Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fathoming Freud 13

Two Sides of the One Coin:

Transference is one of the essential Freudian categories par excellence in my opinion.  As a trainee psychotherapist, I am very aware of this reality, and of its brother-in-arms counter-transference, of which I will write in the next paragraph.   The author I’m discussing in these posts, Mark Edmundson, is singularly insightful into both transference and counter-transference.


Freud had begun his career as a medical doctor, and hence it is not to difficult to understand that he essentially saw himself as a “healer” and often referred to himself as such.  Freud had used many techniques throughout his long career, hypnotism (very early in his practice), free association (somewhat later), dream-interpretation (most of his career) and then what he termed “the transference” (late career).  Let us read the illuminating words of Edmundson here:

With one case in particular, late in his life, Freud had reportedly become aggravated.  When the patient did not make progress after weeks and weeks, Freud cried out in frustration “You do not think that it is worth your while to love an old man.”  In the final phase of therapeutic practice – the mode of healing that Freud finally settled upon after trying a number of others – love was, in fact, the heart of everything… Freud now put himself, the physician, at the centre of the drama.  He became an analyst of what he called “the transference.” (The Death of Freud, 209)

Transference is where the patients transfer their love for their significant others onto the therapist.  Let me explain.  He believed that the patient transferred feelings, once directed to the mother and the father, and later to other figures of authority, onto the person of the psychiatrist, psychotherapist or counsellor.  Let us return to Edmundson’s insightful comments here once again:

From the transference of feelings, the analyst can learn the dynamics of the patient’s erotic life.  All the failures and sorrows that have been part of his past relations with objects of desire and authority will in time be manifest in what Freud thought of as “the theatre of the transference.”… Finally, because the analyst does not reciprocate, but instead analyses the offering of love from a detached disciplined position, he can help the patient see his old frustrating patterns [of behaviour]. (Ibid., 209-210)

All our relations, it would seem, are repetitions of old prototypes, and probably mirror our original attachment styles to our mothers.  The relationship of love, then, Eros, between Freud and his patients was indeed intense, but never reciprocated.  It was always, one-wayFreud, unlike Carl Gustave Jung, who often fell in love with his patients and indeed had sexual relations with some of them, always remained on guard and was able to analyze his own counter-transference, and in so doing disempowered it.


Freud realised that we were all sick – doctor or therapist as well as patient.  he was singularly alert to his own weaknesses and to his own transference onto the patient, viz., counter-transference.  Let us return finally to Edmundson:

At one point during Dora’s analysis, Freud, caught in what he would call the “counter-transference,” the web of fantasies the analyst spins about the patient, concluded that what she wanted most was a kiss – and from no one other than himself. (Ibid., 105)

But mostly Freud was a cold and clinical observer, and his consulting room was a sort of laboratory where he often regarded patients as repositories of data – very fascinating data at that, too.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fathoming Freud 12


Freud and Jung

Having read some few books by the contemporary English philosopher John Gray I am more than content to accept that humankind is just another species of animal; and, indeed, I am quite taken with his description of us “beings” as “human animals.”  Even the term “being” is an abstraction, and after all abstractions are what the “human animal” is more than good at.  Granted we are human animals, but animals with intellect and imagination, capable of building wonderful worlds both in our imaginations and in reality.  Be that as it may, taking my cue from Gray I do quite readily accept that we have vastly overrated our importance in the scheme of things; that we have all too easily, and quite necessarily, invented religions, moralities, codes of behaviours, ethics and all else that belongs to our wonderful imaginings, viz., civilizations or cultures, call these imaginings what you will.

Then, with the essence of the first paragraph firmly as a backdrop let us allow Freud and Jung to walk across this constructed stage.  They were to explore the human mind or psyche at a new depth – hence both their individual therapies lie in the field of depth psychology.  While Freud certainly neither invented nor even discovered the “reality” of what we term the unconscious.  Rather, what the founder of psychoanalysis did was to explore its reality scientifically by taking on clients or patients who had problems to resolve in their lives.  Jung was to be Freud’s bright-eyed boy, the one he had singled out as the most talented of his early followers and the likeliest to take over from the founder and continue his thought and therapy into perpetuity.


