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SZONDI BIOGRAPHY.

Dear Reader,

02 11 10

Herewith follows a description of the life of Szondi and his Schicksalsanalyse (Fateanalysis).

For the Szondi Biography I used the first part of Prof. Hughes book “The Return of the Ancestor”. I am very much aware that this book presents the classical and orthodox exposition of Szondiís theory and is based on Szondiís gene theory. However as this was the ground work from which later Prof. Schotte and his collaborators developed their important contributions (Pathoanalyse) I did not hesitate to use this as a first step on the way to understand the work of Szondi and its later development in Pathoanalyse by Prof. Jacques Schotte.

For those of you who live in countries where the currency has been broken down I plan to put the contents of the “Return of the Ancestor” on the Szondi Forum in such a way even you can download its contents.

Detailed information about the contributions of Prof. Schotte and the “Louvain School” you can down load from the section “New Developments” on the >www.szondiforum.com<

I hope this will contribute to give you an insight in that Szondi belongs in the same class as Freud, C.G. Jung, and Lacan.

Your Editor Leo Berlips.

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Schicksalsanalyse (Fateanalysis)

The Hungarian psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Leopold Szondi developed intuitively the idea that freedom and constraint are determining man's fate. Constraint does this through - for Szondi mainly - genetically determined predisposition. Freedom, through man's ability to transform the tasks imposed by his predisposition and life's provocations. It makes man change (factor p : identification) and make decisions (factor k : negation and affirmation).

This play of fate through constraint and freedom becomes manifest - says Szondi - in important domains of life: choices in love, friendship, profession, disease and death. These choices are not necessarily made consciously. But every domain reveals an intention (a choice) resulting from the interactions between constraint and freedom. Szondi calls it - referring to Goethe - "Wahlverwantschafte", elective affinities or preferences.

Starting from these clinical intuitions Szondi explored family trees and relations. His specific genetic theory is not recognised by present day human geneticists. Szondi claimed to have discovered a new domain of psychodynamic life he called "the family unconscious", that he situated between Freud's individual unconscious and Jung's collective unconscious.

Looking for a simplification of the research of one's - familial - determinants, Szondi developed a test method based upon the principle of choice. In the test one is invited to express his/her sympathy and antipathy for photo's of mentally ill persons, assuming that the mentally ill person personifies in a radical way the specific factors of the human drive(s).

This is the analytical sense of Szondi's theory. The genetic approach anchors the drives in the genetic material and constitutes the biologising foundation. Szondi developed an alternative form of active analytic psychotherapy based upon his biological - dynamic theory: the Schicksalsanalytic Therapy (Fate analytical therapy). This shows probably influences of the Budapest psychoanalytical. school (Ferenczi, Balint, a/o.) he belonged to.

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SZONDI BIOGRAPHY by Richard Hughes

Although Leopold Szondi is not well known in the United States, he has been influential in one of the major controversies in the twentieth century, namely, the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961. In her report at the trial Hannah Arendt has contended that evil is not a temptation of evil people but is the product of the banality of ordinary citizens (1964, 25, 54, 135, 150). She saw Eichmann as a so-called “Everyman”, who simply obeyed orders of Adolf Hitler to exterminate European Jewry through the Nazi concentration camps. His defense at trial was based on the fact that he followed the law of Nazi Germany, which had been established by legitimate political means. According to Arendt, everyone “could see that this man was not a monster.” She describes Eichmann as average and not mentally disturbed. “Half a dozen psychiatrists had certified him as Ďnormalí-ímore normal, at any rate, than I am having examined him,í one of them was said to have exclaimed...ínot only normal but most admirableí ....“(1964,26)

Arendtís influential profile of Eichmannís banality of evil is vulnerable to two criticisms. One is that her judgment derives from a sensory perception of Eichmannís appearance in confinement and does not take into account his biography. Her opinion splits object from subject. The other is that Eichmann was evaluated by only one psychiatrist and not by six. The trial court appointed only I. S. Kulcsar, the Israeli psychiatrist, to examine Eichmann, while imprisoned. Kulcsar conducted seven interviews and administered the following psychological tests; Rorschach, TAT, Object Relations, Wechsler, Bender, Drawing, and the Szondi.

