Text for the Szondi Congress of Cracow, August 1996.
Nicolas Abraham, who was Szondi's compatriot, said one day of his friend's work: "It is not exactly psychoanalysis, but as a psychiatry treatise it is the only one, which is worth the effort to read."
This humorous sentence deserves to be remembered, also for its historical implications. It defines rather well Szondi's position.
In contrast to what one usually reads in the dictionaries and the
encyclopaedias which mention him, Szondi was never a psychiatrist, at least not officially, and academically he was not recognised as such. Neither was he a psychoanalyst in the meaning that you would find his name in the Register of the International Psychoanalytical Association. He was an internist, more specifically, an endocrinologist. But, psychopathology was always his hobby.
From 1927 to 1941, Szondi directed a psychology laboratory at the
University of Budapest in the service of Dr. Ranschburg who was
As it seems to be a very liberal director and manager of his
department. It is within the framework of this university that Szondihe began his genealogical research which finished with the development of his "Drive Diagnostic Test." (Triebdiagnostik). Although the test was not published until 1947, its final development had been carried out already around 1935.
Although the intuition of the "Drive System" (Triebsystem) belongs properly to Leopold Szondi - who always ironically stated to have discovered it in a dream - the development of the test was the product of a collective work. Indeed, in the Thirties, Szondi was surrounded by a team of young researchers who were brilliant and enthusiastic. Susan Deri's work (1949) testifies to this intellectual melting pot. It is however necessary to recall that, parallel to this intense university activity, Szondi continued his private practice as an endocrinologist which constituted his livelihood.
One imagines rather easily that he was subject to the influence, and
profited from the intellectual effervescence of the famous circle of the first Hungarian psychoanalysts, "ignited " by the genius of Sandor Ferenczi. But we know nothing for sure about this, except
that his principal contact with psychoanalysis was through Imre Hermann, "the hermit of Budapest," who Freud gave the nickname "our philosopher."
It is undeniable that Szondi has a fundamentally anthropological
preoccupation. It is why his work has, up to now, undoubtedly found a more favourable echo among philosophers (Henri Niel, Alphonse De Waelhens, and Henry Maldiney) than among psychoanalysts and psychiatrists, for whom his work is a great challenge. It is striking that Henry MALDINEY, one of the most extraordinary thinkers of our century, had from the start adopted the whole Szondi system as his major analytical reference, without expressing a single criticism of it.
Freud, it is known, was allergic to the spirit of systematics, which he considered to have a flavour of paranoia. He always refused to count the drives and limited himself to a dualism that was too simple: sexual/ego drives and death/life drives with the topical view which corresponds to them and which are neither very satisfactory: inconscient/préconscient, conscient and it/ego/superego. This bias of indetermination necessarily leads him to recognise that "what is lacking mostly in psychoanalysis, is a theory (doctrine) of the drives" (1927). But how could it be different, since Freud, from the moment he proclaimed "the doctrine of the drives is our mythology", therewith left the aforementioned drives to their "imposing indetermination." This ambiguity is not foreign to the conceptual blur in which a great number of psychoanalytical concepts continue to bathe.
However, such a theory of drives is exactly the precise goal, which was aimed at by Szondi. He had, through the constitution (setting up, building up) of his drive diagram, the ambition to produce an authentic "drive doctrine" Trieblehre). He explicitly affirms this in his introduction of the first edition of "Treatise on Experimental Drive Diagnosis" (1947).
"A drive system must give us a synthetic sight of the whole of the drive activities, comparable to the total impression which white light gives us, but it must also make it possible to display 'the spectrum' of the drives just like light can be divided in colours. It is an extremely difficult task and it is not at all astonishing that we have not yet arrived at this point." Curiously, this ambitious proclamation does not appear any more in the second edition (1961). What did occur enters the scene between 1940 and 1960.
Szondi was driven out of the University of Budapest in 1941 by the pro-Nazigovernment of Admiral Horti. At the same time, he lost his best disciples, e.g. Susan Deri who emigrated to the United States in 1940. In 1944, Szondi was deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. In 1945, he found refuge in Switzerland where, after a short employment at the formerly famous private clinic of Rives de Prangins, he settled in Zürich to start there a private practice as a psychoanalyst. The work "Schicksalsanalyse" which gathers the essence of his genealogical work, appeared in Basle in 1944 and was published by Benno Schwabe. In 1947, he published "Treatise on Experimental Drive Diagnosis" in Bern with Hans Huber who remained his loyal editor.
