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The confrontation between Jung and Freud (December 1912)

The circumstances of Jung’s dissidence, as well as the nature of the theoretical differences between Jung and Freud, are well-documented. We will therefore limit ourselves to quoting a short sequence illustrating the subjective violence of their imminent separation. In a letter sent to Freud in mid-December 1912, Jung made a significant slip of the pen. Wanting to say that even Adler’s cronies do not recognise him as “one of theirs,” he in fact writes “one of yours.” When Freud answers the letter, on December 16, he can’t resist pointing out this slip, which betrays Jung’s mixed feelings about belonging to the Freudian community. Admittedly, Freud’s outlandish interpretation was unpleasant, and the violence of the context caused Jung to react in a symptomatically excessive fashion, which itself raises questions. On December 18, Jung wrote:

I would, however, point out that your technique of treating your pupils like patients is a blunder, in that way you produce either slavish sons or impudent puppies (Adler-Stekel and the whole insolent gang now throwing their weight about in Vienna).

Jung is not mincing his words.

Thus, in this period when Ferenczi is asking Freud to treat him as an analysand, even as a patient needing his help, Jung, on the contrary, accuses Freud of misusing the analytic authority he personifies. He is vehement, and his attitude is almost persecutory. “I am objective enough to see through your little trick.” He sees the abuse inflicted by Freud as consisting of a unilateral art of interpretation Freud deploys outside the analytic setting, generating harmful psychic consequences: “You go around sniffing out all the symptomatic actions in your vicinity, thus reducing everyone to the level of sons and daughters who blushingly admit the existence of their faults.” And he gets carried away: “Meanwhile you remain on top as the father, sitting pretty.” Despite its symptomatic aspect, this uninvited evaluation contains a grain of truth:

For sheer obsequiousness nobody dares to pluck the prophet by the beard and inquire for once what you would say to a patient with a tendency to analyse the analyst instead of himself. You would certainly ask him: “Who’s got the neurosis?”

Although this metaphor is too confrontational and forced, even interpretative, it nevertheless raises fundamental questions, quite close in nature to those which preoccupy Ferenczi.

Jung’s allusion to the submissive and obsequious position of Freud’s pupils vis-a-vis the eminent figure of their teacher brings to mind Ferenczi’s conunents on group pathology, in his text “On the Organisation of the Psychoanalytic Movement.” Jung’s remark also resembles Ferenczi’s subsequent description of the superego of certain analysts, the ones Freud called “Obedient.” Indeed, this discussion concerns not only the question of the analysis of the analyst, but also the iconoclastic question of the analysis of the one who embodies analytic authority. Freud is referred back to his own neurosis, left unanalysed. In his impassioned remarks, Jung cannot avoid the dramatic visual metaphor already suggested in the previous allusion to a “technique,” the technique of pointing to something that must be elucidated. Carried away, he builds his metaphor to a climax: “You see, my dear Professor, so long as you hand out this stuff I don’t give a damn for my symptomatic actions; they shrink to nothing in comparison with the formidable beam in my brother Freud’s eye.” Far from subtle, these remarks now reach the height of violence in this metaphoric reversal where Freud is the one pointed to, not in his position as the model father, but in his nudity as neurotic brother.

Carried away by his rage, Jung goes so far as to take a peremptory tone, to better express his denial: “I am not in the least neurotic - touch wood!” In support of his declaration of good mental health, Jung presents an irrefutable argument: “I have submitted lege artis et tout humblement to analysis and am much better for it.” We are not concerned here with the truth of this claim of analysis, or of the reference to respecting the proper rules. What matters is the conclusion of the argument, which sends Freud back to his initial and much earlier self-analysis, which obviously was not a proper analytic process, since such a process was yet to be established. Jung uses this fact as an attempt to embarrass Freud: “You know, of course, how far a patient gets with self-analysis: not out of his neurosis - just like you.”

