[Carl Jung on Hypnosis]

In the beginning I employed hypnosis in my private practice also, but I soon gave it up because in using it one is only groping in the dark. ~Carl Jung, Memories Dreams and Reflections, Pages 119-120

All dreams originate in the unconscious though occasionally a dream can be induced by suggestion or hypnosis. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lecture 1May1935, Pages 202.

The encounter with Freud led Jung to give up the use of hypnosis and turn to psychoanalysis as an instrument of research and treatment. ~Carl Jung, CW 2, para 660

To anticipate a possible objection, let me say at once that I did not give up hypnosis because I wanted to avoid dealing with the basic forces of the human psyche, but because I wanted to battle with them directly and openly. ~Carl Jung, CW 4, Para 601

However, I continued my professorship until the year 1913. I lectured on psychopathology, and, naturally, also on the foundations of Freudian psychoanalysis, as well as on the psychology of primitives. These were my principal subjects.

During the first Semesters my lectures dealt chiefly with hypnosis, also with Janet and Flournoy. Later the problem of Freudian psychoanalysis moved into the foreground. In my courses on hypnosis I used to inquire into the personal history
of the patients whom I presented to the students. One case I still remember very well.

A middle-aged woman, apparently with a strong religious bent, appeared one day. She was fifty-eight years old, and came on crutches, led by her maid. For seventeen years she had been suffering from a painful paralysis of the left leg. I placed her in a comfortable chair and asked her for her story. She began to tell it to me, and how terrible it all was–the whole long tale of her illness came out with the greatest circumstantiality.

Finally I interrupted her and said, “Well now, we have no more time for so much talk. I am now going to hypnotize you.”

I had scarcely said the words when she closed her eyes and fell into a profound trance–without any hypnosis at all! I wondered at this, but did not disturb her. She went on talking without pause, and related the most remarkable dreams– dreams that represented a fairly deep experience of the unconscious.

This, however, I did not understand until years later., At the time I assumed she was in a kind of delirium. The situation was gradually growing rather uncomfortable for me. Here were twenty students present, to whom I was going to demonstrate hypnosis!

After half an hour of this, I wanted to awaken the patient again. She would not wake up. I became alarmed; it occurred to me that I might inadvertently have probed into a latent psychosis. It took some ten minutes before I succeeded in waking her. All the while I dared not let the students observe my nervousness.

When the woman came to, she was giddy and confused. I said to her, “I am the doctor, and everything is all right.” Whereupon she cried out, “But I am curedI” threw away her crutches, and was able to walk.

Flushed with embarrassment, I said to the students, “Now you’ve seen what can be done with hypnosisl”

In fact I had not the slightest idea what had happened.

That was one of the experiences that prompted me to abandon hypnosis. I could not understand what had really happened, but the woman was in fact cured, and departed in the best of spirits. I asked her to let me hear from her, since I counted on a relapse in twenty-four hours at the latest. But her pains did not recur in spite of my skepticism, I had to accept the fact of her cure!

At the first lecture of the summer semester next year, she reappeared. This time she complained of violent pains in the back which had, she said, begun only recently. Naturally, I asked myself whether there was some connection with the resumption of my lectures.

Perhaps she had read the announcement of the lecture in the newspaper. I asked her when the pain had started, and what had caused it. She could not recall that anything had happened to her at any specific time nor could she offer the slightest explanation.

Finally I elicited the fact that the pains had actually begun on the day and at the very hour she saw the announcement in the newspaper.

That continued my guess, but I still did not see how the miraculous cure had come about. I hypnotized her once more–that is to say, she again fell spontaneously into a trance–and afterward the pain was gone.

This time I kept her after the lecture in order to find out more about her life. It turned out that she had a feeble-minded son who was in my department in the hospital. I knew nothing about this because she bore her second husband’s name and the son was a child of her first marriage.

He was her only child. Naturally, she had hoped for a talented and successful son, and it had been a terrible blow when he became mentally ill at an early age. At that time I was still a young doctor, and represented everything she had hoped her son might become. Her ambitious longing to be the mother of a hero therefore fastened upon me. She adopted me as her son, and proclaimed her miraculous cure far and wide.

In actual fact she was responsible for my local fame as a wizard, and since the story soon got around, I was indebted to her for my first private patients. My psycho-therapeutic practice began with a mother’s putting me in the place of her mentally ill son! Naturally I explained the whole matter to her, in all its ramifications.

She took it very well, and did not again suffer a relapse.

That was my first real therapeutic experience–I might say: my first analysis. I distinctly recall my talk with the old lady. She was intelligent, and exceedingly grateful that I had taken her seriously and displayed concern for her fate and that of her son. This had helped her.

In the beginning I employed hypnosis in my private practice also, but I soon gave it up because in using it one is only groping in the dark.

One never knows how long an improvement or a cure will last, and I always had compunctions about working in such uncertainty. Nor was I fond of deciding on my own what the patient ought to do.

I was much more concerned to learn from the patient himself where his natural bent would lead him. In order to find that out, careful analysis of dreams and of other manifestations of the unconscious was necessary. ~Carl Jung, Memories Dreams and Reflections, The Psychiatric Activities.

Image: Professor Charcot of Paris Salpêtrière demonstrates hypnosis on a “hysterical” patient, “Blanche” (Marie) Wittman, who is supported by Dr. Joseph Babiński.

Liked it? Take a second to support Mr. Purrington on Patreon!