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Unpublished Letters of C.G. Jung and Sabina Spielrein

Tender love and transference: unpublished letters of C. G. Jung and Sabina Spielrein.

Published in International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 80:1189—1204, 1999.

Tender Love and Transference: Unpublished Letters of C.G. Jung and Sabina Spielrein by Zvi Lothane.


The author dissents from the widely accepted interpretation that the relationship between Sabina Spielrein and Carl Jung in the years 1904–1910 included sexual intercourse and constituted an ethical breach of the doctor-patient boundary during ongoing treatment.

Spielrein declared that her treatment ended with her discharge from the Burghölzli hospital as Jung’s patient in 1904—1905.

Jung maintained he “prolonged the relationship” in order to prevent a relapse and also referred to it as a friendship.

Materialspublished in 1994 (letters, drafts, diaries, hospital chart) and unpublished letters recently found by the author in the Claparède archive in Geneva shed new light on previously published documents and interpretations by Carotenuto that have dominated the secondary literature since 1980.

The new materials provide a more nuanced view of the Spielrein-Jung relationship and point to the function of nonerotic love in the therapeutic relationship.

A new look at the Freud-Jung correspondence about the Spielrein—Jung relationship shows that Jung’s perception that a sex scandal was initiated by Spielrein was due to Jung’s misreading of rumors concerning another woman; the episode had no ill effect on the relationship between Freud and Jung.

In many European languages, the word “love” means both a personal attachment of affectionate, benevolent liking as well as passionate erotic desire for another person.

In any given situation, only the context tells us which kind of love is meant; and sometimes even the context leaves us in uncertainties.

This is the case in one of the most famous love knots in the history of psychoanalysis, the relationship between Sabina Spielrein (1885–1941) and Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961), the nature of which is still being debated in the literature.

A brief overview of the present state of scholarship about the Spielrein – Jung relationship should be helpful to understand the revisions proposed in this contribution.

Until 1980, Spielrein was but a citation in Freud’s footnotes (1900, p. 131; 1911, p. 80; 1920, p.55) and a topic in The Freud Jung Letters (1974; henceforth abbreviated as FJL).

In 1977 Carlo Trombetta, the biographer of Edouard Claparède, Freud’s champion in Geneva, told the Jungian Aldo Carotenuto of a cache of Spielrein’s German diaries and letters he had discovered in Geneva.

In 1980 Carotenuto published them in Italian, in his book Diario di una Segreta Simmetria — Sabina Spielrein tra Jung e Freud (= diary of a secret symmetry — S. S. between J. and F.), translated into English in 1982, and followed by a corrected German version in 1986, which included hitherto unpublished letters from Jung to Spielrein.

Carotenuto’s work set the trend of the voluminous secondary literature up to and including Kerr (1993).

New ground was broken with the publication by Bernard Minder (1993, 1994) of Spielrein’s hospital chart and other documents.

Also in 1994, a German doctoral dissertation was defended by Wanckenhut and Willke in Hannover that included additional unpublished Russian (in German translation) and German diaries and letters of Spielrein.

The documents made public in 1994 shed new light on the story itself and on the state of the controversy surrounding it.

They point to a need to disentangle facts, as presented in written statements left by the protagonists, from the various interpretations of such facts, to reappraise the claim that Carotenuto and Kerr have “reconstructed the Jung-Spielrein relationship in sufficient detail” (Gabbard and Lester, 1995, p. 72), and to advance new insights in the light of information presented here and supported by additional unpublished documents I examined in the Claparède
archive in Geneva.

The new data offer a more accurate and nuanced perspective on that relationship.

The period in question, from 1904 to 1911, can be divided into four phases: A. 1904—1905 inpatient treatment; B. 1906—1908 the deepening friendship; C. 1909—1910 the erotic-sensual relationship; D. 1911 and beyond: the epilogue.

A. Inpatient treatment (1904-1905) 1904

On 17 August 1904, 19 year old Sabina Spielrein, who had come to Zurich with her mother from Rostov-on-Don, was transferred from a private psychiatric hospital to the Burghölzli Cantonal Asylum headed by Eugen Bleuler.

She became Jung’s patient, was diagnosed as suffering from hysteria, and Jung “‘analyzed the clinical condition almost completely with the help of [Freud’s] method and with a favorable result’” (Lothane, 1996).

Jung was “then living with his wife and two children in a flat in the main building of the Burghölzli” (editor’s note, FJL, p. 4).

According to Minder (1994), Spielrein was not an average patient but was accorded special status: she was spared a physical examination and was invited by Jung to participate in his famed association experiments, both as subject and research assistant.

Thus, from the start Jung and Spielrein established strong professional and personal bonds, as reflected in excerpts from the hospital chart that follow.

Toward the end of 1904, Jung handles well Spielrein’s behavior on the ward: “as a child she played many mischievous pranks” (Minder, 1994, p. 101), documents Jung; now, “in response to even the slightest hint of lack of respect or trust [from staff], she takes instant revenge in the form of totally negativistic behavior and a series of bigger or smaller devilish tricks” (p. 103); “childish pranks (suicidal gestures in order to drive the nurses crazy…).

Begs the writer [Jung] never to act baffled but always display the utmost fortitude and firm belief in her recovery, because this is the only way to achieve it” (pp. 104–105; my translation). 1905

On 8 January Jung notes a marked deterioration. …

Exactly a year ago around New Year’s Day there was a big scandal at home (angry scenes with father).

In this connection, a long series of similar scenes and finally scenes of being beaten by the father, retold with great emotion: when she was already 13 years old, father threatened her with beating; led her into a room, ordered her to lie down; she asked him politely not to hit her (he was about to lift her dress from behind) whereupon he relented but forced her, on her knees, to kiss the portrait of the grandfather and to swear always to strive to be a well behaved child. …

At the end of a three hour long analysis it emerged that in connection with those beatings, already at the age of four, she experienced sexual excitation. …

She states that sometimes it is enough if someone laughs at her, which to her symbolizes submission, to cause her to experience orgasm ” (Minder, 1994, p. 109).

On 29.1.1905 Jung writes in the chart: “since the last abreactions considerable improvement” (p. 110).

On 17.4.1905, while still living at Burghölzli, she applied to Zurich University medical school.

In her Russian diary, on the eve of her first day at the university, Spielrein described her anticipatory emotions “of that happy moment” as “killingly sinister,” and her head as “bursting from nausea and weakness” (entry of 24.05.1905, Brinkmann and Bose, 1986, p. 215; Wackenhut &Willke, 1994, p. 177; henceforth abbreviated as B&B and W&W, respectively).

She felt overwhelmed by the impression of her first day at school on 25 April:

I have been afire with interest and now I have a contrary feeling that weighs heavily upon me! I feel isolated from the other students … it is impossible to open up to these children.

I feel myself more thorough, serious, critically evolved, independent, … [W]ill I be able to work scientifically? …

To me, life without science is completely senseless. What else is there for me if there is no science? Get married?

But that thought fills me with dread: at times my heart aches for tenderness, love; but that is but a deceptive, passing, external display that hides the most pitiful prose.

The price is subjugation of the personality. …

No! I do not want such love: I want a good friend to whom I can bare my soul; I want the love of an older man so that he would love me the way parents love and understand their child (spiritual affinity).

But my parents — they are not it — If only I were as wise a human being as my Junga ![an affectionate Russian-sounding form of Jung]. … And how stupid that I am not a man: men have it easier with everything.

It is a shame that everything in life goes their way. I do not want to be a slave! (B& B, 1986, pp. 215 — 216; W& W, 1994, p. 177).

According to her Zurich University medical school transcript (Swales, 1992), Spielrein matriculated on 17.4.1905 and on 27.4.1905 she submitted to the admissions office the required medical certificate:

Medical certificate

Miss Sabina Spielrein from Rostov-on-Don, residing in this Asylum and planning to matriculate for the summer semester at the Faculty of Medicine, is not mentally ill [i.e., psychotic].

She was admitted here for treatment of nervousness with hysterical symptoms.

We have no reservation in recommending her for matriculation.

The Directorate:
Bleuler (Minder, 1994, pp. 118-119; my translation)

It is important to note that even though Bleuler endorsed Jung’s diagnosis of hysteria, three years later Jung (1908) would arbitrarily change it to hysterical psychosis while Carotenuto, going Jung one better, misdiagnosed Spielrein as a schizophrenic, both views no longer considered tenable.

She was discharged on 1 June 1905 and moved to a pension in downtown Zurich.