At the beginning of the Fifties, hundreds of publications on his work were published in the West and between the Oder and Tokyo. Some were enthusiastic, and some were destructive, but without exception all were devoted to the problem of the validity of the test as an instrument of psychiatric diagnosis.
However, nobody questioned the theoretical model on which the test was produced. This is "Zeitgeist!" sighed Szondi, "It is the spirit of our time that all is checked, but one does not know any more what one checks nor why." "The question of being has disappeared nowadays from memory", said Heidegger in the same way a few years earlier.
However, it is obvious in all fields that this is the only true question on the level where we find ourselves and, taking in consideration the forever increasing inflation of tests in all forms, this gives reason to reflect. Not that the value of the test as a diagnostic tool is a matter of minor importance! If it were proven that the test as a diagnostic instrument does not enlighten, nor identifies ponts of reference in the order of clinical phenomena, it ought to be left out. Or, at least let itself be penetrated by the phenomenological "suspicion" that we only perceive behaviour, such as hysterical, obsessional, or schizoid etc, according to the ideas we learned in school.
In short, the internal coherence of the theoretical system which is the
base of the test should at the very least be questionned. One touches
here the epistemological deficiencies of modern psychiatry. Quartered between two tendencies. At one side the "therapeutic empiricism" vigorously supported by the medico-industrialist complex. At the other side by the desperate, exasperating and everlasting revising of the "purely descriptive classifying systems". Which by the way seem to become still more and more descriptive (take for example, the DSM IV which does not satisfy anybody except its editors).
In between these two, an authentic theory never was worked out in the sense of a Theoretical Psychiatry, which could be referred to, in the same way as one can do in theoretical physics.
Admittedly, the idea is not new. This ambition nourished all the scientific enterprise of Sigmund Freud and Henri Ey, to quote only two known authors. But it not much to say that between meta-psychology and organo-dynamism, the exchange was never made. It is a question of aetiology, therefore of ideology. It is for that which people live and die, isn't it?
It is here that Szondi intervenes, provided that he is well understood. In other words better understood than he understood himself and that one forgives him his genetic dogmatism, which made him find his rang in the camp of the most radical organicists -- like the most daring outcast of the theories about degenerative diseases inherited from the nineteenth century.
It is hard to believe that the same man, at the same time he
created the Drive Diagram, a revolutionary creation, made himself the champion of a geotropism, at the very least contestable, by referring to primitive Mendelian genetics. His "Analysis of Marriages" (1937) provides the disastrous illustration of the prejudices of its author.
We would say readily that genius has its price to pay. Szondi
himself was vaguely conscious of it, because by his own confession, he thought once to include the couple "genius-debility" in his diagram. If he decided to eliminate it is, as he liked to repeat, that one cannot be brilliant on one point without being stupid on another, and that this applies to everyone and crosses all pathologies. Freud as well repeated readily that stupidity formed part of our phylogenetic inheritance and that it sometimes was quite useful.
It is necessary to be able to recognise that, in spite of his highly
contestable genetic postulates, Szondi succeeded, volens nolens, to produce what could well be the psychopathologic table of Mendeléev. That is to say the periodic table of the elements which compose the strange monades we are.
But, let us return to history. In Zurich, Szondi found new disciples, but they were not the same ones. Some worked hard and with a certain brilliance (Ulrich Moser, and Armin Beeli, who recently deceased) to improve the tool as a diagnostic instrument. Others wanted "to marry" the Szondian theories with their neighbours, the Freudians, the Jungians, the Daseins comncepts. etc.
Szondi, so to speak, followed their steps, of which his later works testify: "Triebpathologie" (1952) and "Ich-Analyse" (1956), which is dedicated to the memory of Freud's hundredth birthday, and "Schicksalsanalytische Therapie" (1963), undoubtedly important books and worthy to be read, in the sense that Nicolas Abraham indicated.
But, where the dialogue with the psychiatry and psychoanalysis of his time takes the step towards a theoretical split, Szondi wanted to be a bridge builder.( a Pontifex). The others, already prosperous or concerned about their internal quarrels, did not want to have anything to do with this "Magyarian Ecumenist"
In 1969, Szondi was gratified by a considerable legacy which he invested in the foundation of an Institute intended to instruct (train) psychotherapists. Although the teaching, done since then, was not without value, the least one can say was that the Szondi theories were left in the shade. One did speak somewhat about it,but only out of fear that "the big chief" would realise that one did everything to forget his existence. To present oneself as a believer in Szondi#s ideas never made cash. Szondi who, it must be said, had reached 80 years, had on the other hand never the real executive power in the institution which he himself had founded.
