Jung, Superstar!

And finally, the movie of Jung, Freud and Spielrein by a noted director and prominent actors. A Dangerous Method


Spielrein is the person I wrote you about. … She was, of course, systematically planning my seduction, which I considered inopportune. Now she is seeking revenge.

Letter of Jung to Freud, 4 June 1909


Sabina Spielrein was Jung’s first patient. In the records at Burgholzli Hospital, Jung (1905) described her as “oriental” and “voluptuous,” and her face as bearing “a sensuous, dreamy expression.” She was nineteen at the time and had been very protected from sexuality and sexual information.

The extent of their relationship was debated for years; there is now is considerable historical evidence (from here diaries that were found in 1977) substantiating an intimate relationship. Sources of this material can be found at the end of this post.

Interesting, Ms. Spielrein was frequently a topic of discussion between Freud and Jung, and no doubt contributed to the early development of psychoanalysis and Jung’s methods. It is also likely that she contributed to the break-up of Freud and Jung.

In my earlier years, my opinion of Jung was lessened because of this allegedly immoral behavior. From the viewpoint of older age, I would consider it more an indiscretion of youth. Additionally, however improper and misguided the sexual intimacy, Ms. Spielrein was transformed (some would say “cured”) by the experience. My guess would be that she did not regret the experience, but rather would have considered it as vital in her development, as something she was grateful to have experienced, in spite of the heartbreak and therapeutic malpractice.

A upcoming film, A Dangerous Method, about Freud and Jung and the development of psychoanalysis, will include her in the film. As someone who thinks Jung had a lot to say, I do have some fears that this film will be biased and people who might have been helped by his theories will be turned off. In the long run, however, I suspect that Jung’s viewpoints will become more influential and more generally accepted.

(I would note that Dr. Spielrein contributed far more to the field of psychology than her early relationship with Jung — she brought psychoanalysis to Russia, she greatly influenced Jean Piaget and Melanie Klein.)

You need to be a member of Depth Psychology Alliance to add comments!

Join Depth Psychology Alliance

Email me when people reply –


  • I share your fears, Thom, that people will watch A Dangerous Method and fail to look below the surface of the sexuality that seems to have simmered (and perhaps boiled over) between Spielrein and Jung in the years prior to Jung's break with Freud.  I'm sure you have seen the documentary done on Spielrein (My Name Was Sabina Spielrein, 2002).  According to the film, Spielrein was indeed injured (badly) by both Jung and Freud.  It's also clear from the film that she used her pain to grow.  Indeed, her famous 1914 paper, about destruction as the cause of coming into being, suggests that annihilation may be a crucial, perhaps indispendible, to the individuation process. 

    With regard to the film, my hope is that at least some of those who watch A Dangerous Method will be mature enough to look beyond the titillating portrayal of the erotic dynamics present between a depth psychotherapist and his first patient to the numinosity and transformation that grew in the ground of their controversial relationship.

This reply was deleted.