Toni Wolff by A. I. Allenby

There is only one anecdote about Toni Wolff that I can remember.

It does not reveal much about her, but let me tell it for what it is worth.

This story went round the students and analysands collected in Zurich at the time; a period in which the practice of “active imagination” was in the forefront of interest.

Toni was visited by a friend from Germany, whom she had not seen during the intervening years of World War II.

Toni had a dog, given to her by Professor Jung.

It was (I thought) an ugly little beast, a bull terrier, given to barking and to interrupting the sessions by wanting to come in , or get out.

Toni faithfully took him for walks. The German visitor accompanied them during her stay, and every time the two old friends got into an animated discussion about some profound matter, the dog claimed its right to visit a lamp post.

Finally the friend could not hide her impatience any longer, and expressed it in no uncertain terms.

Toni replied, rather curdy, “Oh, go home and paint a colored picture of the situation!” I believe she did.

I was just getting ready for another of my yearly visits to Zurich in 1953 , when the news of her death reached us.

But I went all the same, and through the kindness of Toni’s sister, I spent many hours in Toni’s hauntingly silent flat to read through several of her seminars, in fulfilment of a promise she had made me.

Initially it was a rather surprising medley of impressions which the varied contacts I had with her created in my mind, but gradually I came to see them as different facets of her many-sided personality.

Toni as the homely hostess; Toni as president of the club, aloof and dignified in her role, with an aura of the merchant aristocracy of the old Swiss families about her.

Toni as a stalwart friend . There I remember most vividly the occasion when, during one of my Zurich visits, I could not stop talking about the irrational fears I was having about my husband-and in the last night before I arrived back home he died, quite suddenly and unexpectedly.

It then was Toni who mobilized the members of the Zurich Jung group to write to me, including Professor Jung, so that I should have the solace of their sympathy.

And last but not least, Toni the therapist. This is not easy to describe. Her profound knowledge of the psyche, her wisdom, her down-to-earth practicality, her veiled warmth-they all had their place.

But what I valued most was the sense of her deeply human concern about wherever one happened to be, whether assailed by follies, or grief, or wrestling with the problematical world without or within.

Some years after Toni’s death, when Jung also was no longer alive, I once complained to Toni ‘s sister how bereft I felt without their presence and support.

In typical sturdy Swiss fashion she rebuked me.

What, did I think, they had done? They also had to battle through their not-knowing; they also had to find their way on the strength of their personal experiences and insights.

I left her, sobered, and greatly encouraged . ~C.G. Jung, Emma Jung and Toni Wolff -A Collection of Remembrances, Pages 4-5.

Liked it? Take a second to support lewislafontaine on Patreon!