Former inpatient and now enthusiastic freshman medical student Spielrein continues to describe in the Russian diary her trials and triumphs as she progresses in her medical studies and grows both emotionally and intellectually, as her friendship with Jung deepens:

“The only thing I now possess is my freedom and I defend this ultimate prized possession of mine with all my strength. I cannot bear even the smallest judgment of my personality, and even when given in the form of a simple instruction it can turn into a stinging sermon … it gets me into a rage. (I do not know why this happens.) I can take anything only from Junga. … To-morrow I am going to the medical library and will borrow [Eduard von] Hartmann’s “[Philosophy of] The Unconscious”, which I accidentally saw in the catalog. Since I saw this book at Junga’s, I believe it is worth reading” (W & W, Russian diary, entry of 8.6.05, pp. 178, 179).

In addition, Spielrein paints a moving portrait of her bond with Jung in a letter to her “mamochka” (term of endearment in Russian = mommy) of 26.8.05:

Dear mamochka,

I am now somewhat tired but completely at peace. I am deliriously happy as never before in my life. At the same time it hurts and I would like to cry from
happiness. You have probably guessed that the cause of all this is Junga.

I visited him today. He comforted me about Remi [a woman patient at Burghölzli under Spielrein’s care]; in his opinion, he tells me, her condition has improved markedly and he advises me not to ask for the return of the money I had spent on her but to ask for it from the charitable society; on the other hand, the society could use this money to help another person, and so forth in this vein.

We broached this subject after Junga told me that I should not be wearing a hat with holes in it and that I should also have my shoes mended. I replied that I had run out of money, but that I had already received so much that I could not ask my parents for more. Thereupon he compelled me to tell him what I had spent the money on.

Then he made a proposal to make me a loan of 100 francs and write you about it. But as I objected vigorously, he forced me to accept 10 francs from him for the hat and the repair of the shoes. How do you like this tip? I was so ashamed I wished the earth should swallow me, but you cannot win an argument
with this man. On the other hand, I was delighted that he had done a good deed and I did not want to hamper his efforts. Do not breathe a word to him about it.

Strange how it is somehow pleasant to be an object of his “charitable attentions” and have him spend money on me. Naturally, I shall soon pay him this money back, but he does not know this as yet. So there, you can see what kind of a person he is, my Junga. When I left the Professor [Bleuler] today I felt like one condemned to die, but he [Jung] restored my faith in my abilities and made me so happy! He is coming to visit me on Friday (1st of September) at 3 o’clock.

If only I could only learn to cook borscht before then! Today Jung and I went on rounds at our Hospital. There is number of women for whom I am an object of admiration! But sleep is getting the better of me, I am going to bed. I was so excited that I forgot to convey to him your apology about the gift you sent him; but did not forget to tell him how I scared you when I had presented you Remi’s letter to me as his letter and he said I should not have tortured you in this manner … [misdated as 26.8.08 in W& W, p. 187; my translation].

Such is a maiden’s heart, or as Spielrein says, “the psychology of so-called modest girls, to which category I also belong” (Carotenuto, 1982, p. 4); and such is her transference onto Dr. Jung, who acted as medical school teacher, mentor, and guardian in loco parentis.

On 25 September 1905 Jung composed a “Report about Fräulein Spielrein to Professor Freud in Vienna, delivered to Frau Spielrein for possible use” (Minder, 1993, 1994).

It ends with this conclusion:

“‘In the course of her treatment the patient had the bad luck to fall in love with me. She continues to rave blatantly to her mother about this love and her secret spiteful glee in scaring her mother is not the least of her motives.

Therefore the mother would like, if needed, to have her referred to another doctor, with which I naturally concur’” (Lothane, 1996, p. 205, my italics). It seems that the main purpose of the report was to reassure Mrs. Spielrein, who had her own relationship with Jung. At any rate, the report never reached Freud but an idea was planted in both mother and daughter that would materialize in 1909 when Freud was consulted under very different circumstances.

On Spielrein’s own showing, her treatment with Jung ended with her discharge from the hospital in 1905, as she would state in her letter of 11 June 1909 to Freud:

“Four and a half years ago Dr. Jung was my doctor, then he became my friend and finally my ‘poet,’ i.e., my beloved. Eventually he came to me and things went as they usually go with ‘poetry’” (Carotenuto, 1982, p. 93).

Like others influenced by Carotenuto, I at first also believed that ‘poetry’ was a euphemistic code-word for the “physical act of possession” (Carotenuto, 1982, p. 219), or sexual intercourse.

If it ever occurred, which I doubt, it is implausible that it would have been consummated at Burghölzli. Even Gabbard and Lester (1995), who regard the Jung-Spielrein relationship as a boundary violation, as a “pervasively boundaryless relationship that characterized the years following the analysis” (p. 72; my italics), suggest that the “tempestuous love affair” occurred after the formal doctor-patient relationship was dissolved.

B. The deepening friendship (1906-1908)

It was Jung who created the impression that he both continued to treat Spielrein after her discharge from Burghölzli and combined this care with friendship.

The correspondence between Freud and Jung started in 1906 and in his second letter (23 October 1906) Jung for the first time anonymously mentions Spielrein:

“I am currently treating an hysteric with your method. Difficult case, a 20-year old Russian girl student, ill for 6 years” (JFL, p. 7).

There are no details about place, frequency, and treatment issues, while the complaint that she is difficult is ambiguous: what are those difficulties now?

None are hinted at in Spielrein’s diary entries either preceding or following this letter.

Three years later, on 7 March 1909, Jung would mention Spielrein as a “a woman patient, whom years ago I pulled out of a very sticky neurosis with unstinting effort, [who] has violated my confidence and my friendship in the most mortifying way imaginable. She has kicked up a vile scandal solely because I denied myself the pleasure of giving her a child. I have always acted the gentleman towards her … I nevertheless don’t feel clean, and that is
what hurts me the most because my intentions were always honourable. … Meanwhile I have learnt an unspeakable amount of marital wisdom, for until now I had a totally inadequate idea of my polygamous components despite all self-analysis” (FJL, p. 207; my italics).

Note that Jung is speaking of Spielrein as a patient in the past who is now demanding to be given a child.

Jung admits two motives for continuing his unstinting efforts on behalf of his prized ex-patient, as stated in a letter of 4 June 1909:

(1) “She was published in abbreviated form [in 1908] in my Amsterdam lecture of blessed memory”;
(2) “Es war mein psychoanalytischer Schulfall sozusagen, weshalb ich ihr eine besondere Dankbarkeit und Affektion bewahrte” (Freud Jung Briefwechsel, FJB , 1974, p. 252) –it was, so to speak, my psychoanalytic text-book case, wherefore I offered her my special gratitude and affection” (my italics; compare with FJL, p. 228: “She was, so to speak, my test case for which reason I remembered her with special gratitude and affection,” omitting “psychoanalytic”).

Moreover, Jung rationalized his self-sacrificing efforts on behalf of Spielrein:

“Since I knew from experience that she would immediately relapse if I withdrew my support, I prolonged the relationship over the years and in the end found myself morally obliged, as it were, to devote a large measure of friendship to her, until I saw that an unintended wheel had started turning, whereupon I finally broke with her. …I need hardly to say that I have made a clean break. Like [Otto] Gross, she is a case of fight-the-father, which in the name of all that’s wonderful I was trying to cure gratissime (!) with untold tons of patience, even abusing our friendship for that purpose. On top of that, naturally, an amiable complex had to throw an outsize monkey wrench into the works” (FJL, p. 229).

True, Jung received no payment but Spielrein’s mother, on her visits to her daughter in Zurich, gave him a number of gifts, as described in the mother’s

But Jung made no clean break: he was mixing friendship with an ambiguous therapy without a fee. It is an ethical dilemma just as weighty as mixing ongoing therapy with a sexual relationship.

I previously misread the letters of Bleuler to Spielrein (Minder, 1994) as showing payments Spielrein made to Burghölzli in 1909 for outpatient therapy (Lothane, 1996, p. 207).

In reality, these payments had nothing to do with therapy. Minder has confirmed (personal communication) that he too was mistaken when he wrote that Spielrein “remained Jung’s outpatient until 1909” (Minder, 1993, p. 114).


In another letter to Jung, copied that year into her German diary, Spielrein is filled with gratitude because Jung’s letter, “as dumb as it sounds, made her feel 20,000 tons lighter”; she also expresses her admiration for Jung’s “colossal intelligence and character” and for his lecture, which was wonderfully beautiful (not only in the scientific but also in the ethical sense). There you were, able to create so much enthusiasm and feeling –how is it possible? You are endowed with a wonderful potential energy and youcould achieve much more than you actually do. — If you could only know how ethically beautiful you were then (when you treated the patients with so muchcare and love)! … I was completely transformed, soft and warm towards people.

