Freud and Jung (Review)

Just when I moved away from my posts on Jung, I picked up my copy of “Freud and Jung: Years of Friendship, Years of Loss”(1990) by Linda Donn. This was my second reading and I had forgotten how appropriately succinct and enlightening it was. At under 200 pages, Donn has done a terrific job of using interview material and correspondences among the inner circles of Jung and Freud – particularly between Freud and Jung. The net effect of the correspondences reaffirms most of what I have already covered in my post on the reasons behind the split between Jung and Freud, though there is one feature of Freud’s thinking and actions which I did not adequately discuss: his consistent, dogged diplomatic attempts to keep Jung within the fold of the psychoanalytic movement.

In one of Jung’s letters to Freud, he cautiously initiates some of his reluctance to address why he is beginning to distance himself from Freud: “I still have resistances to writing to you at the right time… The reason for the resistance is my father-complex, my inability to come up to expectations, (one’s own garbage, says the devil).” (p.119) In response, Donn says, “Freud did his best not to pressure Jung. He tried not to write too often or too soon. He would save a letter and mail it after a safe interval. Or send it right away and explain that psychoanalytic business had made the letter necessary. But once in a while he would chastise Jung. Freud wrote: ‘I am merely irritated now and then- I may say that much, I trust – that you have not yet disposed of the resistances arising from your father-complex, and subsequently limit our correspondence so much more than you would otherwise. Just rest easy, son Alexander.'(likely referring to Alexander the Great). ‘I will leave you more to conquer than I myself have managed, all psychiatry and the approval of the civilized world, which regards me as a savage.'” (p.119)

I believe that Freud had already sensed Jung’s backing away from the sexual libido theory and he needed to carefully cultivate Jung’s commitment to the psychoanalytic movement, since Freud still believes Jung is his only viable heir.

Dunn continues: “But after each flare up there was calm again. Disagreements over definitions of the libido and the frequency of their correspondence were tempered with humor. mild reproach and the inevitable apology, and quickly lost among other, more immediate concerns.” (p.119)

Leading up to the 1910 Congress to be held in Nuremberg, Freud was beginning to sense possible disaffections from his attempts to keep the psychoanalytic movement alive among the Christian Swiss. At the last minute during final Congress planning with Jung , Freud finds out that Jung has sailed to America to see a patient. Donn writes, “Freud leaned that another Swiss friend, Oskar Pfister, would not be able to attend the Congress. ‘I still have not got over your not coming to Nuremburg,’ Freud told Pfister in alarm. ‘Bleurer is not coming either, and Jung is in America, so that I am trembling about his return. What will happen if my Zurichers desert me?'”(p.120)

Meanwhile, the Viennese analysts attending the Congress were upset that Freud was promoting Jung to head up the international movement and they gathered at a closed door meeting during the Congress to stage a protest. Donn says, “When Freud learned of the protest meeting, he went at once to Stekel’s room. Accounts differed over what happened next; Franz Wittels’ was the most restrained. ‘Most of you are Jews’ he remembered Freud saying, ‘and therefore you are incompetent to win friends for the new teaching. Jews must be content with the modest role of preparing the ground. It is absolutely essential that I should form ties in the world of general science. I am getting on in years and am weary of being perpetually attacked. We are all in danger… They won’t even leave me a coat to my back. The Swiss will save us – save me, and all of you as well.'” (p.122)

Psychoanalysis would not have taken off and had such an impact if it were not for Freud’s persistence and attempts at diplomatically bridging the gaps of various idealogical and power groups among the eastern and western European analysts. Another example of this is referred to by Donn, ” It was not for pleasure that Freud had made the long journey to Bavaria at Christmastime in 1910. The psychoanalytic movement had suffered serious setbacks since the Nuremberg Congress, particularly in Switzerland. Bleuler, who had been among the first to acknowledge Freud’s theories, now refused, along with most of the Swiss, to join the new organization dedicated to Freud’s psychoanalysis. Bleuler’s influence over his Swiss colleagues was significant, and his stature in academic psychology would have lent Freud’s association an austere luster. Here in Munich, amid the robust festivities of the German Christmas, Freud would do his best to win him back.” (p.125) Apparently, Jung had only slight influence among the Swiss at this time, so Freud needed Bleuler.

Meanwhile Freud was taking a risk by placing most of his trust and hopes in Jung. Donn says, ” The precarious future of the analytic movement now depended, through attrition and by design, on one-man: Carl Jung.” {p. 127) Even when it became progressively obvious that Jung was wavering in his support for the libido theory, Freud went out of his way to accommodate some of Jung’s suggested “adjustments”. Donn says, ” Despite Freud’s reservations about tampering with the libido theory, he did his best to be open-minded. When Jung wrote him, ‘the essential point is that I try to replace the descriptive concept of libido by a generic one’, Freud had a ready answer. ‘ I am all in favor of your attacking the libido question and I myself am expecting much light from your efforts. Often , it seems, I can go for a long while without feeling the need to clarify an obscure point, and then one day I am compelled to by the pressure of facts or by the influence of someone else’s ideas.'” (p.141) This statement seems quite different from the pictures often painted about Freud’s stubborn insistence on complete adherence to his sexual libido theory. Unfortunately it seems it was too late to pull Jung back from his own ambitions. Donn says, “It seemed to Freud that he had reached the end of a rope. ‘I certainly knew about his ambition’, he wrote to Ferenczi, ‘but I hoped to have pressed this power into my service through the position I created for him and am still preparing. The prospect of doing everything myself as long as I live and then failing to leave behind a worthy successor to carry on, is not very comforting.'”(p.141)

Freud was beginning to panic over the possible defection of Jung and other Swiss and he needed to be sure he could at least insure his hold on his closest allies. Donn says, “In the spring of 1913, it was by no means certain who in the end would stand at the side of Freud and at the side of Jung. The question included not only Oskar Pfister and Ludwig Binswanger, men who were expected as Swiss to be torn in their loyalties between their countryman, Carl Jung, and the man they loved and admired, Sigmund Freud. Questions of loyalty surrounded even the members of Freud’s secret council. Only three years before, Ernest Jones had vacillated over Freud’s theory of sexuality. Now, under Jung’s leadership, he and others were offered a strong alternative. Jones appeared to have been won completely to the cause, but Freud was uneasy at times. ‘I am not at all contented’, he would complain to Jones, ‘that you bear Jung’s insolence without remonstrating’. Freud was even briefly unsure of Karl Abraham. ‘Abraham has been here for three days’, Freud wrote on one occasion. ‘I am not informed how far Rank succeeded in gaining him to join our band’. Freud would give gold rings to the members of his secret committee, symbols of loyalty, and Karl Abraham would receive one of them.” (p.164) The members of Freud’s secret Committee included, Otto Rank, Karl Abraham, Max Eitington, Ernest Jones, Sandor Ferenczi, and Hanns Sachs. Among these most loyal followers, even Otto Rank and eventually Sandor Ferenczi changed their positions regarding the sexual libido theory. Rank broke with Freud, while Ferenczi remained a friend. Jones became Freud’s first biographer and translated many of Freud’s writings into English. Abraham, Eitington, and Sachs remained loyal.

Much has been written about the politics of the psychoanalytic movement and it is clear from Donn’s research into the correspondence between Jung and Freud and between Freud and his other colleagues, that Freud used all of his persuasive powers to shape and promote psychoanalysis into one of the most influential ideas in human history.