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Sabina Spielrein – Unedited extracts from a diary (1906/1907?)

Love, death and transformation – Two speakers

Of the two speakers, one reaches the summit of his art only when he gives himself up to passion: it is passion that warms his brain into life, irrigates it and forces his spirit to show its strength.

The other, to be sure, sometimes tries to present his case passionately, indeed violently and thunderously, but his success is generally poor.

He is soon expressing himself in an obscure and confused way; his exaggerations and omissions make one doubt the sincerity of his cause:

he himself begins to sense the lack of confidence that he engenders, and this explains sudden diversions into the coldest and most rejecting tones, which make the listener doubt the genuineness of his passion.

For this speaker, passion swamps spirit every time; perhaps it is even stronger than that of the first speaker.

But he is at the peak of his power when he resists the impetuosity of his emotions and, as it were, makes fun of them: it is only then that his spirit comes right out of its hiding place, a logical spirit, derisive, playful but nonetheless terrible.

The theory of transformation and its corollaries Let us take as our point of departure the case of a young girl who has had an unhappy love affair and whom marriage to another man has not spared from Dementia Praecox.

In her illness the complex manifests itself in a ‘sublimated’ form.

Even this case raises a number of questions, the first one being: from the  oint of view of the preservation of the species, it is impossible to understand why one cannot love just any human being as long as he is in good health, why marriage has not been enough to eliminate the complex; it is impossible to understand why these endless tortures should beset a person who perhaps provokes only an ironic smile from the people around her, who is perhaps mentally and physically deficient.

You may say: ‘it is a perverse instinct’.

All that is true, judged from the context of the conservation of the species.

But from another point of view, the instinct is normal.

Let us leave aside the fundamental reasons as well as the aims, and let us continue to analyse: what really is this abominable thing called love?

The more developed the human being, the more importance this word assumes for him.

For a dog, there would hardly be a difference between love and sexual attraction; but a human being can only experience true and profound love a limited number of times; in most cases it will be only a passing fancy.

Two years ago you yourself asked me a question that you considered essential for determining my love for you: you asked me, ‘Do you have many points in common with me?’

My answer was an angry ‘no’.

So, one has numerous points in common with the person one loves.

Creatures who are very much like each other, like animals, are less discriminating in their choice; they also hardly ever suffer the sorrows of love (mark this); an untutored girl will find a lover very easily and if you need examples to prove this, remember Wilhelm Meister: you will find there a girl who remains single for a long time because she lives above her set.

Goethe says the same thing.

The more differentiated a person is, the more fatal the story becomes (let’s not confuse the two: I refer to the degree of love that a person is capable of, not a passing attraction).

We must not forget the fundamental difference between man and woman, which is also, provisionally, the rule.

Man wants to embrace, woman prefers to be embraced.

The reverse can only take place provisionally because men are on average more differentiated.

And what are the consequences of this?

Woman is more discriminating in her choice because it is more difficult to find a personality that fits the ideal; it is for these reasons that the woman is generally monogamous, when she truly loves; for opposite reasons, the man is less discriminating and is more or less polygamous.

As a remedy for infidelity, Forel proposes that a woman should be more able to share a man’s interests, be more of a friend, make herself more indispensable.

Forel is the man who dedicates his book ‘as a proof of his love and in homage’ to his wife – he bears

her the noblest of love.

You will find the same idea in Ibsen, in Nora for example.

A young man of the ‘people’ says to me: man is polygamous until he can find a woman he can truly love; then he becomes monogamous (short, transitory attractions excluded, of course).

Do you need examples from history?

‘Ivan the Terrible’ (1533–1584): his rule was gentle and beneficial during the years when his love for his wife and her influence guided all his actions; then he was monogamous.

He became ‘the terrible’ when his wife died, when his unsatisfied love wanted to be satiated – we may return to him later as an example.

This is the way men feel – can you contradict me?

We always see that a beautiful woman is the determining factor in a man’s choice – let us not get angry! What does that mean: a beautiful woman?

It is well known that there is no absolute beauty; the ideal of beauty was simply developed from female forms most frequently encountered, that is, from characteristics that proved most pleasing.

Beauty does not have to be linked to value, from the point of view of the preservation of the species – you know that only too well.

This is generally the case with degenerate people.

And is it not in fact degenerates whose ideas continue to survive, even if they present them in different garb?