Along with the testing, Kulcsar studied Eichmannís biography and found no evidence that he lived in obedience to authority. For example, in his youth he had been careless, had skipped school frequently, and had joined the Nazi Party against his fatherís wishes (Kulcsar, Kulcsar, and Szondi 1966,34). As a high-ranking Nazi official he exhibited suicide ideation, once going out into city streets during an air raid against orders. Throughout his entire life he had feelings of fear and guilt, usually in relation to problems of sex and aggression. His level of intelligence was average, his worldview mechanistic, fatalistic, and superficially logical. Eichmann grew up in a typical, middle class family, in which no major psychiatric disorders could be discovered.

The issue, as posed by Kulcsar, is that such an average life history does not explain the magnitude of evil committed by Eichmann as the principal administrator of Hitlerís “Final Solution”. For this reason, Kulcsar believed that the Szondi Test was an “unfailing instrument” in the diagnosis of Eichmann. The test results were sent to Szondi, but the subject was not identified. At first, Szondi refused to do a blind analysis but changed his mind after looking at the material. He reported that in the more than 6000 test cases he had then analyzed this one was unique. The following paragraph is a summary of Szondiís analysis.

The manifest aspect of the personality has a strong sadomasochistic syndrome, a tendency to incriminate others, an undisciplined autistic ego, which projects an insatiable drive for power without regard for the limits of reality. Latent in the personality is an evil, homicidal impulse of great intensity, interwoven into basic human needs. Szondi concludes: “This man is a criminal with an insatiable killing intention. His public danger is still increased by the autistic power-ego and the tendency to projection”. (1966,47).

Arendt read Szondiís findings and dismissed them without reason or evidence. The judge, who presided over the case, pointed out that Eichmann was sly and cunning and projected the image of a small, harmless man in order to deceive others (Hausner 1962, 24). Similarly, Kulcsar stated that Eichmann was driven by archaic, uncontrollable forces, leading him to sheer destruction and hatred of all life. Unable to master these inner drives, he joined the Nazi Party, assimilated its regimen, and engaged in a reciprocal manipulation. Yet his homicidal urge persisted and threatened a pervasive, life-long anxiety (1966, 42).

The banality of evil may apply to functionaries in a political and military system, but it does not fit Eichmann and the Nazi elite. Subsequent psychological studies have confirmed Szondiís initial profile. For example, Eichmannís drawing revealed him to be an obsessive-compulsive personality, who had to defend against violent emotions at the core of his being (Selzer 1977). The Rorschach Test findings of the Nazi defendants at the Nuremberg war crimes trial disclosed related psychopathic traits (Miale and Seizer 1975).

The entire controversy following the Eichmann Trial raised the question of radical evil in relation to the nature of reality. Since the roots of evil tend to be hidden, they cannot be diagnosed by psychologies of the object that trace the causes of behavior from early childhood. If, as in the Eichmann biography, objective psychological examination fails to illumine the origin of evil, then the investigation moves to pre-personal sources which are inherent in the nature of being itself. Szondiís method penetrates beyond the subject-object mode and shows how the motivations of evil are inclined toward social disguises. The masks of evil conform to sensory reality, as measured by the correspondence theory of truth and the subject-object logical form. Although Szondiís influence in this controversy has been acknowledged, his life and work remain largely unknown; so the remainder of this chapter explores his personal origins.

III. A Life Sketch

Leopold Szondi was born into a large, destitute family in Nyitra, Hungary on March 11, 1893. The family lived in a house without running water or other conveniences. The town of Nyitra is now a part of Czechoslovakia, and the residents consider Szondi to be their “Sigmund Freud.” Szondiís paternal grandfather was a tenant farmer, who died at an early age. His father, Abraham Szondi, was a shoemaker and was a deeply religious man in the Jewish faith (Larese 1976, 11). He lived like a contemplative, often neglecting his work to study the Hebrew scriptures and the writings of the Hasidim. Neglecting oneís work is a sign of the Hasidic way of Judaism, which strives for a total devotion to God. Because of this tendency, the children had to support the family. Abrahamís first wife had died prematurely, but she had given him two sons and two daughters. He then married Theresa Kohn, who bore him nine children. Leopold was the twelfth son of his father Abraham and the eighth of his mother Theresa. The mother was illiterate and frequently ill.

In 1898 Abraham moved his family to Budapest, so that his children could be educated there. The journey to Budapest signified a break from the primal unity of the birth place for the young Leopold. In Budapest he and his father learned the Hungarian language, but at home they spoke German and Slovak. Abraham was active in the Budapest Jewish community. Every day at 5:00 a.m. he studied Hebrew and on the Sabbath assisted the Rabbi in the synagogue. Leopold was one of the seven sons who accompanied his father to the synagogue.

