Sabina Spielrein: Forgotten Pioneer of Psychoanalysis

By Coline Covington; Barbara Wharton | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

A document. Jung to Freud 1905: A report on Sabina Spielrein

Bernard Minder

(Translated from the German by Barbara Wharton)

A recently discovered letter, dated September 25, 1905, proves that Jung's first attempt to get in contact with Freud had taken place earlier than it had been assumed on the basis of their published correspondence. The letter contains a brief case history of Sabina Spielrein's illness. It was addressed to Freud and handed over to Sabina Spielrein's mother who intended to remove her daughter from Jung with whom the girl had fallen in love. However, the letter was never passed on to Freud.


Introduction

In 1980, in Diario di una segreta simmetriaSabina Spielrein tra Jung e Freud, Carotenuto published the diaries and letters of Sabina Spielrein which had been discovered in Geneva in 1977. In 1986 it became possible to supplement this material for the first time in German from the missing letters of C.G. Jung. 1 By means of these publications a pioneer of the psychoanalytic movement was brought into focus—someone who, almost exemplifying the fate of significant women of that time, had fallen into oblivion.

Sabina Spielrein was born in Russia in Rostov-on-Don in 1885. She developed signs of severe hysteria in early childhood. As a highly intelligent girl she was able to complete her schooling with great success, in spite of her psychological difficulties. In 1904 she was brought to Switzerland in a desperate state and was admitted to the Burghölzli Psychiatric Clinic on 17 August 1904. She remained an outpatient of Jung's until 1909. With the material he published, Carotenuto tried to claim that the transference/ countertransference situation between Spielrein and Jung had developed in a sinister way. 2 The letter, which I published in an earlier paper (see Note 4, Chapter 6), contributes to a clarification of the relationship between Jung and Spielrein.

This letter is significant in another way too. It documents Jung's attempts to get in touch with Freud. When this letter did not fulfil his intention, Jung again made an approach and laid the foundation of their collaboration by sending Freud his Studies in Word Association. Apparently the previous

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