If a generation of women, conforming to the utmost subtlety in their emotions and the way of life resulting from these emotions, eventually has a finer subtlety of forms, a purely mechanical sexuality is immediately applied to those forms. Innovators are rare, especially where an instinct is concerned, and it is still always the rule that a certain shape engenders sexual excitement, a shape which perhaps only simulates a resemblance or in which is to be found only a slight resemblance, but which is more than a similarity between two persons.

After all human beings and animals have similarities which are deemed sufficient by some to engage in sexual relationships; these people are even less discriminating in their choice because an animal can only correspond to a fraction of their personality; from this minimal affinity it would have to be concluded that one can be understood by a cow and confide one’s sublime feelings to her.

When she was still a child (an age when human beings and animals are close), a colleague of mine was tenderly attached to a dog: she always told him everything that was in her heart.

This usually took place in the forest and she often shed bitter tears; she was sure that the dog

understood her.

And this was true up to a point! If all else fails, you can even confide in a tree and you would certainly feel that the tree understands you, and through the soft movement of its leaves expresses its sympathy for you.

‘And I went on hearing the rustling of the leaves, as if they were telling me: “come nearer, my friend, by my side you will find peace, etc., ad infinitum”’.

Thus one can love nature as a living being, and confide one’s inner thoughts to it; for example find similarities between the storm in nature and the storm in one’s own heart, and this similarity is real because our world is a part of the universal world or, if you prefer, a reflection of it.

That is why everyone loves nature, especially those who live very intensely; that is what forms the most important and powerful part of the personality.

To quote Nietzsche again:

‘We must sometimes take a rest from ourselves by looking at ourselves from a distance and in depth, and with the same detachment as the artist, and by laughing at ourselves or weeping over ourselves; we have to discover not only the hero in us but also the madman, hidden in our […] of knowledge, we must rejoice now and then in our madness so as to be able also to rejoice in our wisdom’.

The paper that I have written for the clinic about the value of reaction (Spielrein 1909),4 makes me think that we see our own pain in the soul of the other, that is objectively – hence the relief.

Every complex tries to transcend the limits of personality; every complex looks for its twin, its reflection and, when it is shown itself in the mirror, it laughs, even though for ego consciousness there is nothing to laugh at.

Freud’s interpretation that laughter is born of the comparison of two different amounts of energy, the over-abundance of energy being eliminated by laughter, seems to me to be very plausible.

‘Why?’ – that would take us too far, but it is a fact that work done as a team (not to be confused with work which is said to be done together but is not in fact so) is much easier; it is a fact that a shared sorrow is easier to bear.

That means that if the same complex is found in both one’s own soul and the mirror, that is to say transformed (everybody thinks –outrageous though it is – ‘look! I am master now!’), the two act as one, and it is ‘from the accumulation of energy that must have met some previous resistance’ (Freud) that laughter is born.

Art is only a complex which has found its independence or which ‘having turned wild, wants to express itself fully’ (your words) or ‘wants to be transformed’ (my words). When the artist creates, it is not the manifestation of the need to communicate something to the world.

It is rather that the complex itself simply wants to emerge!

The artist can spend a long time admiring his work, keeping it to himself, until he finally feels the need to have it understood by others. (Is not laughter born here because there is no resistance to what is beautiful?)

In science too a thought – whatever it is – which has been formulated after much anguish needs necessarily to be understood by others.

It seems to me that researchers for whom celebrity is essential are rare.

To love glory is to want to have everyone’s attention focused on oneself: this can only be a dominant characteristic among ‘normal’ people who do not feel the force of their own personality.

To those whose thoughts have been born of prolonged suffering, their thoughts are much more important than glory; at the most glory would be but a means of being better understood and of remaining alive eternally.

Or perhaps – I must correct myself – celebrity is important for those artisans of science who look upon it as a means of attracting general attention to themselves.

Those for whom thoughts have been born of long suffering and form an integral part of their personality, might at the most desire glory as a way for them to be better understood and to live eternally.

Only someone who, for example, has the same feelings as Galileo can understand me: Galileo,

whose words ‘And yet, it turns’, are believed to express the individual’s life –but more about that later.

I come back to the apparent contradictions in sexual life;6 and this is because associations to death are sexual associations.

But I shall come back to this.

Looking at popular poetry – which must be taken into consideration as it always contains truths – we find that sexual power is considered to be demonic power, a destructive force; the sexual act is a sin!

Where does that come from?

How is it that everyone always puts up so much resistance to sexual feelings?

Why are they hidden, why are they felt to be unbearable, why can they be expressed only in a sublimated or symbolic form?

Why does every young girl (and perhaps also young man) have to live through a period of extreme apprehension of everything sexual (even if she has no idea of the pains it may engender)?

