Carl Jung: Analytic “suggestions” merely distort the expression, but not the content
From Dr. Loy 16 February 1913
You write that a sound knowledge of the literature is necessary for an introduction to psychoanalysis.
I agree, but with one reservation: the more one reads of it the more clearly one sees how many contradictions there are among the different writers, and less and less does one know—until one has had sufficient personal experience—to which view to give adherence, since quite frequently assertions are made without any proof.
For example, I had thought (strengthened in this view by my own experience of suggestion therapy) that the transference to the analyst might be an essential condition of the patient’s cure.
But you write: “We psychoanalysts do not bank on the patient’s faith, but on his criticism” As against this Stekel writes (“Ausgange der psychoanalytischen Kuren,” Zentralblatt fur Psychoanalyse, III, 1912-13, p. 176): “Love for the analyst can become a force conducive to recovery.
Neurotics never get well for love of themselves, they get well for love of the analyst. They do it to please him …”
Here again, surely, the accent is on the power of suggestion? And yet Stekel, too, thinks he is a psychoanalyst pure and simple.
On the other hand you remark in your letter of January 28: “The personality of the analyst is one of the main factors in the cure.”
Should not this be translated as:
When the analyst inspires respect in the patient and is worthy of his love, the patient will follow his example in order to please him, and will endeavour to get over his neurosis so as to fulfil his human duties in the widest sense of the word?
I think one can only emerge from all this uncertainty when one has gained sufficient personal experience, and then one will also know which procedure is best suited to one’s own personality and gives the best therapeutic results.
This is another reason for submitting to an analysis oneself, to find out what one is.
I am very much in agreement with your definition of psychoanalysis in its negative sense: psychoanalysis is neither an anamnesis nor a method of examination like an intelligence test, nor yet a psychocatharsis.
But your definition in the positive sense, that “psychoanalysis is a method for discovering the line of least resistance in the development of a harmonious personality,” seems to me to apply only to the laziness of the patient, but not to the releasing of sublimated libido for a new aim in life.
You say that in neurosis there is no uniform direction because contrary tendencies prevent psychic adaptation.
True, but will not psychic adaptation turn out quite differently according to whether the patient, now cured, re-directs his life simply to the avoidance of pain (line of least resistance) or to the attainment of the greatest pleasure?
In the first case he would be more passive, and would simply reconcile himself to the “soberness of reality” (Stekel, p. 187).
In the second case he would be “filled with enthusiasm” for something or other, or for some person.
But what determines whether he will be more active or more passive in his “second” life?
In your opinion, does this determining factor appear spontaneously in the course of analysis, and should the analyst carefully avoid tilting the balance to one side or the other by his influence?
Or will he, if he does not refrain from canalizing the patient’s libido in a definite direction, have to renounce the right to be called a psychoanalyst at all,
and is he to be regarded as a “moderate” or a “radical”? (Fiirt-muller, “Wandlungen in der Freud’schen Schule,” Zentralblatt, III, p. 191.) But I think you have already answered this question in advance when you write in your letter of February 11 “Any interference on the part of the analyst is a gross mistake
in technique. So-called chance is the law and order of psychoanalysis.”
But, torn from its context, perhaps this sentence does not quite give your whole meaning.
With regard to enlightening the patient about the psychoanalytic method before beginning the analysis, you appear to be in agreement with Freud and Stekel: better too little than too much.
For knowledge pumped into a patient remains half-knowledge anyway, and half-knowledge begets “wanting to know better,” which only impedes progress.
So, after a brief explanation, first let the patient talk, pointing out a connection here and there, then, after the conscious material is exhausted, go on to the dreams.
But here another obstacle stands in my way, which I have already mentioned at our interview: you find the patient adopting the tone, language, or jargon of the analyst (whether from conscious imitation, transference, or plain defiance, so as to fight the analyst with his own weapons)—how then can you prevent
his starting to produce all manner of fantasies as supposedly real traumata of early childhood, and dreams which are supposedly spontaneous but in reality, whether directly or indirectly, albeit involuntarily, are suggested}
I told you at the time that Forel (in Der Hypnotismus) made his patients dream just what he wanted, and I myself have easily repeated this experiment.
But if the analyst wants to suggest nothing, must he keep silent most of the time and let the patient talk—except that, when interpreting the dreams, he may put his own interpretation to the patient?
From Dr. Jung 18 February 1913
I cannot but agree with your observation that confusion reigns in psychoanalytic literature.
Just at this moment different points of view are developing in the theoretical assessment of analytic results, not to mention the many individual deviations.
Over against Freud’s almost entirely causal conception there has developed, apparently in absolute contradiction to Freud, Adler’s purely finalist view, though in reality it is an essential complement to Freud’s theory.
I hold rather to a middle course, taking account of both standpoints.
