By Anthony Wilson, M. Phil
I have been reading The Freud/Jung Letters: the correspondence between Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung, edited by William McGuire, reissued by Routledge and The Hogarth Press. ISBN 0-415-11982-0.
Freud’s Warmth: the cure is effected by love
This book illuminates the personality of these two great persons through their correspondence mainly between 1907 and 1913. In 1907 Freud was 51 and Jung was 32. I warmed to Freud more and more as I read through the book. To the Freud who said slightly awkwardly, Essentially, one might say, the cure is effected by love. (8F); to the self analytic Freud who said, … I have always fell that there is something about my personality, my ideas and manner of speaking that people find strange and repellent …; to the Freud who generously added … but all hearts open to you … (42F) and to the Freud who confessed “… the indifference and incomprehension of my closest friends, about the terrifying moments when I myself thought I had gone astray and was wondering how I might still make my misled life useful to my family …” (42F). Here was a man to respect, a Psychotherapist’s Psychotherapist. Here was someone who had gained personal integrity through suffering and self-acceptance.
Jung’s Ego Defenses
A terrifying moment comes to most of us when positive transference dissolves and we realise our heroes have feet of clay. Our parents, our teachers, our gurus are human. We stand alone, the scales fallen from our eyes, while others continue their projections, the very projections we so recently had. Then a strange, heady cocktail of emotions arises in our soul: anger at being “sucked in”, disgust with our recent discipleship. Idealization turns to Devaluation. We remain as split as ever, but we don’t see it of course. Affect is still there, our ex-hero remains at the centre of our feeling-toned complex, only our feelings have changed. We witness this process at work in Jung. We see the inflation that his deep self awareness has brought. One by one he “slags” the respected figures in psychiatry, psychoanalysis and psychology.
Of Pierre Janet (1859-1947), from whom he was later to borrow the term fonction du réel to describe his concept of the Sensation Function, he says I had a talk with Janet and was very disappointed. He has only the most primitive knowledge of Dem. pr. [Dementia Praecox the former term for Schizophrenia]. Of the latest happenings, he understands nothing at all. He is stuck in his groove and is, be it said in passing, merely an intellect but not a personality, a hollow causer and a typical bourgeois … These people [at the Salpétrière in Paris] are 50 years behind the times. (33J). The delegates at the 1907 Congress, Amsterdam were a ghastly crowd reeking of vanity, Janet the worst of the lot. Jung spent a term at the Salpétrière Hospital (1902-1903) studying psychopathology under Janet. From 1905 Jung had been lecturing at Zurich University on the work of Janet, principally in hypnosis. Jung was to write at the end of his life in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, his autobiography, … the work of Pierre Janet provided me with a wealth of stimulation and stimuli. Jung also devalued Eugen Bleuler, his first boss. Perhaps this was evidence of the Father Complex that Jung said he didn’t have. While Jung’s letters to Freud are dotted with negative allusions and criticisms to his former teachers and colleagues, Freud is the more charitable. He attempts to soothe Jung’s bitterness. For example, when he writes, Even if he is not our friend, Oppenheim is a very decent fellow. (61F)
Jung – victim or survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse?
I came across a startling revelation in 49J. It may help to explain why sexuality figures less in Jung’s work. Actually – and I confess this to you with a struggle – I have a boundless admiration for you both as a man and a researcher, and I bear you no conscious grudge. So the self-preservation complex does not come from there; it is rather that my veneration for you has something of the character of a “religious” crush. Though it does not really bother me, I still feel it is disgusting and ridiculous because of its undeniable, erotic undertone. This abominable feeling comes from the fact that as a boy I was the victim of a sexual assault by a man I once worshipped. Freud replied in a similar spirit of self disclosure, illustrating the tenderness, male bonding and intimacy between this “Father and Son” pair. My old religiosity had secretly found in you a compensating factor which I had to come to terms with eventually, and I was able to do so only by telling you about it. In this way I hoped to prevent it from interfering with my behaviour in general. Analysis by post!
The two often wrote of their cases. Freud’s letter 22F headed A Few Theoretical Remarks on Paranoia was exceptionally difficult for me to understand. Freud said he sweated blood over it. Some pages further on Jung admitted he couldn’t understand much of it. Both men show their powerful and perceptive clinical observations. For example, Jung on Otto Gross, one of Kraepelin’s assistants.
