferenczi’s Revolutionary Therapeutic Approach*

What haunts are not the dead but the gaps left within us by the secrets of others.

Abraham and Torok, The Shell and the Kernel


Many of the revolutionary principles introduced by Ferenczi in his clinical practice have now been widely accepted especially in the field of trauma and trauma therapy. Examples of these innovative views include his emphasis on empathy as opposed to technical neutrality and his stress on the real conditions of child caring and family environmental deficits and on the consequences of interpersonal violence and abuse that lead to “identification with the aggressor” by the victim thereby resulting in the internalization of both aggressiveness and guilt (the split guilt of the abuser). The resulting “fragmentation” of the personality, which is now considered dissociation (instead of Freud’s “repression”), is at the root of several severe disorders, characterized by distortion of reality, loss of touch with one’s body and loss of trust in the other. Therefore “abreaction is not enough”. A new, positive relational experience must be re-inscribed at the level of implicit memory.

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Correspondence to Clara Mucci.

Additional information

Address correspondence to Clara Mucci, Ph.D., D’Annunzio University, Chieti, Italy; e-mails: cmucci@unich.it; clara_mucci@libero.it

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Mucci, C. Ferenczi’s Revolutionary Therapeutic Approach*. Am J Psychoanal 77, 239–254 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s11231-017-9104-7

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  • trauma
  • therapy
  • aggressor
  • dissociation of personality
  • body
  • empathy