It is not surprising that great disagreement prevails with regard to the ultimate questions of psychoanalysis when you consider how difficult they are.
In particular, the problem of the therapeutic effect of psychoanalysis is bound up with the most difficult questions of all, so that it would indeed be astonishing if we had already reached final certitude.
Stekel’s remark is very characteristic.
What he says about love for the analyst is obviously true, but it is simply a statement of fact and not a goal or a guiding principle of analytical therapy.
If it were the goal, many cures, it is true, would be possible, but also many failures might result which could be avoided.
The goal is to educate the patient in such a way that he will get well for his own sake and by reason of his own determination, and not in order to procure his analyst some kind of advantage—though of course it would be absurd from the therapeutic standpoint not to allow the patient to get well because
he simply wants to do his analyst a good turn.
The patient should know what he is doing, that’s all. It is not for us to prescribe for him the ways by which he should get well.
Naturally it seems to me (from the psychoanalytic point of view) an illegitimate use of suggestive influence if the patient is forced to get well out of love for his analyst.
This kind of coercion sometimes takes a bitter revenge. The “you must and shall be saved” attitude is no more to be commended in the therapy of the neuroses than in any other department of life.
Besides, it contradicts the principles of analytic treatment, which shuns all coercion and tries to let everything grow up from within.
I am not opposed, as you know, to suggestive influence in general, but merely to doubtful motivations.
If the analyst demands that his patient shall get well out of love for him, the patient may easily reckon on reciprocal services, and will without doubt
try to extort them.
I can only utter a warning against any such practice.
A far stronger motive for recovery—also a far healthier and ethically more valuable one—is the patient’s thorough insight into the real situation, his recognition of things as they are and how they should be.
If he is worth his salt he will then realize that he can hardly remain sitting in the morass of neurosis.
I cannot agree with your interpretation of my remarks on the healing effect of the analyst’s personality.
I wrote that his personality had a healing effect because the patient reads the personality of the analyst, and not that he gets well out of love for the analyst.
The analyst cannot prevent him from beginning to behave towards his conflicts as he himself behaves, for nothing is finer than the empathy of a neurotic.
But every strong transference serves this purpose too.
If the analyst makes himself amiable to the patient, he simply buys off a lot of resistances which the patient ought to have overcome, and which he will
quite certainly have to overcome later on.
So nothing is gained by this technique; at most the beginning of the analysis is made easier for the patient, though in certain cases this is not without its uses.
To have to crawl through a barbed-wire fence without having some enticing end in view testifies to an ascetic strength of will which you can expect neither from the ordinary person nor from the neurotic.
Even Christianity, whose moral demands are set very high, has not scorned to dangle before us the kingdom of heaven as the goal and reward of earthly endeavour.
In my view the analyst is entitled to speak of the advantages which follow from the ardours of analysis.
Only, he should not represent himself or his friendship, by hints or promises, as a reward, unless he is seriously resolved to make it so.
As to your criticism of my tentative definition of psychoanalysis, it must be observed that the road over a steep mountain is the line of least resistance when a ferocious bull awaits you in the pleasant valley road.
In other words, the line of least resistance is a compromise with all eventualities, not just with laziness.
It is a prejudice to think that the line of least resistance coincides with the path of inertia. (That’s what we thought when we dawdled over our Latin exercises at school.)
Laziness is a temporary advantage only and leads to consequences which involve the worst resistances.
On the whole, therefore, it does not coincide with the line of least resistance.
Nor is life along the line of least resistance synonymous with the ruthless pursuit of selfish desires.
Anyone who lived like that would soon realize with sorrow that he was not following the line of least resistance, because man is also a social being and not just a bundle of egoistic instincts, as some people pretend.
You can see this best with primitives and domestic animals, who all have a well-developed social sense.
Without some such function the herd could not exist at all.
Man as a herd-animal, too, has not by any manner of means to subordinate himself to laws imposed from without; he carries his social imperatives within himself, a priori, as an inborn necessity.
Here, as you see, I place myself in decided opposition to certain views—quite unjustified, in my opinion—which have been expressed here and there inside the psychoanalytic school.
Accordingly the line of least resistance does not signify eo ipso the avoidance of pain so much as the just balancing of pain and pleasure.
Painful activity by itself leads to no result but exhaustion.
A man must be able to enjoy life, otherwise the effort of living is not worth while.
What direction the patient’s life should take in the future is not ours to judge.
We must not imagine that we know better than his own nature, or we would prove ourselves educators of he worst kind. (Fundamental ideas of a similar nature have also been worked out by the Montessori school.)
Psychoanalysis is only a means for removing the stones from the path of development, and not a method (as hypnotism often claims to be) of putting things into the patient that were not there before.