Even though I went home in a flood of tears, I was calm and strong in my decision — one doesn’t need anything else, it all comes from poetry (my italics).
… I love you too much, and therefore perhaps I imagine something that is not there (or perhaps it is there?) (for example, that you despise me, that you do not want that I should stalk you, etc.). Each time that causes me emotional storms and self-torture. … For this reason I wanted to leave Zurich for at least three years, but I have found no better university. … What do you think? Should I try to leave you alone for three years? (German diary, 29.8.06, W&W, pp. 205–207; B & B, pp. 218–129; my translation)

This poetry, contrasted with the aforementioned dreary prose, is not yet of the nature of loving and sensuous, erotic, ecstatic exchanges that would occur in 1909 but to an adoring kind of love-cum-hero-worship for teacher and parent-surrogate by an inspired, highly intelligent, and highly idealizing young person.

Even if one allows that it is nourished by an erotic current, no erotic crossing of boundaries is discernible here.

In the same letter she also confesses to Jung that “lately my conscience has not been clean because for the whole time I had been in a state of mute despair and my head turned completely stupid from constant studying. I did nothing but create scandals and was chock-full with mischievous fantasies and played the wildest antisocial tricks (when one speaks of scandals, it feels as if there is a little animal in one’s back on the left side). In the end I brought to the hospital a small syringe and a little KCN [potassium cyanide] and would spray anyone who spoke to me. The KCN was for effect only, because the syringe
was filled with water” (W&W, p. 206).

This description could have easily reminded Jung of the ways Spielrein had behaved during her hospitalization.

In two entries that follow, Spielrein avers that “she has never met a human being in whom intelligence (even if different from yours) is united with such a moral strength, character, and idealism” and, “since his [Jung’s] letters bring her so much joy, to keep writing her even if she does not answer,” for his letters “from time to time stimulate the better part of her personality so that at a moment of weakness I can think of you and become stronger.”

Medical student Spielrein then launches into a lengthy disquisition on various philosophical concepts, including those of the philosopher Ernst Mach on
sensations and the biologist August Weismann on the immortality of unicellular organisms.


In a letter to Freud of 6 July Jung distorts Spielrein’s quoting a Russian poem by giving it a starkly salacious reading (“a hysterical patient told me a poem … about a prisoner …[who] opens the cage and lets his beloved bird fly out. … She admits that actually her greatest wish is to have a child by me who would fulfill her unfulfillable wishes. For that purpose I would naturally have to let ‘the bird out’ first” (FJL, p. 72).

It is not clear when Spielrein told the poem, but Jung speaks of her as still being his patient but without giving further details.

However, Jung misses the young woman’s real deep maternal longing for a child, hers and his “Siegfried” child, and its transference nature. Neither
does he let on that he is up to his neck in a complex friendship with his former inpatient.


On 11.5.1908 Spielrein passed her preliminary medical school examinations and in August would leave to spend a long-awaited summer with her family in Rostov-on-Don.

The German reissue of Carotenuto (1986, pp. 189–197) contains eleven letters and fragments from Jung to Spielrein written in 1908, published for the first time and excerpted here in my translation.

In these letters Jung sets up various encounters with Spielrein (the last one on 22.VII.1908), signs as “your friend,” and speaks of his feelings for her.

On 20.VI.08: “How great would be my happiness to find in you a human being that is an “esprit fort, ” not given to sentimentality but whose essential and innermost vital core is her own freedom and independence” (p. 190).

On 12.VIII.08: “Your letter made me happy and calm. I was somewhat worried by your long silence. … I must express my admiration for the great personality of your parents. … As per your letter, everything is good and lovely; I delight in your happiness. In this way your long-feared visit in Russia will be so much easier. My own mood swings like a volcano, now everything looks golden, now it looks grey. Your letter was like a ray of sun through the
clouds ” (pp. 191—192).

The following, hitherto unpublished letter from Jung, presented here for the first time, is unclearly dated: 27.VIII.1908 but bears a postal stamp of 19.8.1908.

The date could not be 27.VII.08, because at that time Spielrein was still in Zurich.

It is addressed to:

Fräulein stud. med. Sabina Spielrein pr. adr. Herrn N. Spielrein
Rostow o/Don Russland
Russian postal stamp: Rostov Don 19.8.08
(place name illegible) 27 VIII 08.

Meine Liebe!
Ich habe soeben Ihren freundlichen Brief erhalten und daraus den Eindruck empfangen, dass es Ihnen in Rostow nicht ganz wohl ist. Ich begreife. Ich bin Ihnen für Ihre lieben guten Worte dankbar. Ich bin jetzt wieder ganz ruhig. Die Ferien haben meine Nerven ganz beruhigt. Ich mache jeden Tag eine grosse
Bergtour, meistens ganz allein. Das thut mir sehr gut. Die Complexe ordnen sich so allerichtig ein, dass man wieder klar sieht. Es kommt für Sie immer ein grosses Plus von Freundschaft heraus und ein herzlicher Wunsch, dass Ihnen Ihr Leben gelingen möge mit einem Minimum von Unzweckmässigkeiten und den damit verbundenen Schmerzen. Verlieren Sie nie die Hoffnung, dass ein Werk, das mit Liebe gethan wird, zu einem guten Ende führt. Ich kann Ihnen heute nur ganz kurz schreiben, da ich EBEN sehr müde von einer grossen Tour nach Hause ekommen bin. Schreiben Sie mir immer ins Burghölzli. Mit herzlicher Liebe Ihr J.

To miss medical student Sabina Spielrein care of Mr. N. Spielrein

My Dear One!

I have just received your friendly letter and got the impression that you are not entirely well in Rostov.

I understand. I am grateful to you for your good and kind words. I am now quite calm again.

The vacations have calmed my nerves considerably. Every day I take a long walk in the mountains, mostly all by myself.

That does me a great deal of good.

The complexes are getting all straightened out and one can see clearly again.

You have come in for a great bonus of friendship along with the heartfelt wish that your life should be successful and with a minimum of goals that serve no purpose and the pain connected with them.

Never lose the hope that work done with love will lead to a good end.

I can only write a short letter today because I have JUST returned home very tired from a long walk.

Please keep writing to me at the Burghölzli.

With heartfelt love Your J[ung] (my translation).

In stark contrast to the aforementioned letter to Freud of 6 July 1907, the expression “work done with love” surely does not mean sexual love but a loving relationship of mutual respect, friendship, and sympathy, a message from one soul mate to another, a manifestation of psychological and spiritual connectedness.

Jung is suffering emotionally and the strain is showing.

He is also hinting to Spielrein that her dream of a life with him can never be fulfilled. Was Spielrein still in treatment with Jung or were they friends,
ambiguously mixing sympathy and supportive therapy of sorts?

The undated Russian letter that follows, sent by Mme Spielrein from Rostov to her daughter, could have been written in 1908 after Jung’s letter of 27 August 1908, for it refers to the daughter’s departure and a letter from Jung to her:

Rostov, (?) 1.9.1908
Dear Sabinochka!

I cannot find peace after your departure and I do not know where to write.

I was unable to rest for a moment, got busy cleaning the rooms so as not to have time to think about myself.

At night I thought of you and him, and after having lost all hope of receiving any news, and when my suffering for you reached a climax, I suddenly received a letter addressed to you.

I was so upset I could not read a word.

I ask you a thousand times to forgive me for opening the letter, but I opened it because you would have let me read it anyway and I had to know what it held
for you, because my entire mood depended on it.

His letter calmed me down.

It expresses deep friendship, lightly coloured by something else, which is quite natural.

He often thought of you, of the cholera, of your soul.

He is probably in the throes of a conflict and his counsel to you and to himself is not to let the feeling of love grow but to suppress it, though not to kill it completely. Have I got it right?

He who is able to do it will be victorious, or else will be out in left field.

I am sure he will be victorious.

He writes that this is necessary for the sake of the loved ones, that is, his wife and children. And what about you?

Perhaps I got it wrong?

Anyway, I like the tone of his letter very much, especially the limits within which he places you and himself.

It seems to me that it could not be any better.

You have in him a person devoted to you, with a touch of love (more than that is not permitted and you have to remain content with that), a person for whom
you have profound respect and appreciation, which you also have from him, and what more do you need?

You should be happy because it is more than you had wished for.

Had you wished to cause him to divorce his wife, then it would be a different matter, but if not, then you must not go any further.

The important thing is to realize that he could be taken, but it is not worth it.

You cannot have it better than the way it is.

Do not torment yourself, suppress your feelings so that they do not make you suffer and continue meeting him as a friend.

He also needs you, but he is not suffering, on the contrary, he is getting better.

Please, please, do not tell him I opened the letter.

As far as the I am is concerned, tell him that you brought along fruit for him but were unable to bring more.