There is an indication here of a contrast between sexuality and the rest of the personality, a contrast which reaches a climax when sexual feelings begin to manifest themselves – as borne out by the numerous psychic problems at the time of puberty – until the ‘demonic’ instinct subdues in part the inner personality and is partly subdued by it.

Why is it that this contrast is felt to be primary? (Primary emotions are always the most powerful for they act as logarithms of excitement.)

Why is it that we do not accept this? What is this strangeness? You must not forget for an instant

that present sexual feelings are not genuine but tamed.

One day I asked a passionate and healthy young woman: ‘How can one find out if one is in love?

It is also possible to want to take your mother in your arms and kiss her, isn’t it?’

She explained: ‘When you kiss your lover, you want him to die of your  kisses and you want to disappear into him (she used another very characteristic word) etc.,’ – there is an infinity of expressions.

The most elevated instincts always present themselves as murderous instincts.

To begin with there is the little brother who calls the kitten: ‘Puss! Puss! My little darling! I

love you!

I am going to torture you and make you die!’; besides there is the well-known fact that lovers love to tease and torment each other, and moreover there is martyrdom and crimes of passion.

Everywhere you see the pleasure involved in destroying and dying.

Young people have a strange need to sacrifice their lives for a great cause, a ‘nobler’ cause.

The psyche surrenders in the face of this demand which is made in a very clever way.

But that can also happen with any wish, however mild, the wish for example for an eight-hour working day; if a very large number of people wish for something and demand it simultaneously, then this feeling becomes so powerful that it takes over the personality; after that the feeling cannot find satisfaction unless it is the only one, unless the other minimal part of the personality is crushed.

And that is how young people, completely transformed by their desires, strike magnificent poses, torches in hand, pathetic speeches on their lips, and leap to their death.

Let their desire live eternally in this new fascinating form – let everything else perish!

Basically, all complexes feel the need to mould the whole of the personality to fit their function, and when a complex manifests itself more than its environment

allows, one talks then of an excess of feeling; its author is moreover seen as an impostor, or he is accused of not being serious, depending on the mood.

But every person puts on an act, or else ‘acting the fool is altogether relative’.

Up to what point this is the case depends on the degree of intensity of the complex.

At its climax, the complex is in the end capable, as I showed earlier, of sacrificing the whole individual to achieve its ends, but it is only that, a ‘sacrifice’.

The death of a person constitutes the nature of only one complex –the sexual complex.

Every individual must disappear as such. In the case of an amoeba the whole ‘personality’ in fact literally disappears; in the case of human beings or other animals, only a fraction disappears (I cannot find another adequate word).

But the instinct is always one of death, the annihilation of the personality, two individuals fused into one.

This is how one can explain the numerous representations of the instinct as a destructive force, demonic, etc., … This is also how the resistance of every personality to the sexual instinct can be explained; I do not imply here that two people who feel a sexual attraction wish to be constantly fused into one unit or anything like that.

Sexual feeling is always tamed by other feelings; even during the sexual act, it is suppressed considerably, otherwise you would be facing a passionate killer or a martyr.

I mean that, by destroying, the man wants to annihilate himself while the woman wants to be annihilated.

One sees men as martyrs often enough.

You also see often enough how cruelty towards others is linked to a person’s own martyrdom.

For example, ‘Ivan the Terrible’ who was also a martyr: after every action he did penance; he was also very pious. Indeed – I don’t know!

Maybe one should regard martyrdom here as ‘feminine’ nature, as a contradictory feeling!

Among very passionate artists like Wagner one must look beyond death for the culminating point of love.

His heroes must die. Siegfried dies and so does Brunnhilde with him; it is thus that the domination of the idea of love is expressed!

‘The race of gods has died away like a breath, I abandon the orphaned world; I now show the world the place of my most sacred knowledge’:

No lands, no treasures,

No divine splendour,

No house, no court,

No princely pomp!

No obscure alliance,

No false treaty,

Neither the hard law

Of false custom!

Love offers to the lover

Only beatitude in pleasure as in sorrow!

It is when it is placed beyond death that a complex attains the sublime.

I would have explained it here in the same way, even if I had not known the essence of the sexual act, and if I did not constantly have these numerous examples illustrating the ‘wish for annihilation’, the destructive instinct.

In the Vaisseau Fantôme (Ghost Ship), the culminating point of love resides in death or beyond

death. ‘I will remain faithful to you until death!’

These are my final impressions.