Leopold attended a public elementary school and the Damjanach Gymnasium, and he was an excellent student. The writings of Fyodor Dostoevsky attracted him, particularly Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. Szondi felt a close bond with Dostoevsky, and he especially appreciated the novelistís insights into human violence and restitution. The theme of restitution would remain central throughout Szondiís life and work.

In 1911, when Leopold was 18, his father died. Leopold observed the Orthodox Jewish rite of mourning and recited the Kaddish every morning and every evening for one year. Recitation of this prayer of thanksgiving was done publically in the synagogue. After completing the grief work, Leopold realized that he had incorporated his fatherís personality as a permanent part of himself. This memory trace sustained him in his later life. The father-son bond also survived as an integral part of his mature conception of faith in the sense of a mystical participation.

At some point in his adult life, which I cannot determine, Szondi ceased practicing the rituals of Orthodox Judaism. He would later view orthodox religion as a form of compulsion and superstition (1956,528). Nevertheless, he remained a Jew and a believer in a mystical sense, one who was open to Christianity and deeply respectful of other religions. His Jewish origins would shape his personal being as dynamic and relational. In particular, the Kaddish would influence his understanding of therapy as a technique of struggle, personal affirmation, and hope in the future (Huth 1987,12).

In the same year that his father died, Leopold Szondi began his formal academic training at Pazmany-Peter University in Budapest. He pursued a degree program in medicine. Since his mother, a sister, and a sister-in- law were often ill, the latter with depression, he became interested in the relationship between medicine and psychology. Many years later, Szondi admitted in an interview that he “had a sister who suffered seriously from hysteria. She didnít dare walk upstairs.... She had to be helped to enter the house. I donít know a single psychiatrist who hasnít had someone mentally ill in his family....”(Szombati 1982, 14) Consequently, Szondi worked in the neurological and psychiatric division of the Graf-Appanyi Polyclinic under the direction of Paul Ranschburg. His goal was to study endocrinology as a way to understand experimental psychology.

Szondiís medical training was interrupted, however, by the outbreak of World War One. Szondi joined the Austro-Hungarian army as a medic. He was involved in considerable combat, particularly on the Carpathian front, for nearly the entire war and was awarded two citations for extraordinary bravery. The trench fighting brought him great anxiety. He saw many men die, some heroically, some pathetically. While at the front he came to the realization that death as such does not exist. Death is an abstraction. Only life and killing exist. Out of the radical environment of the trenches the problem of killing would remain central to Szondiís thought.

At one point in the fighting Szondi was nearly killed himself, when he was hit in the back with a shell. Instead of penetrating, the projectile landed in Freudís famous book “The Interpretation of Dreams”, which Szondi carried in his knapsack. So in an apocryphal sense, Freud saved Szondiís life.

After the armistice in 1918, Szondi returned to Budapest, resuming his studies at the university and his work with Ranschburg in the clinic. However, academic life in Hungary was overshadowed by new and ominous political developments. Since their emancipation in 1867, Hungarian Jews had been closely linked with Magyar culture. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had a state capitalism based upon a feudal economy. Because of their acceptance by the Magyars, Jewish financial and industrial families were associated with the state capitalism. Thus, the association generated resentment by the poor.

In 1919 Bela Kun seized the government and imposed a Marxist program. Kun promoted de-centralization and secularization, thereby alienating much of the population. The Kun government collapsed, and the Jews were blamed for the failure of its Marxist initiatives (Braham 1981, 16). The abortive Kun revolution stimulated a counter-revolutionary wave of terror, waged by anti-Jewish clandestine and paramilitary groups. The terrorists were mainly veterans of the First World War, soldiers of the defeated armies who had difficulty accepting the armistice. Having forged a common loyalty in the trenches, they formed secret societies and advocated anti-intellectual “right wing” ideologies. Whereas the veterans had lost their patriotism during the war, the Hungarian Jewish community maintained loyalty to the nation.