Rent a lavish apartment, invite him and write to me with all the details.

You can talk to him about love but remain unyielding, you only stand to gain from it.

For the time being, do not hide you feelings … (original provided by Idéfilm, Stockholm; my translation).

The defining quality of their relationship at this time seems to be a mutually supportive friendship, tinged, as her mother correctly intuits, with erotic feelings and fantasies.

This view is also expressed in a letter from Spielrein to Freud dated 13 June 1909 where she mentions in passing that she became aware of Jung’s liking for Freud “11/2 or 2 years ago, when there was still no question of a closer erotic relationship between us [i.e., herself and Jung]” (Carotenuto, 1982, p. 100), i.e., a time going back to 1908, when the unpublished letter of Jung of 27 August 1908 was sent.

Let us now turn to the undated, unpublished Russian letter from Spielrein to her mother, sent from Zurich to Rostov.

It probably dates from the end of 1908, for in it Spielrein cites a paper recently finished by Jung and listed in his letter of 27 November

1908: “My wife is about to be confined. … The material for the first number [of Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen] is now complete: … 5) me: “The significance of the father in the destiny of the individual.”(FJL, p.179). It is amazing how much Spielrein has grown since 1905:

Dear Mamochka,

I am unable to write because, anyway, it is impossible to communicate important matters in a letter. One would have to say so much.

Unfortunately, Zurich is so far away from Rostov.

I cannot send you his letters because it is too risky, and to tell all is too long and too tiring.

Were I able to make a firm decision, I would be living in an enchanted kingdom; as it is, I get exhausted thinking and there is no point in it, because ducunt volentem Dei, nolentem trahunt which means, the gods guide the willing and grind the unwilling to dust [actually, in Seneca the Younger: ducunt volentem fata (= fates), nolentem trahunt].

Just recently Junga finished his paper that created such a stir, “Über die Rolle des Vaters im Schicksaale [sic] des Einzelnen,” in which he shows that the choice of the future [love] object is determined in the first relations of the child with his parents.

That I love him is as firmly determined as that he loves me.

He is for me a father and I am a mother for him, or, more precisely, the woman who has acted as the first substitute for the mother (his mother came down with hysteria when he was two years old); and he became so attached to the [substitute] woman that when she was absent he saw her in hallucinations, etc, etc.

Why he fell in love with his wife I do not know … Let us say, his wife is “not completely” satisfactory, and now he has fallen in love with me, a hysteric; and I fell in love with a psychopath, and is it necessary to explain why?

I have never seen my father as normal.

His insane striving “to know himself” is best expressed in Jung for whom his scientific activity is more important than anything in this world … An uneven dynamic character coupled with a highly developed sensibility, a need to suffer and to be compassionate ‘ad magnum’ [to the fullest].

You can do to him and get from him anything you want with love and tenderness.

Twice in a row he became so emotional in my presence that tears just rolled down his face!

If you could only hide in the next room and hear how concerned he is for me and my fate, you would be moved to tears yourself.

Then he starts reproaching himself endlessly for his feelings, for example, that I am something sacred for him, that he is ready to beg for forgiveness, etc.

I cannot quote the exact phrases for it is a bit sentimental, but you can well imagine everything.

Remember how dear daddy was apologizing to you exactly in the same manner!

It is unpleasant for me to quote all those self-reproaches he addressed to himself, because we are both either equally guilty or not guilty.

Look, how many female patients have been to see him and, without fail, each one of them would fall in love with him but he could only act as a physician because he did not love in return!

But you know how desperately he struggled with his feelings! What could one have done?

He suffered through many nights thinking about me.

We also considered the possibility of separating.

But this solution was rejected as not feasible because we are both living in Zurich. …

He felt responsible for my fate, and howled as he pronounced these words … he did not want to stand in the way of my happiness, … and he had reasons to fear for my future (in case we separated).

The heart to heart talk came to an end. Ducunt volentem Dei, nolentem trahunt.

We stood in still, in the most tender poetry. … Let tomorrow bring darkness and cold!

Today I shall offer my heart to the sun! I shall be gay! I shall be young! I shall be happy, that’s what I want! [the four last statements are grammatically masculine, as if they depicted Jung’s mood].

Then I get a post card and a letter in one day, that I should not be sad, and last Friday he came again.

Poetry again, and as usual, will I ever in my life forgive him what he had concocted with me; he did not sleep the night, became exhausted; he cannot fight it any longer.

— But by the same token, I should also be saying: will he ever forgive me for what I have done to him!

The difference is that I know that for him scientific activity is above all else in life and that he will be able to bear everything for the sake of science. …

The question is only how my intellect is going to relate to this whole story and the trouble is that the intellect does not know how to relate.

I should not be writing about him and his family but about me.

The question for me is whether to surrender with all my being to this violent vortex of life and to be happy while the sun is shining, or, when the gloom descends, to let the feeling become transferred to a child and science, i.e., the scientific activity that I love so much?

Firstly, who knows how this story will end? “Unknown are the ways of the Lord.”

Anyway, today’s youth looks at these matters differently and it is very possible that I will fall in love again and will have success, i.e., I will find myself a husband.

— But don’t you forget that this is still very far in the future and therefore, do not worry.

So far we have remained at the level of poetry that is not dangerous, and we shall remain at that level, perhaps until the time I will become a doctor, unless circumstances will change.—

I am only writing to you now because I cannot feel happy without a mother’s blessing, that is, without you approving my actions and that you should delight as long as I am well. And afterwards?

In the best of cases, we cannot say what will happen afterwards and where happiness is awaiting us.

Consider the latest example.

One of Jung’s patients, in her attempt to get over her love for him, took to the mountains and became infatuated and sexually involved with a young man.

She is now with child and the man who seduced her turned out to be a most smallminded person and abandoned her forthwith.

Now she cannot stand him and in desperation wanted to end her life, and would have done it, had Junga not saved her once again. … (my translation from the Russian manuscript in Spielrein’s handwriting and italics).

That I love him is as firmly determined as that he loves me.

He is for me a father and I am a mother for him, or, more precisely, the woman who has acted as the first substitute for the mother (his mother came down with hysteria when he was two years old); and he became so attached to the [substitute] woman that when she was absent he saw her in hallucinations, etc, etc.

Can we take this letter at face value or should we suspect that Spielrein is dissembling and hiding the “real truth” from mother?

In this letter to mother ‘poetry’ suggests tender embraces and reveals a profile of a strong, principled woman, who in the three years since 1905 has become mature beyond her three-and-twenty years, insightful about herself and about her friend.

She also suggests that she and Jung have not overstepped the boundaries of sympathy and tender love to consummate sex.

A heart-rending note is struck by Jung on 4.XII.08:

“I regret a great deal and regret my weakness and curse fate that is menacing me. …

You will laugh when I tell you that lately I am constantly flooded with early childhood memories [Jung’s boldface] …

Will you forgive me that I am who I am?

That I am thereby offending you and forgetting my duty as physician towards you?

… My misfortune is that I cannot live without the joy of stormy, ever-changing love in my life. …

Since the last scene I have completely lost my sense of security towards you. …

I need definite agreements so that I do not need to worry about your intentions.

Otherwise my work will suffer, and that seems to me more important than the momentary problems and suffering in the present.

Give me at this moment something back of the love and patience and unselfishness that I was able to give to you during the time of your illness. Now I am the sick one. …”(pp. 195—196). The roles were reversed: the former patient was requested to act as therapist. C. The erotic-sensual relationship (1909—1910)

Neither do we know what did Spielrein do in 1909 that was so different as to make Jung feel so threatened that he decided to turn to Freud on 7 March 1909 with a report about her “vile scandal” (FJL, p. 207).

But she did nothing different, as she describes a rather innocent encounter in the following unpublished fragment of a Russian letter to mother:

Dear Mamochka:

Truly miracles happen in this world.

No more, no less, without intending to, I managed to hypnotize Junga.

How did it happen? He came to me 5 minutes earlier than agreed upon. Knocks and I answer “Ja!”

He enters and I am greatly embarrassed because I did not expect it was him and I stand there with my hair half-loose, comb in hand. …

He sat down on the couch and promised he would not look, even though I had known in advance that “not looking” to him means he covers is face with his hands and peeps through the spaces between the fingers.

I had to make do with this situation.

– I hurried to finish getting dressed, put a red shade over the lamp and walked over to him.

We greeted each other … [as if] after a long separation …

Then, as always, he launched into long speeches about him not having slept all night thinking about me, him wanting me to be happy forever, etc. …

I tell him that such speeches are a disturbance right now, that I love him anyway, and if one day we have to part then that will be that, but now I am not thinking of anything and I am fine.

The he kisses me and bawls. “Was ist?” and he immediately glows with happiness.

