A Dangerous Method


            Carl Jung (1875-1961) is known today as a respected psychoanalyst. His father was a protestant minister and Carl maintained a deep interest in religion, spirituality, myths, and even superstition throughout his life. He disagreed with the Sigmund Freud’s theory (1856-1939) that the underlying human drive is sex. Thus, for example, Freud says that some people are unable to overcome early sexual attractions to their mother or father and he says art can be a sublimation of the sex drive. While Freud insisted on a strictly scientific study of people, Jung felt that psychoanalysts must also delve into improvable imaginative mystical and spiritual matters. One of his theories is archetypes: ideas can be transmitted from one generation to the next. This is well known. However what is not known is that Jung unprofessionally had long-lasting sexual affairs with at least two of his patients for years.


This 2011 film tells part of the story of Jung’s affair with Sabina Spielrein. It began in 1905 and lasted for five years. The film is based on the book by the same name by John Kerr. Spielrein was 19 years old and Jung’s first patient. She was ten years younger than Jung who was married. Jung at the time was impressed by the treatment method of Sigmund Freud and used it to treat Spielrein successfully.


A serious problem with the Freud method is transference: patients develop a strong feeling of love for the doctor. Thus the author calls it a “dangerous method.” As expected, Spielrein became enamored with Jung, and Jung, who had stopped loving his wife, took advantage of Spielrein sexually. Jung met Freud in 1906 and began a friendly relationship with him until Freud learnt of Jung’s misuse of his profession and sexual affair. Freud ended his relations with Jung in 1913.


Sabina Spielrein became a physician and a psychoanalyst, married, had two daughters, and moved to Russia. She is credited with introducing psychoanalysis to Russia. She and her husband were Jewish. Stalin murdered her husband and the Nazis killed her and her two daughters. After Spielrein left for Russia, Jung, a non-Jew, began an affair with another one of his patients who was also Jewish. Freud with whom Adler had disagreements was also Jewish. In view of Jung repeatedly taking unprofessional advantage of Jews and other acts, as well as articles he wrote during the Nazi regime in Germany in which he spoke disparagingly about Jewish psychoanalysis, there are analysts who are convinced that Jung was an anti-Semite.