1st Edition

A Brief Apocalyptic History of Psychoanalysis Erasing Trauma

By Carlo Bonomi Copyright 2023
    286 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    286 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    A Brief Apocalyptic History of Psychoanalysis returns us to the birth of psychoanalysis and the trauma of castration that is its umbilicus.

    The story told in this book centers on the genital mutilation endured in her childhood by Emma Eckstein, Freud’s most important patient in his abandonment of the “seduction theory.” For both cultural and personal reasons, Freud could not recognize the traumatic nature of this “Beschneidung” (circumcision), which nevertheless aroused in him deep anguish, conflating his own circumcision, the echoes of a violently anti-Semitic environment, and conflicts with his father. Taking Freud’s countertransference to Eckstein’s trauma into account leads to a radically different understanding of the origins of psychoanalysis from the one based on the solipsistic perspective of his self-analysis. Carlo Bonomi argues that the unacknowledged trauma of circumcision was inscribed in Freud’s system of thinking as an amputated legacy from which the dreams and fantasies of his closest disciples would germinate and bloom. In particular, Sándor Ferenczi, Freud’s pupil and confidant, would help to restore this wounded body, thereby laying a new foundation for psychoanalytic theory and practice.

    Bonomi’s “apocalyptic” narrative will expand the conceptual horizons of psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic psychotherapists, historians of psychoanalysis, and scholars of both gender studies and Jewish studies.

    List of figures

    Preface by Philippe Réfabert


    PART I

    The woman, a castrated man

    1. The voice of Ferenczi
    2. Hatred of the woman and veneration of man
    3. "Dark continent"
    4. PART II

      The code

    5. Amyl, trimethylamin = Brit milah
    6. The great Lord Penis
    7. The blood bride
    8. The tomb
    9. PART III


    10. A gap as heredity
    11. Catasthrophe
    12. PART IV

      Closing of the circle

    13. Giant snakes and dragons that still live
    14. Gaps and substitutes
    15. The nose as a fetish

    Postface by Philippe Réfabert



    Carlo Bonomi, Ph.D., is a training and supervising analyst of the Società Italiana di Psicoanalisi Sándor Ferenczi, president of the International Sándor Ferenczi Network (ISFN), co-editor-in-chief of The Wise Baby/Il poppante saggio, and associate editor of the International Forum of Psychoanalysis.

    "In this unique book, Bonomi combines a thoughtful textual analysis of the writings of Freud and his contemporaries, up-to-date historical and biographical knowledge, and a study of Ferenczi's journey from being Freud's enthusiastic follower towards crystalizing a daring new model, surpassing Freud's blind spots. This creative original work helps the reader to better comprehend major trends in present psychoanalytic practice, emphasizing trauma and splitting, the crucial value of empathy and lived experience, and the unavoidable immersion of therapists in the transference – countertransference matrix." - Prof. Emanuel Berman, Israel Psychoanalytic Society, Professor Emeritus at the University of Haifa.

    "Carlo Bonomi, a scholar of the Ferenczi Renaissance, discloses a striking perspective on the foundation and transmission of psychoanalysis. The discovery that Freud didn’t categorize the circumcision of a girl as a genital mutilation and a relational trauma is indeed a shock. Yet, this unthought-of trauma didn’t get lost because, in the first analytic treatment Freud experienced it on his own body, later becoming the secret source of his theory of castration anxiety. This paradox is the key to this Brief Apocalyptic History of Psychoanalysis, in which many contradictions of the history of our discipline find their place within a consistent narration based on Ferenczi’s theory of trauma as a split between intellect and emotions." - Prof. Clara Mucci, Società di Psicoanalisi e Psicoterapia Sándor Ferenczi, and Professor for Dynamic Psychology at the Università degli Studi of Bergamo.

    "In this new book Carlo Bonomi bridges the gap between Freud’s foundation of psychoanalysis and contemporary theories and methods, continuing his journey into the origins of psychoanalysis by linking Freud’s emotional and intellectual reaction to Emma Eckstein’s circumcision to his neglect of the feminine. Bonomi shows how Freud’s amputated legacy was unconsciously transmitted to his closest followers, and how Sándor Ferenczi in particular would help to heal this wounded body by restoring the limbs of repetition, countertransference, vulnerability, and the feminine." - Prof. Franco Borgogno, Società Psicoanalitica Italiana and 2010 recipient of the Mary Sigourney Award

    "Physicians’ interest in human sexual organs came with educational intent, a hidden story in the history of psychoanalysis. Freud, fallen into this sinister tradition, panicked – and concealed that his friend Fliess had operated on the patient known as "Irma" in The Interpretation of Dreams. She almost died. It’s a detective novel, but more a clarification of a traumatic event—a great contribution! With strong reference to Ferenczi, the author cures psychoanalysis from the unthought which had turned into the unthinkable. A "must read" for clinicians and historians." - Prof. Michael B. Buchholz, International Psychoanalytic University, Berlin

    "In line with his earlier work, Carlo Bonomi hypothesizes, with magnificent erudition, that Freud invented psychoanalysis as a result of an unacknowledged and repressed trauma: that of the circumcision undergone in childhood by one of his female patients. And it is from this amputated and catastrophic heritage that Ferenczi, in his great lucidity, was able to lay the basis for a refoundation of psychoanalytic doctrine. This book, of burning topicality, takes into account the question of the body, often neglected by psychoanalysts, and that of Freud's intimate life, which is essential for contemporary historiography."- Elisabeth Roudinesco, President of the Société internationale d’histoire de la psychiatrie et de la psychanalyse, Co-founder of the Institut histoire et Lumières de la pensée.