Hungarian School

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Fundamentally, the "Hungarian School" denotes a trend of thought developed by psychoanalysts who worked in Budapest between the two world wars. Its representatives worked independently. They shared a theoretical view that did not recognize primary narcissism. From the beginning, they attributed a prominent role to the mother-child relationship. As part of this work, they contributed to the instinct theory (clinging instinct, Imre Hermann) and the role of psychological deficiency (Sándor Ferenczi, Michael Bálint).

Commitment to treatment was emphasized, which gave rise to methodological experiments (Ferenczi) and led to two-person psychology (Michael Bálint). They contributed to the development of ethnopsychoanalysis (Geza Róheim) and psychoanalytical psychosomatics (Franz Alexander), and the introduction of psychoanalytical pedagogics (Ferenczi, Imre Hermann, Michael Bálint).

The school was founded by Ferenczi as an analytical circle around him in Budapest. In 1913 the Hungarian Psychoanalytical Society was founded which, together with the Viennese Society, became the most important intellectual center in Europe. The cultural-social atmosphere of the age was, in many respects, favorable for the development of psychoanalysis; reputed writers and also joined the group. Freud supported the idea that psychoanalysis should have several centers. At the end of WWI in 1918, the International Congress was held in Budapest and plans were made to found the first psychoanalytical institution there.

The 1920s were the golden age of the Hungarian School. Ferenczi's theoretical work and methodological experiments mark this period. Several creative analysts among his students acquired worldwide repute (Alexander, Alice Bálint, Melanie Klein, Róheim, René A. Spitz). With regard to training, Ferenczi advocated the introduction of compulsory personal analysis of greater depth than in the case of patients. This gave rise to the development of the Budapest model of supervised analysis (Vilma Kovács).

Ferenczi's death and the political situation in the 1930s, and specifically the persecution of Jews, caused many to emigrate (Sándor Radó, C. Robert Bak, Alice Bálint, Michael Bálint, Róheim), and many of those who remained in Budapest fell victim to fascism during WWII. By the end of the 1930s the Hungarian School as an intellectual community had lost its significance. Many of the emigrant analysts preserved the spirit of the School in their work in their adopted country (the Bálints and E. Gyömrôi in England; Alexander, Therése Benedek, Sándor Lóránd, Margaret Mahler, Radó, Danièle Rapaport, Róheim, and Spitz in the U.S.). The small group in Budapest continued their scientific activity.

After 1945, there was a brief period of upswing, but in 1949 the communist government banned the society and psychoanalysis was forced into semi-illegality. Its representativesled by Imre Hermannensured the survival of psychoanalysis, passing on the spirit and traditions of the Hungarian School. In the 1970s, psychoanalysis was reinstituted (1975study group; 1983provisional society; 1989component society).

The Hungarian School may be said to have two distinctive features. One is that its original representatives catalyzed the development of psychoanalytical theory and techniques. They discovered and described a number of phenomena which have continued to constitute the foundation of psychoanalysis. The other is the "Ferenczi phenomenon," according to which only the essential development of psychoanalysis makes the integration of theoretical and methodological work possible.

Hungarian Group

See also: Ferenczi, Sándor; Hungary.


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Harmatta János, Szónyi, Gábor. (1992). Hungary. In P. Kutter (Ed.), Psychoanalysis international, a guide to psychoanalysis throughout the world, (Vol. 1, Europe, p. 173-184). Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog.

Hidas, György. (1987). Die Psychoanalyse und ihre Schicksale in Ungarn. Sigmund Freud House Bulletin, 11 (2), 1-12.

Nemes, Lívia. (1985). The fate of the hungarian psychoanalysts during the time of fascism. Sigmund Freud House Bulletin, 9, 20-28.

Vikár, György. (1994). Der Beitrag der Budapester psychoanalytischen Schule zur Objektbeziehungstheorie. International Forum for Psychoanalysis, 10, 52-60.