Sabina Spielrein: Forgotten Pioneer of Psychoanalysis

By Coline Covington; Barbara Wharton | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

Sabina Spielrein. Jung's patient at the Burghölzli1

Bernard Minder

(Translated from the German by Barbara Wharton)


The concept of hysteria at the Burghölzli Clinic and in the early publications of C.G. Jung

It was at the beginning of the 1880s that hypnosis and suggestion were introduced by Auguste Forel at the Burghölzli. In 1887 he had deepened his knowledge in these areas with Bernheim and Liébeault in Nancy. Forel's work on memory indicates that his psychological method was related ultimately to a biological model of human functioning. At the same time, however, his connection with the Nancy school indicated that his understanding of psychic life was a thoroughly dynamic one. The reservations he later held with regard to Freud's work lay in his lack of sympathy for the latter's libido theory and the development of infantile sexuality. In any event, both in the public arena, and in his medical work, he espoused the cause of the 'psychics'. From 1898 (till 1927) Eugen Bleuler took over the directorship of the Clinic. Evidence for Bleuler's connection with hypnosis is found in two of his works. In 'On the psychology of hypnosis' (1889) he describes his observation of himself under hypnosis, after he had been hypnotized by Forel among others. In 1894, in 'Opinions', he reports on six cases of incurable psychiatric patients whom he was able to release from severely restrictive symptoms by means of hypnosis and suggestion. The following quotation comes from that time (p. 17): 'In the course of 1000 hypnoses I have never had a disaster'. In contrast with Forel, Bleuler had a fundamentally different attitude to Freud's work. In 1896 in the Munich Medical Weekly he described Freud's book, Studies on Hysteria, as 'one of the most important publications of the last few years in the field of normal and pathological psychology'. The hospital records however give no indication of any clinical application of Freud's ideas before 1904.

In 1900 C.G. Jung took up his post at the Burghölzli Clinic, at a time therefore when this renowned clinic clearly represented the French school in the worldwide discussion of hysteria. So it is not surprising that these influences made their mark on Jung's works.

In several of his early works Jung expresses an opinion on the concept of

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