It is better to renounce any attempt to give direction, and simply try to throw into relief everything that the analysis brings to light, so that the patient can see it clearly and be able to draw suitable conclusions.
Anything he has not acquired himself he will not believe in the long run, and what he takes over from authority merely keeps him infantile.
He should rather be put in a position to take his own life in hand.
The art of analysis lies in following the patient on all his erring ways and so gathering his strayed sheep together.
Working to programme, on a preconceived system, we spoil the best effects of analysis.
I must therefore hold fast to the sentence you object to: “Any interference on the part of the analyst is a gross mistake in technique.So-called chance is the law and order of psychoanalysis.”
As you must know, we still cannot give up the pedantic prejudice of wanting to correct nature and force our limited “truths” on her.
But in the therapy of the neuroses we meet with so many strange, unforeseen and unforeseeable experiences that all hope should vanish of our knowing better and being able to prescribe the way.
The roundabout way and even the wrong way are necessary.
If you deny this you must also deny that the mistakes of history were necessary.
That is the pedant’s-eye view of the world.
This attitude is no good in psychoanalysis.
The question as to how much the analyst involuntarily suggests to the patient is a very ticklish one.
It certainly plays a much more important role than psychoanalysis has so far admitted.
Experience has convinced me that patients rapidly begin to make use of ideas picked up from psychoanalysis, as is also apparent in their dreams.
You get many impressions of this sort from Stekel’s book Die Sprache des Traumes.
I once had a very instructive experience: a very intelligent lady had from the beginning long-drawn-out transference fantasies which appeared in the usual erotic guise. But she absolutely refused to admit their existence.
Naturally she was betrayed by her dreams, in which, however, my person was always hidden under some other figure, often rather difficult to make out.
A long series of such dreams finally compelled me to remark: “So, you see, it’s always like that, the person you are really dreaming about is replaced and masked by someone else in the manifest dream.”
Till then she had obstinately denied this mechanism.
But this time she could no longer evade it and had to admit my working rule—but only to play a trick on me.
Next day she brought me a dream in which she and I appeared in a manifestly lascivious situation.
I was naturally perplexed and thought of my rule.
Her first association to the dream was the malicious question:
“It’s always true, isn’t it, that the person you are really dreaming about is replaced by someone else in the manifest dream?”
Clearly, she had made use of her experience to find a protective formula by which she could express her fantasies openly in a quite innocent way.
This example shows at once how patients use insights they have gained from analysis.
They use them for the purpose of symbolization.
You get caught in your own net if you believe in fixed, unalterable symbols.
That has happened to more than one psychoanalyst.
It is therefore a fallacious and risky business to try to exemplify any particular theory with dreams arising from an analysis.
Proof can only come from the dreams of demonstrably uninfluenced persons.
In such cases one would have to exclude at most telepathic thought-reading.
But if you concede this possibility, you would have to subject many other things to a rigorous scrutiny, including judicial verdicts.
Although we must pay full attention to the element of suggestion, we should not go too far.
The patient is not an empty sack into which we can stuff whatever we like; he brings his own particular contents with him which stubbornly resist suggestion and push themselves again and again to the fore.
Analytic “suggestions” merely distort the expression, but not the content, as I have seen countless times.
The expression varies without limit, but the content is fixed and can only be got at in the long run, and then with difficulty.
Were it not so, suggestion therapy would be in every sense the most effective and rewarding and easiest therapy, a true panacea.
Unfortunately it is not, as every honest hypnotist will readily admit.
To come back to your question as to whether it is possible for patients to trick the analyst by making deceptive use—perhaps involuntarily—of his mode of expression, this is indeed a very serious problem.
The analyst must exercise all possible care and self-criticism not to let himself be led astray by his patient’s dreams.
One can say that patients almost invariably use in their dreams, to a greater or lesser extent, the mode of expression learnt in analysis.
Interpretations of earlier symbols will themselves be used again as fresh symbols in later dreams.
It often happens, for instance, that sexual situations which appeared in earlier dreams in symbolic form will appear “undisguised” in later ones—once more, be it noted, in symbolic form—as analysable expressions for ideas of a different nature hidden behind them.
Thus the not infrequent dream of incestuous cohabitation is by no means an “undisguised” content, but a dream as freshly symbolic and capable of analysis as all others.
You can only arrive at the paradoxical idea that such a dream is “undisguised” if you are pledged to the sexual theory of neurosis.
That the patient may mislead the analyst for a longer or shorter time by means of deliberate deception and misrepresentation is possible, as in all other branches of medicine.
But the patient injures himself most, since he has to pay for every deception or subterfuge with an aggravation of his symptoms, or with fresh ones.
Deception is so obviously disadvantageous to himself that he can scarcely avoid relinquishing such a course for good.
The technique of analysis we can best postpone for oral discussion. ~Loy/Jung Letters, CW 4, Para 652-