You yourself of course know of enough situations where the man kills the woman and kills himself afterwards; or the other way round.

Here is enough material for analysis!

I must end this soon for classes begin tomorrow – let us summarize therefore: the sexual instinct – an instinct which is there to renew the whole personality, a partial case of the transformation instinct which every isolated complex possesses! Sexual attraction – attraction of similar people (people with the same nature – only partially so when people are less differentiated).

Similar people, in the sense that ‘what looks alike, comes together and the ‘opposites meet’.

A person who no longer likes smoking can understand a smoker, but not someone who does not know what smoking is.

Nobody really knows what makes up an individual.

A person consists of feelings and counter-feelings in different proportions.

When the relationships are too similar between isolated complexes, they would disturb the oppressed part of the psyche, that is why people who are very much alike do not go well together.

Both positive and negative emotions, but emotions that are nevertheless similar, can arouse sexual attraction.

The ‘negative’ emotions can be explained by the fact that repressed feeling is more active.

No! That is not even necessary!

The man embraces, the woman is embraced, and that is why there occurs this remarkable phenomenon that you, for example, would not wish to say anything else than ‘my baby’, while your wife would most likely say ‘our’, if not ‘my husband’s young child’.

It is you that you loved in the baby and your wife loved herself in you.

And the phenomenon that dictates that one must continue to love the first image of the beloved, even when the love has died, needs to be emphasized; one loves one’s ideal in the other; a short separation strengthens love because one prefers to remember the ideal image.

But the ideal is nothing other than that which is deeply anchored in the psyche as a result of an infinity of circumstances.

The similarity of ideals, emotions, and experiences arouses the attraction.

Sometimes one ideal, sometimes another may feed the psyche, which explains the change in sexual taste.

But the more ideals the lover has, the more lasting is the love.

Some circumstances make some people more accessible to each other.

I believe it is Turgenev who explains this: ‘If a woman regrets something – one knows what will follow’.

If you feel pity, that means that you put yourself in the same situation; the same complex fills you momentarily and similar complexes regulate sexual feelings.

If they are two people of the same sex, a loving, light eroticism occurs; if they are not of the same sex, then the attraction goes deeper.

This explains the sexual affection between a patient and her doctor who are in a psychic relationship.

It is not the sexual feeling that is uppermost, otherwise one could choose any man for one’s doctor.

One goes to the doctor because one needs to be free of a complex, one confides in the doctor because one knows, or notices, his interest and sympathy; the interest corresponds to understanding, that is,

to possession of the same complex.

Hence the sexual feeling. It is not at all  necessary for one to react with a sexual complex.

All sympathy between man and woman arouses sexual feelings.

The sight of two magnificent grey eyes may accentuate the sympathy because those eyes by themselves are very eloquent, that is, they are linked to a certain powerful emotional complex, and perhaps express a certain mode of feeling.

The sexual feeling aroused by the same complex disappears as soon as other complexes, which are no longer feltin common, besiege the psyche (besiege in the sense that they ‘become more powerful’).

Let us now examine the transformation of the sexual complex.

Sexual feeling is the origin of a series of representations which we summarize as a sexual complex, in the narrow sense of the word.

But as every strong complex provokes a sexual complex as soon as the partner feels it at the same time, it becomes part of the sexual complex itself.

In this way, the most significant part of the psyche may become the sexual complex, and the magnitude

of this cannot be assessed. In the broader sense of the word the totality of the sexual complex, hence the emotions felt for the lover, including all that has been felt simultaneously with him, must now (in the case of an unrequited love) be transformed in its entirety.

The person to whom this is made known assumes great importance.

If the transformation takes place between a man and a woman, the mutual feeling may provoke a new sexual attraction.

Transformation may also take place in the form of artistic work; one is not then linked to a particular person and it is a safeguard against new loves.

Thus the sexual complex in the broad sense of the term can become a powerful motive force, especially in art, but that does not necessarily follow.

It does not follow when, for example, ideals press to be consolidated by a sexual transformation, when nature’s charm is felt by a man in the shape of a woman, that is as a resonance of the ideal in a woman; it is in fact only the consequence of the instinct of transformation or the instinct

of self preservation in every complex, that it also wants to be strengthened through the sexual act.

But it is not the sexual feeling which has become the

motive force of art etc.; it is the instinct of transformation which every complex possesses, and since each aspect of the personality wants to make its presence felt, the sexual complex also possesses a transformation instinct; and the sexual act is but a particular aspect of this transformation whose

function it is to establish a context that is new but also adapted to the same complexes.

