Sabina Spielrein: Forgotten Pioneer of Psychoanalysis

By Coline Covington; Barbara Wharton | Go to book overview
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Chapter 4

Foreword to Carotenuto'sTagebuch einer heimlichenSymmetrie

Johannes Cremerius

(Translated from the German by Barbara Wharton)

This book documents the history of the tragic transference love between a patient and her analyst. Its unusual significance lies not in the arresting fact that the actors are C.G. Jung and Sabina Spielrein, but rather in what the book shows us of this transference-countertransference tragedy and its outcome: the analyst abandons the realm of phantasy and symbols; he becomes active, engages in affectionate behaviour and declares 'his' love to the patient. Its further significance lies in the influence which the experiences of all the participants exerted on the development of psychoanalytic technique. Sigmund Freud becomes the third actor in the drama as confessor to both Jung and Sabina Spielrein, and also as Spielrein's hoped-for comforter, protector and helper.

It is a terrible story, particularly in so far as it demonstrates the complicity of two men against the woman who has allowed herself to be seduced by one of them—and in the style of Victorian dual morality: when Jung wants to extricate himself from the relationship because a public scandal threatens (Sabina's mother, alerted anonymously to the 'affair' by Frau Jung, plans to call on Professor Eugen Bleuler, Jung's boss) to save his career and his marriage, both Jung and Freud condemn Sabina Spielrein and appeal to her reason and understanding: she must stand aside in favour of Jung's career and marriage. The book also recounts the complicity of two doctors of whom one (Jung) has committed a serious professional blunder, and the other (Freud), his teacher, protects his pupil against the injured woman. The letter which Freud writes to Sabina on 8.6.1909, after she has informed him of the matter, serves only one purpose, that is to protect Jung: he writes that he considers him incapable of frivolous and ignoble behaviour; she should subject herself to self-examination, suppress her feelings for Jung, and above all not resort 'to external intervention and the involvement of third persons' (Carotenuto 1982:113f).

After Sabina Spielrein's second letter to Freud, however, —and after the rumour of the 'affair in analytical circles' began to spread and reached Freud's ears—he should certainly have insisted on clarification.


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Sabina Spielrein: Forgotten Pioneer of Psychoanalysis


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