Amid the Kun uprising, Szondi was forced to take his medical examination prematurely, but he passed it anyway. As a young physician, he decided to specialize in neurology and psychiatry. Between 1919 and 1926 he worked in the Graf-Appanyi Polyclinic and the Budapest Hospital, inaugurating hormonal research on retarded children and later expanding it to include retarded adults as well. The theoretical framework for these early investigations was that of the psycho-biological constitution of the whole person. For example, he correlated the psychological and constitutional types of retardation, as reported in a series of German and Hungarian language publications between 1921 and 1930 (Fischer 1988). These years represent the first phase of his research.

In 1926 Szondi married Lili Radvanyi, who was a teacher and nine years younger than he. In the next year he received a dual appointment as Professor of Psychopathology in Pazmany-Peter University Medical School and Director of the medical staff of the Royal Hungarian Institute for Psychopathology and Psychotherapy. He gained considerable professional eminence and belonging to the “Szondi circle” was considered a matter of prestige. Szondi also maintained a private practice. In 1928 a daughter Vera was born and in 1929 a son Peter. Szondi loved his children and always remained close to his family (Huth 1988, 7).

The second phase of Szondiís research lasted from 1930 to 1937. He demonstrated that sickness and health are inseparable and that they have a quantitative relationship. Several path-breaking contributions appeared in this period. In 1932 he established the hereditary basis of stuttering in relation to epilepsy and migraines. Thereafter, epilepsy, migraines, and stuttering became known as the “Szondi Triad” in European psychiatry. In a seminal paper he defined neuroses, not as symptoms, but as organic disturbances of the central nervous system which are independent of psychic traumas (1936). Neuroses exist with respect to the multiple alleles of the major groups of genetically-induced pathologies. Even if imprinted by trauma, the neurotic is essentially a descendant of a family that carries a specific hereditary disposition. The familial background causes the neurotic to become fixed upon an infantile and archaic level of instinctual drive organization. At the end of this paper Szondi says that he would like to put Freudís data on neuroses on a biological foundation.

By the mid-1930s Szondi had established a family register, in which he listed those families that produced a high frequency of abnormal children. His aim was to determine the respective roles of heredity, environment, and internal lesions suffered at birth. When interviewing people, however, he discovered that some could not easily recall information concerning their relatives. Consequently, Szondi developed his test, beginning in 1930, to facilitate psychiatric interviews. The photographs chosen were of patients in eight major psychiatric groups.

In this same period, the counter-revolutionary political forces intensified their campaign to an even more threatening level than that just after the First World War. In 1935 the Gombos government in Hungary agreed, at the request of Marshall Hermann Goring, to install a proto-Nazi Fascist regime. The leadership came out of the secret societies that had conducted the post-war wave of terror in the 1920s. As a result, a pro-Nazi consciousness emerged in Hungary, especially in the younger generation (Braham 1981, 55). Hungarian public policy became officially anti-Jewish and even received support from the Christian churches, particularly Roman Catholic and Reformed branches.

Between 1938 and 1941 three anti-Jewish laws were promulgated. The first reduced Jewish participation in the professions by 20%. The second, enacted in 1939, defined Judaism as racially exclusive but exempted converts; this law effected mainly low-income Jews. The third law appeared in 1941, prohibiting marriage between Jews and non-Jews. This law stipulated that Jewish identity included at least three Jewish ancestors. With the passage of these laws Szondi was forced to resign as professor and head of the institute.

On January 20, 1942 Adolf Hitler approved a plan for the destruction of Hungarian Jewly. This included ghettoization, expropriation of property, and resettlement. Books written by Jewish authors were banned, except for scientific writings. The list of prohibited books does not include Szondiís, according to information compiled by Randolph Braham (1981, 499). Nevertheless, Szondiís home was expropriated in 1944. Mass deportation began on May 15, 1944 and lasted 46 days. Szondi was imprisoned in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in June, 1944.

During the summer of 1944, the German Eastern Front collapsed, raising the possibility that the war might end before the destruction of the Jewish people could be completed. Therefore, the Nazis assigned priority to the elimination of Hungarian Jewry. As many as 10,000 a day were put to death; instead of being selected for labor details they were sent directly to the gas chambers. Several camps filled up quickly with Hungarian Jews, who became widely respected for their learning.

On December 6, 1944 Szondi and many others were unexpectedly released when 1700 American intellectuals paid a large ransom to Adolf Eichmann. He had originally planned systematic deportations of the Jews and had financed those emigrations by securing foreign exchange holdings of wealthy Jews (Levin 1973, 102). Shortly before his release from Bergen-Belsen, Szondi faced a tense situation:

Our belongings were carefully searched, of course. The SS guard thus came across my four type-written manuscripts, in Hungarian. He took them and threw them on the ground as objects I couldnít take with me. I looked at him in the eyes and said, “This is my whole lifeís work, Herr Obersturmfuhrer.”