Considering its nature, sexual feeling does not need the transformation instinct, but it is present nonetheless; yet the transformation instinct needs the sexual feeling, the latter being a necessary component of the first; otherwise how would the combinations survive?

They would end up dying.

As I have already said, complexes that necessitate transformation are not necessarily linked to the sexual complex; thus a painter who has just experienced a storm at sea can eternalize it in a painting without sexual feeling having anything to do with it; but even if it were also present, it is not the sexual feeling that would have made the artist paint: it is simply the ‘complex gone wild which had to emerge, which needed to find full expression’.

The sexual complex equally aroused would also be equally transformed.

People like Marx, for example, who have dedicated their life to social problems, believe that the source of all feelings lies in socio-political relationships; according to this belief, all emotions, and thus science as well as art, should be modified by the influence of the new social order.

Isn’t this a huge exaggeration?

We are totally ignorant of the cause of feelings, and it is impossible for us ever to know it!

One could at the most discuss the foundations of feeling; it is clear to me that the foundation, or the alpha or omega, of feeling is the transformation instinct, which could eventually be satisfied by the sexual act.


You see: I do not love you now, that is, not in the ideal sense – no, and this state is much more dreadful than death.

Nothing matters to me … The preservation of the species is more important than the preservation of an individual, we know that.

Why don’t you want to kill me, if you love me even though you know that I am a degenerate?

But that does matter to me – and when I can explain that, I shall be free! I understand very well that you are older and that you have all the other respectable qualities, but one should not exclude the fact that in the circumstances a child can think rationally – on the contrary. And that is why I am taking the risk.

As proof that everything converges towards the preservation of the species, you have given an  example that could also very well serve as proof against yourself.

The woman lived on in her two children; but why were they not identical to her?

Why does love exist and not only coarse sexual attraction?

Why are species which are more intellectually developed more discriminating in their choice?

How can sexual feeling be diverted to something else, or rather, does this conform to the point of view that everything tends to promote the preservation of the species?

I beg you, do not be impatient straight away!

I do not want you to take this the wrong way.

There is a fundamental difference between your concept and mine and if we are not in agreement, I will not be able to prove to you why some phenomenon or other seems to me to have a different cause, and that torments me.

This is what I think.

The final goal and problems of this kind – nonsense –!

What strikes me as the highest form of unity that can be attained – is the power of inertia (Beharrungsvermögen) and the instinct of transformation.

The preservation of the species is but a part of this instinct, and that is very important as it explains a lot of things.

Wait a little! If you consider for a while the world of art, you see the following:

plastic art represents first personal ideologies; this means that a warrior does not necessarily represent a girl but the ideal of a warrior etc.

I have in front of me my little brother’s drawings; I can send them to you for you to analyse.

It is one’s own personality and immediate environment that one expresses; the more developed the person, the richer the personality, because it is more marked by the environment.

A remark of Leonardo da Vinci is deeply embedded in my mind: he said (more or less) that every hand imitates involuntarily its own body forms; when I was still at the lycée, I had noticed that we girls drew only female figures while the boys preferred to draw men (we do not have mixed physical education classes).

This could be explained by the context.

In poetry too, we see objects expressed differently and one can say again that one is expressing oneself.

It is difficult for me to prove this through German literature as I am not very familiar with its writers; in our culture on the other hand Gorky, the ‘vagabond’ (or whatever else you want to call him), describes a number of ‘vagabonds’ of this sort.

Dostoyevsky, the hysterical epileptic, has only hysterical epileptic characters.

Andreyev – ‘Madness and terror’ – has only mad and terrible characters. Gogol, who brims with humour, has corresponding characters.

But why go that far?

I have recently experienced something weird myself.

A girl of my age, and whom I did not know at all, for some strange reason asked to talk to me.

She wanted to ask me several questions and I gladly promised to answer.

(I knew that people’s complexes are so different from mine that she would not be asking me anything


These are her questions: have you ever felt that things you were saying were comprehensible only to you? etc., … I do not know what each of us said; I explained to her in detail how we all end up telling our own stories, how we use the method of questioning eventually to reveal all, just in the way that was being demonstrated, how the complex makes use of all possible ways to get transformed.

For us, this means that a part of the ‘ego’, that is the complex, wants to be assimilated and transformed, even if this contradicts the rest of our conscious contents; the young woman directed the conversation towards the Jews; after some time she quickly went back to the previous subject and said: ‘You are somebody who thinks’.

And now for the last art form – music – that is again nothing but the ‘personal expression’ or rather more accurately the expression of the rhythm of a complex. ‘In this connection’, a small digression.