I am a mother for him, he a father, for me, the best of all possible worlds!

But the best of all, he had the idea to make me a new hairdo: he pulled the comb out of my hairdo and loosened my hair, whereupon he became jubilant that I looked like an Egyptian woman (!) … (my translation).

The wheel started turning following an anonymous letter sent by Jung’s wife and another one by Spielrein’s mother to Jung, prompting Jung to send the latter his oft-cited arrogant letter (Carotenuto, 1980, pp. 93—94), perhaps in an attempt to forestall Spielrein’s revenge.

As Minder suggests, it is noteworthy that on that same day, Jung “tendered his resignation from the [Burghölzli] Hospital, accompanied by a letter from
Bleuler, on the grounds that ‘he would like to devote himself more than before to scientific activity’” (Minder, 1994, p. 125).

Perhaps Jung feared Bleuler’s condemnation, had there been a “scandal.”

In his reply two days later, on 9 March 1909, Freud says: “I too have bad news of the woman patient through whom you became acquainted with the neurotic ingratitude of the spurned. …

When Muthmann [a pro-Freud Swiss psychiatrist] came to see me, he spoke of a lady who had introduced herself to him as your mistress. …

To be slandered and scorched by the love with which we operate — such are the perils of our trade, which we are certainly not going to abandon on that account” (FJL, p. 210). But that woman was not Spielrein!

Jung, in the meantime, continued to claim that Spielrein was “of course, systematically planning my seduction which I considered inopportune.

Now she is seeking revenge.

Lately she has been spreading a rumour that I shall soon get a divorce from my wife and marry a certain girl student, which has thrown not a few of my
colleagues into a flutter.

What she is now planning is unknown to me.

Nothing good, I suspect, unless perhaps you are imposed upon to act as a go-between” (FJL, pp. 228-229).

While falsely accusing Spielrein, Jung maintained a total denial of his own involvement and actions.

In a letter of 30 May 1909 Spielrein asked Freud to see her whereupon Freud entered the fray as a skillful negotiator.

In a letter of 18 June 1909 he reassures his friend that he suggested to Spielrein a more appropriate, endopsychic resolution of the matter (“eine würdigere, sozusagen endopsychische Erledigung der Sache,” FJB, p. 259), where “endopsychic” suggests to Spielrein she had imagined something that did not
really happen, stemming from her own inner turmoil and transference.

The term endopsychic is nicely defined by Freud when he interprets superstitions and paranoid ideas as: “nothing but psychology projected into the external world, [i.e.] the obscure recognition (the endopsychic perception, as it were [added in 1907, Strachey]) of psychical factors and relations in the unconscious” (Freud, 1901, p. 258; Freud’s italics).

Interestingly, in a footnote in the Dora Case (1905a, p. 100) Freud invokes “endopsychic resistance” to explain her forgetting of dreams, alongside “endopsychic perception” and “endopsychic defense.”

The next important use is in the Schreber Case where “endopsychic perceptions … [are] the basis for the explanation of paranoia” (Freud, 1911, p. 79). But who was imagining what?

That year, Spielrein quotes in her diary one more unpublished letter to Freud (W&W, 1994), quite moving in content and tone.

It is not clear whether it was eventually sent out.

It is undated and addressed to “S. g. H. P.” (possibly: “Sehr geehrter Herr Professor” = dear Professor Freud). She says it is “her long-promised last one … after she had received 2 letters” from Freud i.e., it would fit between Freud’s second letter of 8.6.1909 and his third one of 24.6.1909, but this is far from certain.

A few excerpts follow:

Why now?

The first time you were beautifully represented in a dream.

A few months ago I had to forgo the wish to write to you because in the dream you had female breasts, old as Prof. Forel and ugly, to boot.

But you were enormously cunning.

We came to you with the brother (Dr. Jung); you paid attention to the brother and none to me.

I will admit that after I received your first two letters I was happy with my dream: it did not seem right judging by its nature.

History remains silent about the third one.

Now comes today’s dream.

I am in the hospital and hear you and Dr. Jung talking in the next room.

Should I leave, since you are about to come into the room where I am?

No, I continue with my work, I might even be able to make fun of both of you in the end.

You come in and I feel that you have this thought about me: “So this is the beauty he wanted to see on a par with my daughter?”

I see myself in the mirror and feel ashamed because I do not find myself beautiful at all.

I fear that you interpret every move of mine as having a sexual meaning. I feel dumb and do a few tricks.

All I know is that Dr. Jung is very friendly towards me but not you.

Soon you retire to the other room.

I look at your face and see that it is young, handsome, and enormously likable. I feel sick, the heart and the throat are cramping up, I have to put a compress on my head; why won’t he listen to me?

Why does he think so poorly of me? …

You can see how a young person is working through your letters in the depth of her personality.

Firstly, my dream tells me that your better personality is now visible on the outside (in this respect my unconscious never deceives me), and secondly, the dream shows me that I am not indifferent to what you think of me; in my excitement, I forgot that you do not know me at all, that instead of sending you evidence I merely stated that it was so.

Naturally, you think it is all my fantasy and whatever goes with it! …

You can show this letter to Dr. Jung … but do not betray to him my little qualm: when he is sure that one believes in his honesty, then this becomes a mighty prop for the better part of his personality, especially given his proclivity to be so proud and so labile in his affects. … I am in no way his enemy … I see him as my oldest little baby upon whom I have bestowed so much effort that can now live independently; if I speak to you of him in this manner it is because you love him: when I decided to write to you I did not yet know that he had told you anything.

You know that for a fact! …

I agree fully with the theorem in “The significance of the father in the destiny of the individual.”

I am only surprised that a relatively short time ago Dr. Jung wanted to convince me that I could love anybody else exactly like him.

I had to write him a long epistle (I still have it) to show that there is no accident.

Doesn’t it sound funny, that my mother wants to take my beloved from me for the third time?

Before Dr. Jung I was infatuated with two men (I was not yet ripe for love).

They both liked me a great deal, but since I was still a child, both the first and the second hero fell in love with my mother over head and ears (W&W, pp. 200–202; my translation).

Some commentators have previously viewed both Jung’s and Freud’s handling of the situation as less than honest (Bettelheim, in Carotenuto, 1982; Cremerius in Carotenuto, 1986; Lothane, 1987, 1996).

But the new documents have paved the way for a new look at the Freud—Jung letters that has led me to a different conclusion.

Without being confrontational, in his letter of 7 July 1909 Freud even-handedly applies “endopsychic” qua transference not only to Spielrein but to Jung as well, implicitly characterizing Jung’s reaction to Spielrein’s transference as a reciprocal mirror transference of his own, now renamed countertransference:

Such experiences, though painful, are necessary and hard to avoid. … I myself have never been taken in quite so badly, but I have come very close to it a
number of times and had a narrow escape. … But no lasting harm is done.

They help us develop the thick skin we need and to dominate our “countertransference” which is after all a permanent problem for us; they teach us to displace our own affects to best advantage. They are a “blessing in disguise” (FJL, pp. 230–231).

Barron and Hoffer (1994) believe that the Spielrein episode inspired Freud to discover countertransference.

Perhaps Freud was also thinking of the days as hypnotic-cathartic therapist and recalling an early experience of “the personal emotional relation between
doctor and patient” he would revisit in 1925, when a patient he was treating with the hypnotic-cathartic method “woke up … [and] threw her arms around my neck. … I was modest enough not to attribute the event to my own irresistible personal attraction, and …grasped the nature of the mysterious element that was at work behind hypnotism” (Freud, 1925, p. 27).

Or was he thinking of Anna O.’s treatment by Breuer and Breuer’s ignorance of erotic transference and countertransference? Or the lessons he learnt from
Dora (Freud, 1905a):

“I did not succeed in mastering the transference in good time” (p. 118); “I was deaf to the first note of warning, thinking I have ample time before me …
the transference took me unawares” (p. 120); and finally, “I promised to forgive her for having deprived me of the satisfaction of affording her a far more radical cure for her troubles” (p. 122).

Clearly, Freud had the benefit of age and of his greater clinical experience and once again, as in the triangle of Anna O., Breuer and himself, he was the
detached and objective observer. The interpretation worked and external events conspired favorably as well.

On 21 June 1909 Jung was able to give Freud the good news … of my Spielrein affair.

I took too black a view of things. … she turned up at my house and had a very decent talk with me, during which it ranspired that the rumour buzzing about me does not emanate from her at all.

My ideas of reference, understandable enough in the circumstances, attributed the rumour to her.

I wish to retract this forthwith.

Furthermore, she has herself freed herself from the transference in the best and nicest way and has suffered no relapse (apart from a paroxysm of weeping after the separation). …

Although not succumbing to helpless remorse, I deplore the sins I have committed, for I am largely to blame … naturally Eros was lurking in the background.