Of course, it is impossible not to hear in these skillfully sardonic arguments the underlying appeal of the author of the letter, and the passion expressed, which reminds us that under the theoretical disagreements other factors are at stake, such as the conscious and unconscious affective currents circulating in the young Freudian community, that we recognise as inevitable.

The effect of this love-hate component of the relation between Freud and his disciples, particularly powerful in Jung’s case, is palpable in the next passage of his letter:

If ever you should rid yourself entirely of your complexes and stop playing the father to your sons and instead of aiming continually at their weak spots took a good look at your own for a change, then I will mend my ways and at one stroke uproot the vice of being in two minds about you.

After his violent protests, Jung’s anger subsides and he is able to imagine an analytic step, a “tinning around on oneself,” on condition that Freud fulfil a prerequisite: that he leave the position - which Jung assigns him - of supreme father of psychoanalysis, and accept the position of analysand.

In the last paragraph of this enlightening letter, Jung, who knows everything is lost and a break is unavoidable, goes ahead and perhaps as a last good-bye, addresses these questions to Freud without, of course, expecting any answer. The first question reads as follows:

“Do you love neurotics enough to be always at one with yourself? But perhaps you hate neurotics.” From this, follows a second question: “In that case how can you expect your efforts to treat your patient leniently and lovingly not to be accompanied by somewhat mixed feelings?”

In his answer dated December 22, Freud, probably deeply affected and knowing that it would be no use, avoids engaging with Jung’s verbal attacks:

In regard to your allegation that [...] I misuse psychoanalysis to keep my students in a state of infantile dependency [... ] and to the inferences you draw from this contention, I prefer not to judge because it is hard to judge in matters concerning oneself and such judgements convince no one.

He not only forces Jung to revise his own attitude, but he also adds a remark showing that his relations with his pupils are seen differently by others: “In Vienna I have become accustomed to the opposite reproach, to wit, that I concern myself too little with the analysis of my ‘students.’”

Poor Freud! In Zurich, Jung reproaches him with using and abusing the analysis of his pupils; in Vienna he is reproached with showing Jung preferential treatment; and in Budapest, where we will return, Ferenczi comes closer and closer to a request for actual analysis on his couch. In fact, on December 23 Freud sent Ferenczi Jung’s letter, which had clearly made him angry:

“The embarrassing sensation of the moment is the enclosed letter from Jung, which Rank and Sachs also know about, since I overcame my shame about it. I really must say he is downright impudent.” Ready to do battle, Freud intends to counter the strategy of the enemy: “My reaction to this is difficult. He is obviously disposed to provoke me so that the responsibility for the break will fall on me and he can say that I can’t tolerate analysis.” Clearly, contrary to Ferenczi’s advice a year earlier, Freud does not intend to adopt a position of analytic distance: “On the other hand, if I respond calmly and moderately and treat him like one of our patients when he gets into a fit of cursing, he will think I am afraid and will get more audacious.” Although the matter affects him, Freud continues the fight and finnly stands his ground. He will not respond to the attack concerning his unanalysed neurosis: “With deference to my neurosis, I hope I will master it alright. But he [Jung] is behaving like a florid fool and the brutal fellow that he is.” Surprisingly well-informed, Freud ignores Jung’s reference to a personal analysis conducted according to the rules of the art, and he takes a caustic tone: “The master who analysed him could only have been Fraulein Molzer, and he is so foolish as to be proud of this work of a woman with whom he is having an affair.”

The next day on December 26, 1912. after reading Jung’s letter, Ferenczi answers Freud, proceeding in two stages. First, he comments Jung’s murderous letter in detail - a commentary that Freud must have welcomed in those uncomfortable circumstances. Indeed, it would have been difficult for Freud not to ask himself how it was that he only saw in Jung the fighting man and the leader. This, despite the fact that Jung made clear the internal conflict Freud’s expectations of him had produced. Ferenczi makes use of this painfill situation to remind Freud again of his particular position vis-à-vis his disciples and colleagues. He takes the bull by the horns. He asks the man who was his teacher and became his friend, to become his analyst.

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