I have thought a lot, of course, about Dem. praec. (Dementia praecox) which is characterized by

strange stereotyped behaviour (such as getting up at regular intervals while it is possible to work perfectly well in between etc., …).

I cannot say for sure, but I have a small hypothesis (cf. muscular contractions, tetanus as a result of too much excitement all at once).

I do not think of feeling as a shock but as a series of waves; ordinary psychic life is like the still waters of a lake.

When a boat goes across, you have a rhythmic series of waves which is like a fairly strong feeling; I have felt on innumerable occasions that an affect provokes a rhythmic movement: one walks up and down, one rubs one’s hands together, one dances or sighs in a rhythmic sequence; it is this that easily explains the opposite, that is, why it is so easy to walk or work to rhythm. If the interval between two wave crests is long enough, one can work very well in that time – I have, for example, had the experience of some stupidity annoying me considerably; I was nevertheless able partly to listen to

the physics lesson, but each time the nasty business came back to my mind, I clenched my teeth and said: ‘Go to hell!’.

The complex could remain unconscious as far as Dem. praec. is concerned, because consciousness requires a certain amount of light; only think of symbols!

A symbol is nothing else but a lateral association which has only a little of the feeling of the main association.

And you can also see well enough that it is things which are overloaded with affect that are symbolized, especially those that refer to sexuality.

You will perhaps say: ‘Sexual matters, certainly, because they are repressed’?

But that would explain nothing. What does ‘repressed’ mean? And why are they ‘repressed’? Is their emotional load positive or negative?

Here yet again is a cardinal point.

In itself every complex has a positive charge, but if we look at the psyche as a whole, the strongest complexes almost always have a negative charge – Why?

It is simple – because the other complexes have a power of persistence and do not want to be annihilated by the stronger one.

It is then that the whole of the psyche bristles with hostility towards a stronger complex.

Do you think that amnesia occurs as a result, brought about by the force of the counter-representations? (repression).

I hardly think so: a counter-representation need only itself become conscious – everything else does not have to become unconscious too (a law of physics: in every movement the force is equal to the resistance).

When a mother loses her child, the ‘repression’ should incite her to think that ‘the child is alive’, and not induce a total amnesia or what is clearly the case in sexuality: when the contrasting representation brings about amnesia, the whole chain of associations should disappear, seeing that the resistance ought to decline or increase in proportion to the force (otherwise it would be impossible for a complex which is known to have a variety of characteristics to disappear); but we see that this is not the case, for symbols remain.

And now let us go back to the subject – You see that as regards sexual choice, one not only chooses people with the same nature but those who have the same ideals, that is people who can assimilate and transform the combination in question; as the ones whose instincts or ideals are not adapted to nature perish, only those are left whose ideals possess the necessary qualities for the preservation of the species.

He who does not fit into this scheme is called disabled – the more developed social life is, the more numerous are the ways of transforming the personality, up to a certain point, and that is when it is possible for the sexual component to take a back seat.

This does not mean that sexual energy can contribute to a love of music or something of the sort,

but that there is a common amount of energy, and the more of it is spent in frankly sexual transformation, the less of it is left for anything else, and vice versa.

You can see this particularly clearly in women who are destined to find renewal specifically through sexual procreation: when this kind of transformation is dominant, the woman is more discriminating in her choice, and the more originality she has, the harder it will be for her to find a husband.

As a woman is less able to rely on spiritual transformation because – at least temporarily – her fate is determined by sexual transformation and she is therefore not independent enough; we witness the well-known phenomenon of a woman looking for a man who can lavish attention on her; among the uncivilized this might perhaps manifest itself in the man espousing her feelings or instincts.

You certainly know that one always finds similarities with the person one loves and vice versa.

As psychic attraction causes sexual attraction, it is clear that some psychic feelings are closely linked to

corresponding sexual emotions; especially where persons of the opposite sex are concerned.

All things considered, it is wrong to apply the term ‘libido’ (that is ‘sexual feeling’ in a limited sense) to art or science: the root of affectivity is not a special sexual feeling, but a power of inertia and an instinct of transformation which can eventually verge on the sexual side, in which case it would then be called ‘libido’.

I would not attach so much importance to the form, if erroneous expressions did not so often lead to false ideas.

I must adopt an extreme position where you are concerned because you never admit, in the enthusiasm

of your new theories, the possibility of non-sexual transformation.

