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A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein Paperback – August 2, 1994

4.2 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This exciting study sheds much new light on the vexed Jung-Freud partnership and on the current status of psychoanalysis. At its hub is Sabina Spielrein (1886-1941), one of the first women psychoanalysts, whom Jung treated for hysteria when she was 18. She evidently fell in love with Jung, and he broke off their intense relationship to avert public scandal. Spielrein found in Freud a friend and mentor, confiding to him the details of her attachment to Jung. Kerr, a clinical psychologist and historian, asserts that Freud attempted to use what he knew about Jung's personal life to exert ideological control over the psychoanalytic movement. In Kerr's scenario, Jung apparently was aware of Freud's secret affair with his sister-in-law Minna Bernays--an affair which is denied by many biographiers, but that Kerr defends as plausible based on Jung's explicit testimony and on recent scholarship. It was after Jung threatened to retaliate by revealing what he knew about Freud's personal life, Kerr maintains, that their collaboration dissolved. He argues that both men had an opportunity to make psychoanalysis an open, scientifically grounded discipline, but instead succumbed to ambition, dogma and personal animus. Kerr also charges that Freud and Jung suppressed Spielrein's own fertile theory of the unconscious, which conceived of sexuality as fusion rather than pleasure.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Spielrein, one of the first women psychoanalysts, was Jung's patient, student, and lover; later, she was Freud's colleague in Vienna. Her diary and letters were previously discussed in Aldo Carotenuto's A Secret Symmetry: Sabina Spielrein Between Jung and Freud ( LJ 5/15/82). Using these and other sources, including Jung's letters to Spielrein, clinical psychologist and historian Kerr reconstructs Spielrein's relationship with Jung and Freud, portraying her as an influential if peripheral figure during their period of collaboration. Kerr has written a fascinating history of psychoanalysis focusing on its origin as a clinical method of psychotherapy. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.
- Lucille Boone, San Jose P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (August 2, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679735801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679735809
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Isn't it strange that although this well-researched and readable book has been out ten years now, not a single analyst, Jungian or Freudian, has reviewed it here?
During my training as a depth psychologist I heard and read a lot about the Freud-Jung relationship, about its shattering on the rocks of politicking and father complexes, and a bit about the unfortunate Sabina Spielrein, one-time patient of Jung. At this point nobody in the field is shocked to hear about the Founding Fathers having sex with their patients, however inappropriate or damaging it may have been (Freud seems to have been a rare exception to this kind of acting out).
What's troubling to read in this book is not so much Jung's having an affair with Spielrein--harmful enough all by itself--but the casual brutality in how he handled it: the resumption of it after she had attacked him and asked Freud for help, Jung's lame excuses for dropping her (even telling her at one point that he'd displaced an attraction to Freud's daughter onto Sabina--how nice), the coldness of his self-justification to Sabina's mother when she found out via letter from Emma Jung (basically: no fee was charged, so it wasn't really that bad--but if you wish to discuss it, that'll be ten francs an hour).... The shocking, manipulative sadism of Jung's repeated betrayals of Spielrein might make difficult reading for those who revere him, even granting that they took place before Jung's "confrontation with the unconscious."
The book also sheds light on the human background of Jung's theories about the anima. Plenty here for feminist critics.
Kerr also makes a convincing case for Freud's affair with his sister-in-law Minna, although this reader is not entirely sold on it (allow me to keep at least one post-doctoral illusion!).
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Format: Paperback
Not a trained psychologist, but familiar enough with the tenets of psychoanalysis to appreciate the treatment's genesis and evolution. It's a wonder it survived the maelstrom of personality and cult that surrounded its founders. I did not know much about Spielrien, and i have a sense that her romantic connection to Jung conflates her contribution to the methodology, and that she will be remembered now as the muse to Jung rather than as an intellectual equal. The love affair's anecdotes and her letters will likely propel the upcoming movie forward and helped to sell the book. The correspondence between Jung and Freud is quite interesting, and I really enjoyed their struggle to remain colleagues, even as they try to wrest control of the movement from the other's grip. Their attempts at sincerity and candid self effacement, alternate with Jung's naive willingness to broaden the international dialogue, while Freud imperiously and arbitrarily asserts his authority to delimit the inner sanctum. Beautifully written, and exhaustively researched, the author elegantly synthesizes the written historic record and adds his reasonable and intelligent voice to draw discerning conclusions. Can't imagine the movie could equal any part of this excellent book.
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By A Customer on May 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
For a very solid piece of research, the book is a surprisingly easy read and gripping. Beneath the text, the author subtly raises important social questions for our times. Reflected through the personal histories and theories of Freud, Jung, and Spielrein, Kerr reveals both what was novel and liberating in psychoanalysis (the centrality of sexuality) and what was constricting to the three of them (the practical need to be preoccupied with themselves and their various careers). In this, he raises a very contemporary issue: though love remains desired by all, it is deeply problematical in the face of our culture's particular need for self-preservation.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this after seeing the 2011 eponymous movie ("A Dangerous Method") which stirred me to get more information about the people in it, especially Spielrein, Gross, Jung, & Freud. Although my PhD is in clinical psychology and I went through a long psychoanalysis ("ego psychology flavor"), all that was before much of the information presented in this book was uncovered and came to light.

Kerr's book is based on his PhD dissertation and sometimes seems not far removed from that style. It has patches, like puddles after a scattered heavy rain, that are extremely detailed and which would be tedious reading for any but, e.g., the very few needing those details for their references such as the master's thesis on which they're working. However one can skip over those sections and resume reading where the text resumes a more narrative approach. I'm not sorry at all that I read the book and appreciate that it supplied most of the information I wanted as well as spurring me to find out more.
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Format: Paperback
I haven't much to add about Kerr's book that hasn't already been said. I am writing to take issue with a virulent slander repeated by a reviewer here under the name "meuberger", claiming Jung was an anti-Semite, etc. Those in a position to know have already dispatched this libel.

For the record, Jung was not anti-Semitic and he did not sympathize or collaborate with Nazis--on the contrary his life and work were devoted to freeing the individual from all forms of madness, including collective psychosis such as occurred in Europe in 1914, and again in the rise of Nazism. But anyone who is truly familiar with Jung's life and works knows that.

For example Aryeh Maidenbaum in the NY Times:

"Analyzing Jung: Neither Nazi Sympathizer Nor Anti-Semite"

"To the Editor:
I am pleased that, finally, the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung is getting the recognition of your readers (letters March 15, April 15 and May 3). Unfortunately, the messenger has become more important than the message, for there are those who persist in perpetrating secondary sources, innuendoes and out-of-context material to slander a man who, while not without his own ''shadow,'' was certainly neither a Nazi sympathizer nor an advocate of Jewish inferiority....

"It is true, I believe, that the timing of Jung's ideas leave a lot to be desired - something acknowledged by Jung himself. But I for one, a committed Jew who was first exposed to Jung's ideas while living in Jerusalem and who subsequently trained as an analyst of the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich - under the tutelage of Jung's Jewish disciples, among others - do not believe that Jung himself was personally anti-Semitic.
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