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Carl Jung releases a Woman who Murdered her Child from an Asylum



Modern Psychology: C. G. Jung’s Lectures at the ETH Zürich, 1933-1941

Lecture VIII 15th June, 1934

It is possible to unearth all kinds of complexes by the use of test words.

People vary very much in their attitude to their complexes.

Some try to live with them, others to forget and ignore them as much as possible, and others, even with the best will in the world, are unable to remember them.

It seems to be impossible for them to contact them at will, their complexes remain absolutely unknown.

I will mention a few more cases where the association test was used.

Case 1 is that of a foreigner whom I visited in his house.

He became impatient after only 15 words and asked if I could not already draw some conclusions.

It was really far too early, but I consented as he was an old man, about 70, with the wall into the next world already wearing thin.

I told him that I had drawn three conclusions:

(1) that he had trouble with his heart and was nervous about it;
(2) that he was in financial difficulties, and
(3) that he had tender memories of a woman whom he had known many years before and who talked French.

At first he pretended that he could not remember any such woman, but he denied it in a way which showed me that I had hit the nail on the head.

The words which had led to these conclusions were:

Money Little
Death Dying
Heart Bad
Kissing Delightful
Paying La Semeuse

There was a very long pause after the last word, at last these French words came.

That it should b e a coin was only natural, but why “la semeuse”?

This appears on French coins, and it turned out that the man, as a student in Paris, had had a love affair which made much more impression on him than he realised; that he h a d angina pectoris; and that he was in considerable financial difficulties.

There were disturbances in reaction to all of them, but the reaction words are fairly obvious except in the case of “la semeuse”.

Case 2 was that of a well-known and learned psychologist.

Out of 20 test words, 3 were marked by very long reactions, and in 15 out of the whole 100 he answered with the word “fear”.

I had asked him: “Are you perhaps afraid?”, but he vehemently denied it and persisted in his denial even after being shown his reaction words, and being asked: “Who then is afraid? ”

It is entirely against my principles to force people to admit anything against their own determination, but by all the rules of the art it was perfectly clear that he was terribly afraid, but that his conception of himself as a public man was more important to him than the recognition of his own fear. In a public position, it is expected of one that one should never be intimidated, so he kept his fear complex a secret, even from himself.

Case 3 was that of a woman of 30 who was slightly neurotic.

I was consulted on her behalf by her husband, who said that from the beginning of their marriage, which had now lasted 3 years, his. wife had been madly jealous, though he had given her no cause for it whatever.

His appearance made it quite easy to believe this last statement!

She was extremely prudish, and always refused to undress with her husband in the room, in fact she insisted on a separate dressing room, which is always suspicious, and the fact that her sister was expecting a child must never be mentioned in her presence.

Otherwise the marriage was a very happy one!

saw the wife afterwards, but got very little out of her.

She said it was stupid of her husband to have consulted a psychologist, as she did not wish to discuss her psychology.

She maintained that she was very happy in her marriage, she admitted to fits of jealousy, but she was quite sure they would pass.

Jealousy is always an extremely suspicious symptom.

She was a Catholic and her husband a Protestant.

She denied, however, that this was any problem, saying that they had talked it out and settled it to their mutual satisfaction.

The first word to produce a disturbance was “yellow”.

replied with “Jealousy”.

I pointed out that this looked as though she were jealous of her husband, and she admitted that she was afraid he might do those things which her own moral and religious scruples forbade.

To the word “pray” she replied with “religion”, so religion was not as irrelevant to her difficulties as she had imagined.

To the word “separation” she replied “marriage, and admitted a fear that her own marriage might
end in separation.

Disturbances showed with the words: wedding, quarrel, family, happiness and faults.

To the last she admitted that she had at one time been extremely troubled with phantasies of having promiscuous love affairs with a number of men.

As a good Catholic she could not even admit the possibility of ever pursuing such a course herself, so she had projected it on to her husband, and was always imagining that he was carrying out with other women the phantasies which she had had of other men, and so reacted with violent jealousy.

To the word “kissing” she admitted that she reacted with the idea of kissing other men, and the whole story was soon on the table.

She burst into a fit of weeping, and the difficulty was solved as she stood in front of the clear cause of her trouble.

Case 4 was a pathological case in a mental nursing home.

A lady of 34 whose feeling was rapidly atrophying.