Thus I imputed all the other wishes and hopes entirely to my patient without seeing the same thing in myself. ….

Caught in my delusion that I was the victim of the sexual wiles of my patient. … [and] in view of the fact that the patient had shortly before been my friend and enjoyed my full confidence, my action was a piece of knavery which I very reluctantly confess to you as my father.

I would now like to ask you a great favour: would you please … [tell] her that I had fully informed you of the matter, and especially of the letter to her parents [in Carotenuto 1982, pp. 96–97)]

which is what I regret most. … [Y]ou and she know of my “perfect honesty” [English in the original]. I ask your pardon many times for it was my stupidity
that drew you into this imbroglio (FJL, pp. 236—237; my italics).

Jung’s admission of his own transference, his endopsychic “ideas of reference,” exonerates both him and Spielrein.

The conclusion is that it was not only Spielrein who was a victim of endopsychic perceptions, defenses, and projections, but Jung as well, and more so than the woman: he was the one who under the pressure of fear, guilt and shame fabricated the fiction that Spielrein had orchestrated a scandal.

But he mixed Spielrein up with another woman: there was no scandal except in his own mind.

The real “scandal” started with the intervention of Spielrein’s mother, as the daughter sums it up in her diary on 11.9.1910, completely in keeping with Jung’s account of it:

We came to know each other, we became fond of each other without noticing it was happening; it was too late for flight; several times we sat in “silent embrace.”

Yes, it was a great deal!

Then my mother intervened, conflict arose between her and him, then between him and me.

I simply could not break with him under such circumstances.

A few months later, when I was feeling stronger, I caught up with him after his lecture.

At first he wanted to hurry away, because he thought I was his bitter enemy and perhaps feared a scandal.

The foolish child. I reassured him, told him that I did not want “to start” anything with him, that I had come because he was very dear to me, because I wanted to see him as a fine, noble person and therefore wanted to confront him with his horrid behavior toward my mother and me.

His manner changed at once; he showed deep repentance, talked about a malicious person who had been telling tales about us … Well, we parted as best of
friends (Carotenuto, 1982, pp. 11–12).

By 10 July 1909 Jung was once again able to report to Freud:

“I want to thank you very much for your kind help in the Spielrein matter, which has now settled itself satisfactorily” (FJL, p. 240).

On 24 June 1909 Freud finally declared the case closed by making a gesture of reconciliation towards Spielrein that is both gallant and honorable:

I have today learned something from Dr. Jung himself about the subject of your proposed visit to me, and now see that I had divined some matters correctly but that I have construed others wrongly and to your disadvantage.

I must ask your forgiveness on this latter count.

However, the fact that I was wrong and that the lapse has to be blamed on the man and not the woman, as my young friend himself admits, satisfies my need to hold women in high regard.

Please accept this expression of my entire sympathy for the dignified way in which you have
resolved the conflict.

Yours faithfully, Freud” (Carotenuto, 1982, pp. 114–115).

The record strongly suggests that in 1909 Spielrein and Jung had engaged in “poetry,” Spielrein’s shorthand for sensual exchanges such as touching, holding, kissing, looking into each others eyes and swooning romantically.

Was there a public scandal? No.

Did Jung suffer any consequences? No.

What Jung dreamt up as a scandal turned out to be no more than a tempest in a teapot.

One further conclusion: Spielrein caused no trouble between Freud and Jung, for they broke up over doctrinal differences regarding the libido theory, fought in the arena of the Schreber Case (Lothane, 1997).

Interestingly, the “poetry” continued for quite some time even after the tempest subsided.

We can believe Spielrein to be truthful in her diary entry dated 21 September 1909:

“Friendship. Can it alter so suddenly? Mother says it is impossible for my friend and me to remain friends once we have given each other our love.

A man cannot contain pure friendship in the long run. If I am nice to him he will want love”(Carotenuto, p. 6).

Here love means sex, but apparently Spielrein has been heeding her mother’s admonitions all along.

Only two days later, after she decides to “ask for [her] dissertation back from Prof. Bleuler and send it to [her] friend, … a perfidy that tormented [her]
constantly,” she writes in her diary:

“The most important outcome of our discussion [about the dissertation] was that we both loved each other fervently again. … Then he became more and more intense. At the end he pressed my hands to his heart several times and said this should mark the beginning of a new era. What could he have meant by
that?” (Carotenuto, 1982, pp. 8-9).

Towards the end of 1909 Spielrein contemplated the idea of leaving Zurich and moving to Heidelberg, as seen in Bleuler’s letter of recommendation of 16.10.1909 typed on Burghölzli stationery, and reproduced in its entirety for the first time:

The undersigned certifies that for the past two months Fräulein Sabine [sic] Spielrein has worked as a medical clerk (roughly equivalent to the German
“Famulus”) in this psychiatric hospital.

She is somewhat nervous but has worked diligently.

Otherwise I also know her to be a young woman of good reputation, highly intelligent and greatly interested in science, and I am therefore very
pleased to recommend her matriculation at Heidelberg University. (Signed) Prof. Bleuler (my translation).

As she told her mother, the move was unthinkable; the resolution in Zurich was reached in due course.


While working with Jung on her dissertation Spielrein writes in her diary on 11.9.1910:

“My love for my friend overwhelmed me with a mad glow.

At some moments I resisted violently, at others I let him kiss every one of my little fingers and clung to his lips, swooning with love.

To this is I, usually the soul of pure, clear reason, allowing myself such fantasies” (Carotenuto, 1982, p. 11).

These fantasies are a mix of “poetry” and recollections of what used to happen.

But now her resolve is: “well, then, I shall try to become fond of someone else, if that is still possible.

I want to be loved and respected by him, I want to unite my life with his … It is not easy to give up the thought of the baby boy, my longed-for Siegfried, but what is to be done?” (p. 13).

One more poetry is described in an entry of 9.11.1910:

“Yes, the stronger poetry probably occurred a week ago Tuesday.

He said then that he loves me because of the remarkable parallelism in our thoughts; sometimes I can predict his thoughts to him; he told me that he loves me for my magnificent, proud character, but he also told me he would never marry me … I felt like a mother who only wanted the best for him” (p. 33).

In December of that year Spielrein presented the written medical school examinations.

C. The epilogue (1911)

On 20 January Spielrein passed her examinations and on 9 February defended her doctoral dissertation (Swales, 1992, p. 16) which her instructor Jung published in the Jahrbuch that year, in the same volume that Freud published his essay on Schreber.

On 11 October Frl. Dr. Spielrein began attending the meetings of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society (Nunberg & Federn, 1974) and on 27 October Freud wrote to the second woman member of the Vienna Society:

“Dear Frau Doktor, As a woman you have the prerogative of observing things more accurately and of assessing emotions more closely than others.

… Our last evening [of 25 October, Nunberg & Federn, 1974, p. 293–298] was not exactly a glorious one. … I fully appreciate your attitude and look confidently to the future. I have been doing that, after all, for many years and under much more difficult circumstances. I hope that you will feel quite at home in our circle. With cordial greetings, Freud” (Carotenuto, 1982, p. 115).

Spielrein proved herself to be a keen observer in two other areas.

During a discussion at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society (8 November 1911) on timelessness and the unconscious, she spoke of “the fact that a recent experience tends to be replaced by one from infancy” which she related to “the perversions (inversion, bisexuality), infantile theories of sex, and the regression to ideas of that sort in dementia praecox” and then invoked “‘the Mothers,’” from Goethe’s Faust, ideas congenial to Tausk (Nunberg &
Federn, 1974, pp. 302-303).

During the next meeting (15 November), after a presentation by Reik on death and sexuality, Spielrein said “that she has dealt with many of the
problems discussed today in her paper ‘Destruction as the cause of Coming into Being’” (Spielrein, 1912), while Stekel spoke of the “destructive instinct” (Nunberg and Federn, 1974, pp. 316–317).

These ideas about the fusion of anaclisis, sexual instincts and aggressive instincts prefigure Freud’s future dual instinct theory, in which sexual and ego
instincts are pitted against the death instinct, Freud’s synonym for aggressive drives in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, where Freud (1920, p. 55) acknowledges his indebtedness to Spielrein, this great psychoanalytic pioneer.


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_______ (1986). Tagebuch einer Heimlichen Symmetrie. Freiburg/Breisgau: Kore.

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_______ (1925). An Autobiographical Study. S. E., 20.

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Swales, P. J. (1992). What Jung did not say. Harvest J. Jungian Stud., 38:30–37.