Thus, in the case of Mother, you cannot conceive of the simple fact that, though she does not have the least sexual affinity with her former lover, she cannot bear a caricature of him to live on in the noble part of her psyche.

The same thing is true for me in my relationship with Prof. Bleuler, for whom I do not feel the least sexual attraction; the same goes for me as regards all colleagues for whom I have some esteem.

It is far better to be not understood by people at all than to be misunderstood; the latter is a dreadful thing.

I hope that I haven’t been writing in vain till gone one in the morning!

If you feel like throwing away the letter, let me rather have it back: I will work later on the ideas I have written out here.

Try carefully to understand me; during the treatment of hysteria, two separate things must be taken into consideration:

  1. 1 Make it possible for the psycho-sexual component of the ego to transform itself (most of the time or always?) (whether this be by means of art or a simple reaction – as you wish); in this way that component is constantly weakened like a phonograph record going round and round.

What’s more, the feeling brings about corresponding innervations and the psyche does not exhaust itself by resisting them.

  1. 2 Might it not be necessary perhaps, more often than it seems, to prevent as much as possible the excitement of a psycho-sexual expression by deflecting the feeling towards other components of the ego?

It is dangerous to attach too much importance to the complex, to feed it with new representations; only an artist can live in this way, and even for him there are certain limits which are beyond his strength: in other words the rest of the psyche ends up being hostile to the complex.

As for me, my family has seen to it currently that, taken away from my studies, I am right in the middle of the complex again.

The desolation is once again limitless.

Will I be able to come out of it safe and sound?


Do not act in the first flush of excitement: this principle of mine is a good one.

I am indeed very tired at the moment, but calm, so it seems to me.

Yesterday’s conversation seems to me like a bad dream, which continues to oppress me.


Now the moment has come for me to react! Should I ‘play the ambitious one’? Or the role of the righteous, offended woman?

That would mean lying to myself and to you. Ah! If my whole being could tell me that I am right!

And even then, it is terrible to me to hear you speak to me in this way.

Still you must be aware that my ‘unconscious’ does not want to have anything to do with what your ‘unconscious’ rejects.

Things are such that I can (indeed must) be frank, but not you.

The fact that I abuse this outspokenness is for me a constant source of censure, but how can I act differently?

The complexity of the situation makes me adopt the unnatural role of the man and you the

feminine role.

I am far from attributing some kind of absolute meaning to what has been said; I perfectly understand that you must offer resistance, but I also acknowledge that, for myself, resistance excites me.

I am also very conscious of the fact that if it all depended on me, I would be resisting desperately

with all my might.

The word has raised a storm, a lot of nonsense has been written, and then rewritten all over again.

I have just come back from my violin lesson and my heart is full of softness. O you! If only you knew how dear to me you are, without the least thought of the child.

Isn’t the wish to bear your child really the wish to possess you at least in a smaller version?

Isn’t this the wish to offer to you, in the eyes of all, something special?

Yes, if it were a bond of friendship that linked me to you!

But you seek to stifle any strong feeling that you may feel for me.

The result is that you are all diplomacy and lies.

The result is that half-unconsciously you are looking for ways to divert me, by making me look again at Dr Binswanger’s work, which is as clear as spring water.

Must I explain it all to you? What’s the use?

First, you are probably aware of most of this and, secondly, you would undoubtedly be forced to deny it all.

Previously you could discuss more abstract subjects with me, you would show me various things either at the laboratory or at your house, such as pictures or old books; these days anything that has no close relation to the sexual complex you call ‘reading a paper’ and you do not like that because the power of the complex is such that you are not fully master of it.

I ask myself the question: are people always so stupid where they themselves are concerned, or is it that you do not want to admit it?

But it would be remarkable with the analytical qualities that you have, that you should not have noticed the pathological rigmaroles you reserve for my benefit!

Let us nevertheless go back to our conversation of yesterday.

After an eternally long pause, which is even more noticeable in view of your well-known eloquence,

you tell me the story of S.W.

It is quite clear that the comparison supposes a similarity of situation, otherwise why would you come back to what is ancient history?

It is obvious that in your mind, the young woman represents you and not me (when you wished to talk about the refinement of your unconscious).

You say now that the young woman’s unconscious (not yours) had a remarkably refined quality, and then there is the remarkable fact that you held the young woman in greater esteem than anybody else, and that you thought she was destined for you.

But in the end the young woman began to tell incredible stories, which disappointed you and made you break with her.

And this is supposed to be proof of the refinement of your unconscious?

You might make others believe that!