The last three weeks we worked only with very early infantile material. Little by little I came to the melancholy realization that although the infantile complexes could all be described and understood, and although the patient had momentary insights into them, they were nevertheless overwhelmingly powerful, being permanently fixated and drawing their affects from inexhaustible depths. With a tremendous effort on both sides to achieve insight and empathy we were able to stop the leak for a moment; the next moment it opened up again. All these moments of profound empathy left not a trace behind them; they quickly became insubstantial, shadowy memories. There is no development, no psychological yesterday for him; the events of early childhood remain eternally new and operative, so that notwithstanding all the time and all the analysis he reacts to today’s events like a 6-year-old boy, for whom the wife is always the mother, every friend, every one who wishes him well or ill always the father, and whose world of a boyish fantasy filled with heaven knows what monstrous possibilities. I am afraid you will already have read from my words the diagnosis I long refused to believe and which I now see before me with terrifying clarity: Dem. praec. [Schizophrenia] (98J)
Origins of “False Memory Syndrome”?
I was intrigued by the throwaway remarks like Freud’s observation, Nurses are often sadists in disguise. (77F) An astute observation on Wounded and Wounding Heroes or perhaps Projection at work in a casual remark from one doctor to another. Another that caused me to reflect was Freud’s Myth and neurosis have a common core. (106F) In these letters we see evidence of the painfilled debate that has rumbled on down the years in psychotherapy and has exploded today: are memories of abuse real or symbolic – or as some would insist – “false”. In your six year old girl, you must surely have discovered in the meantime that the attack is a fantasy that has become conscious, something that is regularly disclosed in analysis and which misled me into assuming the existence of generalized traumas in childhood. (25F)
Jung comes across as someone who cannot control himself, his Father complex up and running. Freud seems reasonable, polite and good natured. Jung may see in Freud a reflection of his own anger and confusion. Compare Freud’s helpful tone admitting a bit of neurosis (329F) with Jung’s attacking style (330J) headed This letter is a brazen attempt to accustom you to my style. So look out! Later he writes, … I am forced to the painful conclusion that the majority of ψAsts [Psychoanalysts] misuse ψA [psychoanalysis] for the purpose of devaluing others and their progress by insinuations about complexes (as though that explained anything. A wretched theory!) A particular preposterous bit of nonsense now going the rounds is that my libido theory is the product of analeroticism. When I consider who cooked up this “theory” I fear for the future of analysis. I want no infantile outpourings of libidinal appreciation or admiration from ψAsts, merely an appreciation of my ideas. Here is a man in pain, who had done his fair share of using psychoanalysis to attack colleagues.
Freud makes this telling observation: It is a convention among us analysts that none of us need feel ashamed of his own bit of neurosis. But one who while behaving abnormally keeps shouting that he is normal gives ground for suspicion that he lacks insight into his illness. (342F). Jung counters with You surely know that the understanding of A truths is in direct proportion to the progress one has made in oneself. If one has neurotic symptoms there will be a failure of understanding somewhere. Where, past events have already shown. So if I offer you the unvarnished truth it is meant for your good, even though it may hurt. (434J)
Resistance to the Father
With hindsight many would say that Freud was right. Jung was suffering at the time. Later in 1913, as he puts it in his autobiography, he was menaced by a psychosis. Some might say he succumbed; Grof might term it Spiritual Emergency; Jung was to say, in 1950, it was metanioa, a mental transformation. Many would say he pulled through. Both men went on to produce key works. It is arguably to society’s advantage that Freud and Jung clashed and split. Today we can rejoice in the “split offs”, like Adler, Otto Rank, Wilhelm Reich, Sandor Ferenczi. And it keeps happening in the analytic world with every generation. This book, for me, tells of that first great split. Others will see different things in it. Ultimately, says Ken Wilber, we must all be disappointed with our fathers.
The Freud and Jung families wanted the letters published without commentary and this has been done in this beautifully annotated work but as editor Maguire says, The dialogue inevitably tempts analytical and psychoanalytical interpretation, philosophical rumination over its beginnings and its effects and its “meaning”, and the weighing up of its aggressions, projections, magnanimities, shafts of wisdom, seminal particles and whatever else could be put into the balance. Whereas Maguire could not comment on the correspondence, others have provided just such an analysis. I can recommend Schultz, D (1990) Intimate Friends, Dangerous Rivals published by Jeremy P Tarcher, Los Angeles ISBN 0-87477-549-J.
I found the index less helpful than I would have liked, but this is a minor, and my only, criticism. Posterity will be grateful for this work. The Freud/Jung Letters is good reading for Jungians who don’t know much about Freud and for Freudians who don’t know much about Jung. It is fascinating reading for those who are interested in two of the most influential persons of this age.