The man stood still a moment, then bent over and picked them up, leafing through page by page. He tore out every page on which he saw notes written in pencil, which he said might be notes on camp life. After spending a long and finicky moment at his task, he gave me back the manuscripts. Thanks to him I could publish them after I was freed.

What I want to say by this is that even in the bloodiest Cain there remains a touch of Abel, a touch of humanity: that all hope isnít lost after all. Itís that perhaps which kept me alive, despite everything (Szombati 1982, 14).

Szondiís acknowledgement of both good and evil in the SS guard was a crucial moment in his subsequent destiny as a Jew and as a survivor. It echoed the Jewish Halakhah observance of the law, wherein one offers benediction for good and evil.

As part of the so-called Bergen-Belsen transport, Szondi went to Switzerland. He joined a clinic in Nyon and conducted experiments on psychoshock therapy. In the academic year 1945-1946. he lectured at the Institute of Applied Psychology in Zurich. In 1946 he decided to settle permanently in Zurich. His decision was influenced by the fact that Eugen Bleuler was also in Zurich. Bleuler was an internationally known psychiatrist, pioneering investigator of schizophrenia, and administrator of Burgholzli Hospital. Once in Zurich Szondi applied for and received permission to start a psychiatric practice. Thirteen years later, in 1959, he became a Swiss citizen. In 1969 the Szondi Institute (2) founded in Zurich as a center for teaching and research. The staff of the institute publishes the journal Szondiana.

Most of Szondiís major works were published in the post-war period. With the exception of several books on specific topics and many essays, the system comprises five basic books. They are large German volumes and characterized by extensive case studies, wide learning, and critical dialogue with other psychologies, which are principally psychoanalysis, Jungian archetypal psychology, and existential analysis.

His first major work, containing his family studies, appeared two months before his imprisonment in Bergen-Belsen (1944). Entitled “The Analysis of Destiny (Schicksalsanalyse)”, it would go through three other editions (1948, 1965, 1978). Unless otherwise stated, the fourth edition (1978) will be cited in this book. Additionally, Szondi published major volumes on psychopathology (1952), ego psychology (1956), diagnosis (1960), and therapy (1963a).

The actual formation of the system, as evidenced in the literature, took shape between 1937 and 1963. Writing in an autobiographical essay, Szondi admits that in those years he was digging in “an underground tunnel.” This means that he was exploring the nature of the extended family, while the model of early childhood dominated psychology. Having been born in the nineteenth century, Szondi observes that the world had changed drastically. He notes that in his own field cultural revolutions had taken the place of the older psychological disciplines. For example, group therapy appeared in the place of individual therapy. “The consequence of this group psychotherapy was not a deep insight into the unconscious structure of individuals but mainly an autistic disinhibition of aggression” (Pongratz 1973, 433). Sometimes in therapy sessions groups assault the rights of individuals. Szondi explains that this trend is a culmination of the dehumanization of the Second World War.

During his old age, Szondi suffered profound personal sorrow from tragedies involving his two children. Peter Szondi had become a distinguished classics scholar and literary critic at the University of Berlin. He had published a book on the nature of tragedy (P. Szondi 1964). He has been described as the opposite of his father, one who feared he lacked the great intellectual power of the father (Huth 1987, 7). Sadly, in the early 1970s Peter died by suicide. With reference to Peterís death his father said that literary critics forget to write and then die but that writers forget to die and then write. In 1978 his daughter Vera died of tuberculosis. She was a physician and had converted to Christianity. Vera Szondi published a book on suicide in light of her brotherís death (V. Szondi 1975). After her death, Szondi was driven to pray and to grieve privately. Because of her influence, Szondi had been open to Christianity, even while remaining a Jew.

Szondi survived his daughter by eight years. Feeling his power waning at the end, he confided to a friend: “I have now put the analysis of destiny behind me. It no longer interests me. I expect that something new will befall me” (Huth 1987, 8). In late 1985 he said to the same friend: “This winter I will die.” He died on January 24, 1986, and his wife Lili died after a short illness on August 18, 1986.

End of extract.

© 1996-2002 Leo Berlips, JP Berlips & Jens Berlips, Slavick Shibayev