Sabina Spielrein: Forgotten Pioneer of Psychoanalysis

By Coline Covington; Barbara Wharton | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

The Zürich School of Psychiatry in theory and practice. Sabina Spielrein's treatment at the Burghölzli Clinic in Zürich

Angela Graf-Nold

(Translated from the German by Barbara Wharton)

If however it is well known that some geniuses perish by insanity, perhaps it is less clear to the doctors that, behind the appearance of some forms of hysteria and other mental disturbances, some geniuses, or at least talents, slumber and languish like a bird in a cage…

(Forel 1889, author's trans.)


Admission

On 17 August 1904, at 10.30 at night, 19-year-old Sabina was brought to the Burghölzli 'Treatment and Care Institution' in Zürich by a medical police official and an uncle. 1 The time of day and the presence of the official suggest that the admission was an emergency.

It is not indicated who called the medical police, where she had been staying immediately beforehand, and what made her emergency admission necessary. Her previous place of residence is given as 'Heller's Sanatorium, Interlaken'. Yet a letter from C.G. Jung to Dr Heller in Interlaken, with the request for a short report on Miss Sabina Spielrein, who 'declares that she was in treatment with you', suggests that she did not come directly from there.

One thing is clear: C.G. Jung, the deputy to the senior physician at the time, admitted her. He checked the medical certificate given by a Dr B (which is not among the hospital records), and Lublinsky's statements (the maternal uncle who accompanied her, himself a doctor by profession), took a good look at the young patient, and questioned her about her situation.

She laughed and cried 'in a strangely mixed compulsive manner', noted Jung, and she had numerous tics, rotating her head in a jerky fashion, sticking out her tongue, and twitching her legs. She complained of a dreadful headache; she insisted that she was not mad but had just got very 'upset' at the hotel. Who or what exactly had upset her is not noted, only that she could not bear any people or any noise.

In this short entry Jung's objective approach, which is in accordance with

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