Wackenhut, I. & Willke, A. (1994). Sabina Spielrein Missbrauchüberlebende und Psychoanalytikerin Eine Studie ihres Lebens und Werkes unter besonderer Berücksichtigung ihrer Tagebücher un ihres Briefwechsels. Inaugural-Dissertation, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Germany.

Published separately but an integral part of the above Discussion:

In English we have the concepts of love and like.

In other languages love either refers either to (1) love writ large, called agape, caritas, filia, sympathia, or to (2) lust, i.e., libido, later called by Freud the id, thus a term covering both love as sexual desire and sexual pleasure, and love as attachment, later called by Freud the ego (Lothane, 1982, 1986, 1987a, 1987b, 1987c, 1988, 1989, 1997b, 1997c, 1998a).

In the psychoanalytic literature a distinction is made between the common word ‘libidinous,’ having strong sexual desires, and ‘libidinal,’ the technical term pertaining to Freud’s libido theory of the neurosies, expounded in his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905).

The conflict between these two kinds of love, the asexual and the sexual, runs like a crimson thread through two millennia of misunderstanding and persecution in the West.

And where there is love there is always conflict, moral conflict; thus, love and ethics are inseparable for the human condition (Lothane, 1994, 1998b, 1999).

Once religion condemned sex as a sin of the flesh and the work of the devil, women and men were accused of sinful sexual excesses, convicted as witches and warlocks and burnt at the stake.

As far as his the influence of psychoanalysis on society is concerned, by redefining sexuality as a natural phenomenon, as the energy of sexual instinctual drives, as set forth in his canonical Three Essays (1905b), Freud took the sting of sin out of libido and destigmatized the varieties of human sexual expression, thus promoting a new spirit of tolerance.

When Jung started treating Spielrein with “Freud’s method” in 1904 he had mastered the method as set forth in the Studies on Hysteria (1895) and The Interpretation of Dreams (1900).

With the aid of Freud’s method Jung was able to trace Spielrein’s current disorder to early childhood traumas, as outlined in the Studies, and combine it with an analysis of her complexes by his association experiments, the latter based on the central assumptions formulated in the The Interpretation of Dreams.

He would have complemented Freud’s method, I submit, by measures later authors would call rational and cognitive therapy, corrective emotional experience, behavior modification, and the like.

By the time they began their correspondence, Freud had published his sexual etiological theory of the neuroses and finished defining the libidinal theory of transference (1905a, 1905b).

In the correspondence we find a counterpoint of three discussions: the case of Spielrein, the case of Schreber (Lothane, 1997d), and a polemic about the libido theory, that finally led to their break-up.

Thus, in his second letter (of 23 October 1906), Jung restates his “’reservations about [Freud’s] far-reaching views”’ ( FJL, p. 7) on the sexual etiology of the neuroses and, for the first time, reports on Spielrein anonymously, to which Freud responds (on 27.10.1906): “’You certainly did not show too much reserve and the “transference,” the chief proof that the drive underlying the whole process is sexual in nature, seems to have become very clear to you”’ (FJL, p. 8).

On December 6 Freud elaborates:

You are probably aware that our cures are brought about through the fixation of the libido prevailing in the unconscious (transference), and that this transference … provides the impulse necessary of understanding and translating the language of the ucs.; where it is lacking, the patient does not make
the effort or does not listen when we submit our translation to him. Essentially, one might say, the cure is effected by love [eine Heilung durch Liebe, healing through love, FJB, p. 13].

And actually transference provides the most cogent, indeed, the only unassailable proof that neuroses are determined by the individual’s love life [Liebesleben] (FJL, pp. 12 –13].

This healing through love is ambiguous.

To be sure, the libidinal transference love travels in one direction only, from patient to doctor, with the analyst functioning as an unmoved mover, as an objective translator of the patient’s dreams and desires, both conscious and unconscious.

There is no room here for the doctor’s erotic transference.

But since in the Three Essays Freud (1905b) differentiated libidinal attachments rooted in the “’sensual current”’ from attachments reflecting the tender, or “’affectionate current ‘”(p. 207), implicitly affirming their independent lines of development, we ask: in the above passage, do the locutions ‘love’ and ‘love life’ mean sexual or id-love only, or nonsexual, i.e., ego-love as well?

Whereas a work entitled ‘three essays on the theory of love,’ i.e., realistic, non-transference, nonerotized love based on mutual attachment, liking, and sympathy, was never written by Freud (although the subject would be discussed in a number of his sociological essays in the 1920 and 1930’s), a beginning is hinted at in the above letter and more is said in the epochal Studies on Hysteria (1895).

There Jung would have read the following lines in Freud’s chapter on “’The psychotherapy of Hysteria”’, where Freud elineated a dyadic, i.e., reciprocal, model of therapeutic interaction (Lothane, 1997b) between the analysand and analyst based on shared love, language, memory, meaning, and interpretation of meaning:

The procedure is laborious and time-consuming for the physician.

It presupposes great interest in psychological happenings, but personal concern for the patient as well.

I cannot imagine bringing myself to delve into the psychical mechanism of hysteria in anyone who struck me as low-minded and repellent, and who, on
closer acquaintance, would not be capable of arousing human sympathy; whereas I can keep the treatment of a tabetic or rheumatic patient apart from personal approval of this kind.

The demands made on the patient are not less.

The procedure is not applicable at all below a certain level of intelligence …

The complete consent and complete attention of the patients are needed, but above all their confidence, since the analysis invariably leads to the disclosure of the most intimate and secret psychical events (Freud, 1895, pp. 265—266).

In German human sympathy is another synonym for love writ large, as in the title of the work by Max Scheler (1923).

And Freud elaborates further on the reciprocal roles of patient-student and doctor-teacher:

we make [the patient] himself into a collaborator, induce him to regard himself with the objective interest of an investigator, and thus push back the
resistance, resting as it does on an affective basis. …

This is no doubt when it ceases to be possible to state psychotherapeutic activity in formulas.

One works to the best of one’s power, as an elucidator (where ignorance has given rise to fear), as a teacher, as the representative of a freer or superior view of the world, as a father confessor who give absolution, as it were, by a continuance of his sympathy and respect after the confession has been made.

One tries to give the patient human assistance, so far as this is allowed by the capacity of one’s own personality and by the amount of sympathy that one can feel for the particular case. …

Besides the intellectual motives which we can mobilize to overcome the resistance, there is an affective factor, the personal influence of the physician, which we can seldom do without … (Freud, 1895, pp. 282 –283).

These passages, reflecting a dyadic model of love writ large, inspired Jung’s treatment and analysis of Spielrein at the Burghölzli, as he said, using Freud’s method.

The question is whether he paid equal attention to Freud’s discovery of the troubling phenomenon of transference later in that same chapter. Among the
complications of this procedure Freud lists the third, transference:

“’If the patient is frightened at finding that she is transferring to the figure of the physician the distressing ideas which arise from the content of her analysis.(This is not a complete sentence – where is the rest of it?)

This is frequent, an indeed in some analyses a regular occurrence. Transference on to the physician takes place through a false connection.’ (Freud, 1895,
p. 302).

Freud makes it clear that in order analytically to overcome the patient’s resistance in the attempt to explore the meaning of “’erotic trains of thought, the
patient’s cooperation becomes a personal sacrifice, which must be compensated by some substitute for love. The trouble taken by the physician and his friendliness have to suffice for such a substitute”’ (Freud, 1895, p. 301), where “’substitute for love” ‘stands for non-erotic friendliness, support, and a respectful concern for the patient’s needs and vulnerabilities.

Acknowledging the reciprocal nature of the process potentially implies that healing through love also means the care and ego love given by the analyst to the patient. “’I say,”’ emphasizes Freud, “’it is almost inevitable that [the patients’] personal relation to [the doctor] will force itself, for a time at least, unduly into the foreground.

It seems, indeed, that an influence of this kind on the part of the doctor is a sine qua non to the solution of the problem. … Where I caused damage, the reasons lay elsewhere and deeper”’ (p. 265).

The concept of counter-transference is foreshadowed here in those otherwise unclear words, “’I caused damage,”’ (should this be ‘I caused damage’ as it is in the sentence before?)and it was given that name at the Second Psycho-Analytical Congress at Nuremberg (30 and 31 March 1910), less than a year after the alleged “’scandal,”’, where Jung could have entertained retrospective reflections as he heard Freud speak about “’other innovations in technique [that] relate to the physician himself”’:

We have become aware of the ‘counter-transference’ which arises in him as a result of the patient’s influence on his unconscious feelings, and we are almost
inclined to insist that he shall recognize this counter-transference in himself and overcome it.