I was called in in consultation and I could only confirm the diagnosis which had put her in the asylum, yet I had a peculiar impression, so I decided to try an experiment on her.

She was a married woman with two children.

The depression which ended in the pathological state began when the eldest child died at
the age of 4.

You could say that this was cause enough, deep grief was to be expected after losing her favorite child, but this was not deep grief, it was a pathological condition.

These things usually only happen when there is a double floor of which the patient is unconscious.

To the word “angel” she replied “child” and said it recalled her dead daughter who had been
an angel.

She was evidently a very favorite child.

The word “defiant” she applied to herself, and owned that she was defiant and obstinate even before the child’s death.

She had a strong disturbance at the word “bad” and “blue” reminded her of the eyes of her dead daughter, but at the word “rich” things became re ally critical.

She associated it with a certain rich man for whom she had had a youthful “Schwarmerei”.

Her well-to-do, middle-class parents laughed at her about it, and kept telling her that she was deluding herself with the idea that she could ever mean anything to such a rich and important man.

She believed them and gave up the idea, but regretted it most bitterly.

At the word “moral” she had a strong disturbance, and reacted with “immoral” again referring to herself.

She admitted to having had erotic phantasies about the man, and had a strong moral non-erotic attitude.

At the word “money” she reacted again with the memory of the rich man, and then said that though she got on very well with her husband she was never able to forget her first love.

Her first child was born with his blue eyes, and when she saw that she felt a great affection for it.

The little girl had died of typhoid fever.

They had been living in a place where the ordinary water was undrinkable, they had to use special drinking water.

The children were bathed in it, however, and it was thought that the little girl trust have accidentally swallowed some, and so caught typhoid.

I asked her if she had seen her first love again.

She replied: “Not since my marriage”.

Then, suddenly, something struck her.

Just before the death of her child she had had a visit from a great friend of his.

He had said: “You hit someone in the heart by your marriage” and was referring to this man.

She had a terrific reaction, fainted, and was terribly upset.

Later in the same day she was bathing her children and noticed that the water was thick and slimy on the sponge, but she took no precautions to prevent the children from playing with it, and even gave her son, who asked for a drink, some of this water instead of that of the drinking supply.

The son, however, was not ill, but the little girl contracted typhoid and died.

When I saw what had happened I was in a bad conflict as to what to do about it.

She was already in an asylum, so things were in a very bad state.

She would certainly degenerate if left there, people always do, and very rapidly.

So I decided to risk telling her the truth. I said:

“I suppose you know you murdered your child in order to destroy your present marriage?”

She looked at me curiously for a few minutes, and then, naturally, broke down.

In three weeks she was able to leave the asylum, and though that is 25 years ago there has been no relapse.

There was no other way of handling this case, for unless she faced the truth she could not recover.

Another method used in piecing this unconscious material together is the psychogalvanic experiment.

Diagram I (p. 120) is a rough drawing of the apparatus.

(1) is the mirror galvanometer, above which there is a translucent celluloid scale (2) with a lamp (3) upon it.

The electrodes are usually two large copper plates (4) and (5), upon which the p alms of the patient’s hands are placed with light sandbags
on the backs of the hands to weigh them down.

The nervous contraction of the skin under the test words makes the mirror oscillate and a ray of light
travels along the scale above.

The apparatus is so contrived that the result can be accurately recorded on (6), a measuring plate. (7) is a Bunsen cell.

The patient of Chart II was of an excitable nature and reacted electrically at nearly every word. In making such experiments it is very valuable to watch and record the breathing at the same time; at strong emotional reactions the breathing always shows a tendency to contract.


The top line in Chart III is the psycho-galvanic experiment, and the bottom one is the breathing.

Neurotics often hardly breathe at all and when at last they are forced to draw a breath they sigh, and their fond relations are much concerned
and ask: “What is the matter?”

But they were just in need of breath.

This shallow breathing can have very serious results and can start tubercular trouble for people with many complexes get
into the habit of not breathing to the bottom of their lungs.

This happens so often that many people contend that consumption is more a psychological than a physical disease.

When through analytical treatment the complexes become more bearable, patients often begin to breathe properly so that it is no rare occurrence for such cases to clear up during psychological treatment. ~Carl Jung, Lecture VIII 15June1934, Pages 118-120.