The Famous Letter Where Freud Breaks His Relationship with Jung (1913)


Freud and Jung. Jung and Freud. His­to­ry has close­ly asso­ci­at­ed these two who did so much exam­i­na­tion of the mind in ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry Europe, but the sim­ple con­nec­tion of their names belies a much more com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ship between the men them­selves. At the top of the post, you can see the let­ter that Sig­mund Freud, father of psy­cho­analy­sis, wrote to Carl Gus­tav Jung, founder of ana­lyt­i­cal psy­chol­o­gy, in order to end that rela­tion­ship entire­ly. “At first Freud saw in Jung a suc­ces­sor who might lead the psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic move­ment into the future,” say the cura­tor’s com­ments at the Library of Con­gress’ web site, “but by 1913 rela­tions between the two men had soured.

While Freud claims in his let­ter that it is ‘demon­stra­bly untrue’ that he treats his fol­low­ers as patients, in the very same let­ter we find him allud­ing to Jung’s ‘ill­ness.’ ” Freud calls it “a con­ven­tion among us ana­lysts that none of us need feel ashamed of his own neu­ro­sis. But one [mean­ing Jung] who while behav­ing abnor­mal­ly keeps shout­ing that he is nor­mal gives ground for the sus­pi­cion that he lacks insight into his ill­ness. Accord­ing­ly, I pro­pose that we aban­don our per­son­al rela­tions entire­ly.”

“I shall lose noth­ing by it,” he con­tin­ues, “for my only emo­tion­al tie with you has been a long thin thread — the lin­ger­ing effect of past dis­ap­point­ments — and you have every­thing to gain, in view of the remark you recent­ly made to the effect that an inti­mate rela­tion­ship with a man inhib­it­ed your sci­en­tif­ic free­dom.” This rela­tion­ship, writes Lionel Trilling in a review of The Cor­re­spon­dence Between Sig­mund Freud and C.G. Jung, “had its bright begin­ning in 1906 and came to its embit­tered end in 1913,” when Freud wrote this let­ter.  “Freud and Jung were not good for one anoth­er; their con­nec­tion made them sus­cep­ti­ble to false atti­tudes and ambigu­ous tones. [ … ] The intel­lec­tu­al and pro­fes­sion­al dif­fer­ences between the two men, pro­found as these even­tu­al­ly became, would per­haps not of them­selves have brought about a break so dras­tic as did take place had not their alien­at­ing ten­den­cy been rein­forced by per­son­al con­flicts.” Only a com­par­a­tive study of Freud and Jung’s meth­ods would yield a com­plete under­stand­ing of their roles in the strug­gle for the soul of psy­cho­analy­sis. But on a more basic lev­el, this hard­ly counts as the first nor the last col­lapse, in any field of human endeav­or, of a per­haps overde­ter­mined suc­ces­sion between an emi­nence and his would-be pro­tege — though it may count as one of the most elo­quent­ly doc­u­ment­ed ones.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Sig­mund Freud Speaks: The Only Known Record­ing of His Voice, 1938

Face to Face with Carl Jung: ‘Man Can­not Stand a Mean­ing­less Life’

Carl Gus­tav Jung Explains His Ground­break­ing The­o­ries About Psy­chol­o­gy in Rare Inter­view (1957)

Carl Gus­tav Jung Pon­ders Death

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.