Now that a considerable number of people are practicing psycho-analysis and exchanging their observations with each other, we have noticed that the psychoanalyst goes no further than his own complexes and internal resistances permit; and we consequently require that he shall begin his activity with a self analysis and continually carry it deeper while he is making his observations on his patients.

Anyone who fails to produce results in a self-analysis of this kind may at once give up any idea of being able to treat patients by analysis (Freud, 1910, pp. 144–145).

Freud’s words may have reminded Jung of having written to Sabina in 1908: “’You have come in for a great bonus of friendship along with the heartfelt wish that your life should be successful …Never lose the hope that work done with love will lead to a good end. ” ‘(Jung in his unpublished letter of 1908)

Perhaps Jung was harking back to his unresolved countertransference to Sabina during the days at Burghölzli where not only she, but he, too, “’had the misfortune”’ of falling in love with her.

He might have recalled Freud’s struggles with ambitions, emotions and actions towards Dora.

The only difference here was the following: that in Spielrein’s case, during her stay and treatment at Burghölzli, it was not the her erotic as so much as her
aggressive transference that came to the fore, as manifest in the course of the illness and documented in the clinical chart.

But Jung’s loving attention, devotion, and perseverance helped Spielrein overcome her neurosis.

But I argue that the hospital period and the post-discharge period need to be considered separately instead of being lumped together, as has been done by countless commentators.

Thus, by 1908–1909, when Spielrein was no longer in treatment with Jung, it was Jung, who despite his protestations was the one who now sued Spielrein
for attention, friendship and sympathy, justifying this in his own mind as a mix of free treatment and support for a fragile ex-patient, a set of emotions that blossomed into erotized affection.

At that time Jung was in his early thirties, married with two children, while Spielrein, ten years his junior, was aroused to had her first adult experience her first adult and of passionate love.

One can wonders if Jung was in the throes of “’the inhibitory influence of certain psychical complexes”’ (Freud 1912, p. 180) and , that he formulated once again as the conflict between the “’sensual current and (…) the “affectionate current (…): ….

Where they love they do not desire and where they desire they cannot love.

They seek objects which they do not need to love, in order to keep their sensuality away from the objects they love, in accordance with the laws of ‘complexive sensitiveness’ [Jung’s term]“.’ (Freud, 1912, p. 183).

Jung loved his wife and made it clear he would never leave her his wife for Spielrein and found another solution to what he termed his polygamous tendencies. Spielrein desired wanted to marry Jung and having have a child by him but realized the futility of her dream and instead married Dr. Paul Sheftel, to live through further only to experience the vicissitudes of that marriage, as would be learned later it turned out.

But let us return to our concern with returning to the difference between sexual and nonsexual love.

From this perspective, the later monadic libido-psychological model of the Three Essays may be seen as a detour from the early ego psychology of

The return to ego psychology in Freud’s Schreber analysis (1911) came to fruition in “’On narcissism: an introduction”’ (1914).

In the latter work, the “’antithesis between ego-instincts and sexual instincts, to which we were forcibly led by analysis of the transference neuroses,”’ (p. 79), led caused Freud to define the “‘’”anaclitic” or ‘”attachment’ attachment” type”’ of love-object choice, directed at the mother as the provider of “’the vital functions of self-preservation”’ (p. 87), such that “’a person may love …

(a) the woman who feeds him, (b) the man (should this be “man” here or “woman”?) who protects him, and the succession of substitutes who take their place”’ (p. 90), i.e., the vital survival value of anaclitic, or attachment, love in men and women alike.

(b) Thus, the concepts of ego-instincts and the anaclitic type of love-object choice support the argument, that Freud had a ego-psychological, relational model in place from the start but that it was temporarily overshadowed by his libido theory (Lothane, 1997a).

When Fairbairn proclaimed that “’libido is the function of the ego”’ and that “’the ego, and therefore libido, is fundamentally object-seeking”’ (1963) he was not introducing a new object-relations point of view: he was debating with Freud on metapsychology.

From the start, Freud was aware that both libidinal and anaclitic currents are found in transference, and this methodological approach continues in his later writings.

Thus when in Freud’s Socratic dialogue, when the “’Impartial Person”’ (actually, Obersanitätsrat Durig) asks Freudhim: “But how about the special
personal influence that you yourself have after all admitted … against the resistances?”

Freud replies:

This personal influence is our most powerful dynamic weapon.

It is the new element which we introduce into the situation and by means of which we make it fluid.

The intellectual content of our explanations cannot do it …

The neurotic sets to work because he has faith in the analyst and believes him because he acquires a special emotional attitude towards the figure of the analyst. … [the] use we make of this particularly large ‘suggestive’ influence [is] not for suppressing the symptoms — this distinguishes the analytic method from other psychotherapeutic procedures — but as a motive force to induce the patient to overcome his resistances. … the emotional relation with the patient … is, to put it plainly, in the nature of falling in love … [that] grows exacting, calls for affectionate and sensual satisfaction, … it has taken the place of the neurosis and …our work has had the result of driving out one form illness with another (Freud, 1926, pp. 224 — 226).

Clearly, transference can be a boon and a bane.

Freud separates the dividends of resulting from benevolent bonds of love from the dangers of bondage to erotic demands in the transference.

In his last revisiting of these themes Freud (1940) writes:

‘The relation of transference … has an opportunity for a sort of after-education of the neurotic; but at this point a warning must be given against misusing this new influence. However much the analyst may be tempted to become a teacher, model and ideal for other people, he should not forget that this is not his task in the analytic relationship […] In all his attempts to at improving and educating the patient the analyst should respect his individuality [p. 175].

It is only when we are mindful of this caveat that we as analysts can serve the patient in various functions, as an authority and a substitute for his parents, as a teacher and educator; and we have done the best for him if, as analysts, we raise the mental processes in his ego to a normal level, transform what has become unconscious and repressed into preconscious material and thus return it once more to the possession of his ego (Freud, 1940, p.181).

The lessons of love are learned, repressed, and relearned in every generation (Lothane, 1998).

Freud’s original message, powerfully restated by Ferenczi (1988) and Balint (1965), is now gaining acceptance among analysts.

In a recent contribution J. Novick and K. Novick write:

“Freud was the foremost among a wide array of social scientists who explored human love and sexuality. He provided not only a theory, but also a method for investigating the most intimate of human emotions with relative objectivity. Through the method of psychoanalysis and the phenomenon of transference, Freud and those who followed him could describe the sources, range, variety, transformations, derivatives, perversions, and sublimations of love. But all this knowledge and theory construction was based on psychoanalytic observations of the patient. Very little was said about the analyst’s reciprocal love for the patient. In contrast with the volumes written about love and sexuality in the patient, there has been, with a few notable exceptions (Ferenczi, Searles, Weinstein, Coen, Kernberg, Gabbard, Lothane, Charles), very little discussion of the analyst’s love for the patient. Some of the reasons for this relative neglect can be construed as conceptual, ethical, and practical ” (Novick & Novick, 2000, p. 189; emphasis in the original).

And they conclude:

“Implicit in our presentation is the assumption that psychoanalysis can be both a cognitive-affective restoration to a path of progressive development and a
growth-enhancing developmental experience for both patient and analyst” (p. 214).

The positive lesson of the Jung –Spielrein relationship is that both protagonists have exemplified and taught us the importance of reciprocal, realistic, objective, altruistic love as an essential ingredient in the therapeutic alliance and in analytic treatment.


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Briefwechsels. Inaugural-Dissertation, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Germany.

I am deeply grateful to Mme and M. de Morsier of Geneva for their kind permission to publish the materials used in this article from which I was permitted to take notes in their gracious home in 1998.
Spielrein’s personal link to Claparède was forged via his marriage to a woman of a background similar to Spielrein’s, the Jewish-Russian Hélène Spir, daughter of philosopher A. A. Spir. Along with Piaget and de Saussure, Spielrein was a member of the Geneva Psychoanalytic Society founded in 1920, with Claparède as president (Spielrein,1922). Spielrein’s papers, stored in the home and office of Claparède, were after his death given by his widow and daughter to the late distinguished Genevan professor of neurology Dr. George de Morsier, who then beqeathed them on his son and daughter-in-law, Mme Hélène de Morsier. The documents cited here thus come from the “Archives privées de feu le Professeur George de Morsier, Fonds Edouard Claparède.” I am also grateful for the help given to me by psychologist and historian Dr. Fernando Vidal of Geneva University, who first told me about the existence of the Willke & Wackenhut dissertation of 1993/1994, completed under Professor Wolfgang U. Eckart, chair of the Institute for the History of Medicine at Heidelberg University, who also provided me a copy of that dissertation. That dissertation contains unpublished materials not included in Carotenuto (1982, 1986). Portions of these materials were previously published in Brinkmann & Bose (1986) and Cifali (1983).