As anyone who enters therapy or who studies psychology in depth will admit, sexuality is problematic for all – for every single human animal.  After all, we are animals, admittedly intelligent ones, but animals nonetheless.  Biologists have long allowed for the existence of bisexuality among all animal species – so it is not unusual that it would exist at least as prevalently among the human species as in any other species.  Most biographers, and indeed both Freud and Jung themselves in a few places, that they were somewhat bisexual.  Here is the way Edmundson puts this:

Freud was also prone to fall for men.  His involvements with his mentors, men like Wilhelm Fliess and Josef Breuer, have a lover’s intensity, and his eventual breaks with them have the drama of erotic terminations.  He brought the same passion to his relations with his disciples.  Jung, whom he hoped would inherit his role as the head of the psychoanalytical movement – Freud liked to refer to him as the “crown prince” – was genuinely beloved by Freud.  When they quarrelled and eventually went their separate ways, Freud’s world shuddered.  (The Death of Sigmund Freud, 16-17)

It is also interesting to read that Freud seated his close followers – Karl Abraham, Sandor Ferenczi, and Carl Jung -around the table, with himself at the head, like a monarch surrounded by his elite commanders.  In time, he gave some of them rings to seal their special fellowship and he often called them his sons.

Freud’s break with Jung

Needless to say such intense relationships of shared knowledge could not last very long for certain strong character types.  The “crown prince”, that is Carl Jung, while he learnt much from the founder of psychoanalysis, began to think for himself and develop his own theories.  Freud, who was nothing if not dogmatic, did not countenance such disagreements with his main theses (his dogmas).  It is ironic indeed that the founder of psychoanalysis, who did much to deconstruct authority, authoritarianism and patriarchy, should himself be so authoritarian with respect to his own views of psychoanalysis.  Jung would disagree with the old patriarch on many issues, but none as significant and as controversial for Freud as the nature of the unconscious itself.  For Jung, the unconscious was not the cess-pit of repressed desires and ancient instincts.  Rather, he saw it as a veritable repository of the collective wisdom – as well as being a cesspit, too -  of the race – therein one met through one’s dreams the great figures and symbols of the ages – all the wise men, women, even children, wizards of all types and all the characters of the ancient myths.  With attention to these images, they would surrender up their wisdom.  Here is what Edmundson says:

That Jung, who had learnt all he knew from Freud, was ready to announce, in his gypsy way, that the unconscious was more sane and creative than the conscious mind – to Freud, this was too much to bear.  Look outside in the street now, look into Vienna, where the unconscious, unmediated by any sane authority, is having its day, and see what you think, Freud might have reflected during those March weeks, for his thoughts, even many years after the break, were often full of Jung. (Ibid., 64)

Jung on Hitler 

Jung is somewhat disappointing with respect to the Nazis, though he never belonged to the party or wrote any major anti-Semitic work.  Indeed, he staunchly defended himself after the War in this regard, and mostly we are convinced by him.  However, a little doubt remains, but it is a doubt insofar as we would be doubtful of our own individual stances against the hateful Nazi machine were we to live during those times.  After all, we all look to “saving our own bacon.”  None of us would call attention to ourselves in such times.  Hence, we shan’t condemn Jung for being all too “human” after all.  However, Jung did fall into step with the Nazis.  In other words, he never condemned them, but went along with them.  Like Freud he was in no sense surprised at the rise of Nazism as he, too, would have seen it as the eruption of the German unconscious.  In this respect, Jung (I would call him a Gnostic Christian) would write of Hitler, and the atheistic Jew Freud would agree:

“I saw pictures of him taken in the Czechoslovakian crisis; there was in his eyes the look of a seer… Hitler is the mirror of every German’s unconscious… He is the loudspeaker which magnifies the inaudible whispers of the German soul until they can be heard by the German’s unconscious ear.” (Quoted, ibid., 181)

I was not a little angry with Jung for his pro-Nazi statements here and there in his works.  Again, let me remind you, that he did defend himself very well.  Also, I remind myself often with the question as to whether any one of us would have done differently.  After all he did not want to call attention to himself or to cause any stopping of the rise of his own particular school of psychotherapy which he called analytical psychologyJung openly spoke of “The Aryan unconscious” deliberately to curry favour with the Nazis and also stated that it had “a higher potential than the Jewish; that is the advantage and the disadvantage of a youthfulness not yet fully estranged from barbarism.” (Quoted ibid., 44)  At least, the second part of this sentence is redeeming somewhat insofar as it admits that the Aryan consciousness is not yet too far from barbarism.  So in a way, this is a half-hearted praise of “Aryanism.”  However, our disappointment with Jung still remains, but as I said above, it is the disappointment that we, too, own, because we would, more than likely, not have acted otherwise.

A Last Word:

Freud proclaimed, as I have said many times in these posts, that the mind is essentially at conflict with itself.  This inner conflict is often projected out onto the world and hence we get the many disagreements among humankind which inevitably lead to war and bloodshed.   Unlike Freud, Jung affirmed “inner peace” which was achievable through Eastern meditation, contemplative practices and through drama, literature, music and creativity in general.

Freud and Jung - outside Clarke University, I think, in 1909. I could be incorrect here.