Not me, who thinks otherwise: you have felt that ‘the young imp’ was getting to be dangerous for you and you have called for help (cf. ‘to have – a child’, ‘to put on a hat’); help came, though it took time to get through the fire.

‘Yes’, you finally managed to say, ‘a few years ago, I knew a similar woman; she too seemed to me like a goddess, but in the end she turned out to be just a flighty girl’.

I do not feel at ease talking to you like this. Yet what can I do?

I cannot allow you to defend yourself by humiliating me.

This is infinitely more terrible to me than if I were to die so that you could have peace.

What must I do?

I totally agree with you that we should never speak to each other again about the unconscious.

I am going to Locarno, and hope that new sensations and time when I will not be seeing you will help to clarify the situation.

At the moment my mind is on fire and I write mechanically.

And then I have this idea:

when at university I felt a justifiable rage, Miss Tloroff said that I had ‘blood-spattered boys before my eyes’.

The phrase is from Boris Godounov, Pushkin’s celebrated work; it is an image which is often used when somebody is really furious.

But why did this phrase come to my mind just then?

Another follows immediately: ‘yes, wretched is he who does not have a pure conscience’, taken

from the same monologue.

You probably know that Boris Godounov was a Russian Tsar; though he only ruled for six years, his reign was beneficial to Russia, at a very troubled period. He was certainly not an ordinary person.

But not being of the tsarist line, in order to seize power, he had to have the young heir to the throne (a child of nine) murdered.

That child was the son of Ivan the Terrible, and his future could well be imagined.

In Pushkin’s tragedy, Boris Godounov is a very kind person. His real gifts are in proportion to his

passion to rule.

Listen to his monologue: ‘It is now six years that I have been on the throne and my soul does not know peace’ etc., … ‘O my people! I wanted to obtain for you wealth and glory, win your love by looking after you, but I have had to renounce my folly: the masses do not understand the great when they are

alive, they only respect the dead’.

It is then that the mention of blood-spattered boys and a bad conscience comes.

Briefly, he died soon after in a popular uprising (a natural death; cf. what you say about death when it happens at the right time) and later his two children were murdered.

I am evidently disturbed by not having a clear conscience, but it is only an impression, for I am not afraid.

Fate takes its vengeance on the Tsar.

As a matter of fact, my crime would be that of borrowing you from your wife, but after all it is also my man that is being borrowed, and momentarily I do not care at all!

Besides, what am I saying? I do not have the least desire to borrow you from your wife! ‘It does not pay to frighten foxes, as is well=known; if you wish to protect your poultry-yard, watch over it well!’

That is the devil whispering in my ear. That will do!

This business is getting me down.

My soul has lost its softness. The devil won’t let me talk.

  1. III

I am so tired of turning things over and over in my mind continuously!

Should I write this or should I not, as I do not want to read this letter again?

And yet, I had to write it!

For I cannot bear you to speak to me in this way: either we decide that we no longer discuss such areas, or if we do discuss them, I must respond to your remarks as I see fit.

My wishes cannot of course change as a result of one conversation, because there needs to be a long period of conscious reflection for it to be effective.

But my wish has never been formulated thus: ‘I want to bear you a child’; for this means first of all: ‘I agree to give you up for good’.

And this seems possible to me only in those isolated moments when I feel deeply offended by you; it is then that the desire to have a child by you dominates everything.

But, otherwise, I cannot do it, and that is why I myself fight rather strongly against the complex.

I am usually frightened by the thought that our relationship might no longer be as beautiful as happens with the most unselfish friendship.

But at the same time there are moments when the fact that I will never have a child by you seems unbearable to me.

When the time comes for me to take my final leave of you … then I do not know…

But that is not yet for tomorrow; we do not know what fate reserves for us and I do not exclude the possibility that I may fall in love with somebody else; and that you have, where I am concerned, another destiny.

It is the devil that makes me talk thus to you because just now the devil is oppressed.

You would be highly mistaken if you believe that I correlate my happiness with a great destiny.

I have never believed that my son was destined for me; I know too well that he will have his own life to live and that he belongs to me as little as I do to my parents.

It is then that I realize how alone I am.

But one must not think of oneself; the dark powers of destiny use us as they see fit, without worrying the least about the person’s own wishes …


1.The extracts first appeared in French, translated from the German by Jeanne Moll, in Le Bloc-Notes de la psychanalyse, 1983, No. 3.  They are in three parts, most probably written at different dates.

‘Love, death and transformation’ was the title given by Jeanne Moll to the French translation. The German documents are in the private archives of the descendants of E. Claparède.  Page 156-170