Honour ought to be given to Jacques Schotte, that Szondi anyhow got the title of Honorary Doctor from the two prestigious Universitites of Louvain (1969) and from Paris in 1975). Unfortunately, there are many, who after having largely profited from the inspiration Szondi gave them, afterwards threw the Master into the nettles for the only reason that by mentioning Szondi, one took the risk to see one's university career definitively finished.
Of that special sin, those who are here today (at the Cracow Congress, August 1996) are definitively not guilty, and due to this loyalty, even when nothing else remains to us, we have the right to be proud and to exchange this compliment in between us, since elsewhere we would not be able to do it.
The Szondi test would today not be anymore than just one test among others, of which some are still more weird and eccentric, if the Drivediagram had not met in Jacques Schotte the only spirit who, in his time, truly took it seriously.
When he meets Szondi at the end of the Fifties, Schotte undertakes to convince the master of the excellence of his discovery. Although he always had a hyper-assertive style, Szondi doubted fundamentally the intrinsic value of his theoretical vision. Those who knew him know at which point he had the Jewish qualities of humour and scepticism, including and even especially with regard to his own work.
Szondi#s dogmatic style, which caused him such problems, seems to us the unhappy counterweight of his epistemological uncertainty One would have needed all the energy of Schotte to convince Szondi himself that he had discovered the best possible model to use in the field of psychopathology, in its own specificity, and that the Szondi model had this completely new quality, to be a model with an inner "auto-logic."
The Szondi-Schotte confrontation at last lead to the publication of the "Note to Introduce the Structural Problem of Schicksals- analyse" (1964), which is a proclamation. Here an intellectual adventure starts. It continues today without noise, but with a strength which is worthy of the Old Man himself.
The richness of the communications, which you will hear in the next forty eight hours, is better than a long speech. That what unite us and push us ahead is the feeling that we fill a necessary mission. (underlined by your editor).
Far away from the two crossroads which Alphonse de WAELHENS denounced already: "empiricism without principles" and "empty logicism".
But what furthermore links us, is a long friendship which would not have existed if SZONDI himself had not existed as the model of a human being as embodied in his work.
1. DERI S., Introduction to the Szonditest, New York, Grune and
Stratton, 1949., published in French at Boeck-University,
2. MÉLON J, Theorie et practique du Szondi, University Presses of
Liege, Liege, 1975.
3. MÉLON J & LEKEUCHE P., Dialectique of pulsions, 3 ' éd.,
Brussels, Éditions Of Boeck-University, 1990.
4. SCHOTTE J.,Szondi et Freud. Sur la voie de une psychiatrie
pulsionnelle. Brussels, Editions De Boeck-Université, 1990.
5. SZONDI L, Diagnosis expérimental des pulsions, Paris, University
Presses of France, 1952.
Schicksalsanalyse (L. Szondi)
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.
Pathoanalysis (Belgian School)
In 1963 Jacques Schotte made a tribute to L. Szondi in "Notice pour introduire le problème structural de la Shicksalsanalyse" (Notice to introduce the structural problem of fate analysis). Doing so he presented the research program for "the School of Louvain": the principle of analysis of the possibilities of the human existence through its difficulties and suffering (pathic).
The "school" preferred to continue the psychoanalytic lecture of Szondi's scheme, putting aside the biological basis, favouring a further exploration of the analytic fundaments, especially the structural value of the drive scheme (Triebsystem). This analysis of Szondi's uvre disclosed its fundamental coherence and heuristic sense for the analysis both of a particular existence as well as for human existence in general.
This "tour de force" was accompanied by a rethinking of the whole field of psychiatry and psychoanalysis. It took place in the shadow of another powerful challenge in analysis, developed by Jacques Lacan in Paris, although less aimed at creating disruptive effects, even if it did not less promote radical reorientations in the theory and practice of both psychiatry and psychoanalysis. These developments - aimed at the disclosure of the play and nature of the basic elements at work in every existence bear the seeds of an "antropopsychiatry": to understand better man and man's existence through its pathological experiences, and rediscovering the fundamentally human dimension in every form of mental suffering.
Leo Berlips, psychotherapist and first hour Szondian started a remarkable site dedicated for Szondi's theories, test and their students and practitioners. We thank him for this very much.
the Leopold Szondi forum of Leo Berlips