SECRETS: The Untold Story of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung

A New Drama by Broadway Producer Ken Wydro about the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. One Thousand letters were exchanged between these two Masterminds of psychological analysis. One Thousand letters. In six years. This play is based on those actual letters.< FIRST POST - Click on MAY under "Archives" >

Jul 11, 2006


Otto Gross

A Commentary

For those who have read the script or seen the staged readings of SECRETS: The Sigmund Freud – Carl Jung Affair during the first months of 2006, there may have been the impression that Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung held the dominant first position in each other’s hearts and minds during their intense professional and personal relationship in the period of 1907 – 1913 when the events of the play took place.

In actuality, those six years held many activities, events and relationships that were also in play and active at the same time. Not only were those the formative years of psychoanalysis – with writings, meetings, conferences, international travel and a private practice for both men – there were personal issues and decisions faced by both individually and together that poured fuel to the fire of their historic and dramatic encounter.

Freud was in his early 50s in 1907 while Jung was in his early 30s. Freud already had a large and blossoming family – six children plus the care of his mother and sisters – while Jung, married in 1902 to Emma Rauschenbach had two children under the age of four and would have another, his only son (Franz) in December of 1908. During the first years of the marriage, Carl and Emma lived on premises at the Bergholzli Clinic where Carl’s duties included patient care, lecturing, writing, as well as managing the emotional demands that a new wife and children bring to any man. During that time, Carl and Emma – an independently wealthy daughter of a Swiss industrialist – began making plans for a new house in Kusnacht near Zurich, built from scratch on a lakefront. Anyone involved with the design and the details of building a new house can well understand what a task that could be, especially when the “master” of the house poked his nose into every aspect of the construction.

In the early years of his career, Freud was a “lone ranger” working in what he called “splendid isolation” until he felt the need to spread the word and win support for what he knew to be controversial and revolutionary ideas on the issues of mental illness, anxiety, depression and addiction. In 1902 in Vienna, Freud initiated the famous Psychological Wednesday Evening Circle which included the intense, brilliant, and volatile personalities of Alfred Adler, Wilhelm Stekel, Max Kahane and Rudolph Reitler. By early 1907 – when Jung first visited Freud – the group had grown to seventeen strong, and in 1908 to forty. Participants from six countries attended the first conference of the International Psychoanalytic Association in Salzburg.

There is no doubt that Sigmund Freud was the driving force and the dominant personality in these early days of the international growth of psychoanalysis. His writing, his personality, his brave and witty spirit - his own sense of purpose as a founding father – made him a target for the complexes and fantasies of those around him, both friends and enemies.

From all known accounts, the inner Viennese circle was articulate, passionate, argumentative and combative. While they recognized and appreciated Freud’s intellect and innovation, they also had their own ideas, ambitions and plans for the future of psychoanalysis. Stekel had many contacts in the artistic circles of Vienna as a writer as well. Freud became the focal point of much discussion, debate, adulation and criticism, a destroyer of old attitudes and social norms as well as the visionary for new possibilities.

When Jung came on the scene in March, 1907 and was anointed by Freud as the heir apparent, the infighting among the inner circle grew heated and confrontational. Stekel, Adler, Karl Abraham and others did not take well to the rapid ascent of Carl Jung in the hierarchy of the movement. Freud had to defend himself against the Viennese and had to defend Jung to almost everybody. His adopted son, and Freud as surrogate father figure to Jung, were in constant combat during those years. When, in 1910, Carl Jung was named as the first president of the International Psychoanalytic Association with the blessing of Freud, the stage was set for the defection of Adler, Stekel and others of the original group. Each defection was difficult and heart wrenching for Freud. Many hard feelings on all sides of the fence.

In addition to his duties, obligations and responsibilities to his young family and to the Bergholzli Clinic, there were other strong personalities tugging at Carl Jung’s heart and mind during the years of 1907-1909. While Jung admitted in a letter to Freud dated October 28, 1907 that “my veneration for you has something of the character of a religious crush,” there were others in his field that may have had something more of an emotional or even physical “crush” on Carl Jung.

During those years that Jung was still on staff at the Bergholzli, he came in close contact with three patients who – to put it mildly – touched his heart and soul. There is much speculation and some evidence that Carl Jung had intimate relations with Sabina Spielrein and Antonia “Toni” Wolff, young women patients ten or more years younger than him. Jung consulted with Freud about the course of “treatment” with Sabina Speilrein who later, after being released from the Clinic, went to medical school and became a prominent analyst and writer of some influence.

It was not a secret that Toni Wolff was Jung’s mistress, possibly starting as early as 1910 when she is sitting in a photo two seats away from Emma Jung at the Weimar conference. Toni became a part of Jung’s life and inner circle for more than forty years – some scenes of which are dramatized in SECRETS – it is more than likely that these associations with Speilrein and Wolff caused much tension and concern in the domestic life in the Jung household. When Emma began to write in secret to Freud in 1911 about her personal worries and concerns, she was only 29 or 30 years old, with three young children to take care of on a daily basis.

It is also likely that Carl Jung was deeply influenced by a charismatic, yet troubled personality, Otto Gross, who as also a patient of Jung at the Bergholzli in the spring of 1908. Otto Gross was blond, beautiful, highly articulate, the quintessential Bohemian of his era. The son of a highly wealthy and prominent criminal psychologist, Hans Gross, Otto was the enfant terrible of the psychoanalytic scene. Hooked on cocaine, morphine, opium and caffeine, Otto Gross was a huge fan and supporter of Sigmund Freud. At one point, Freud identified Jung and Otto Gross as the only original thinkers in the psychoanalytic movement.

Gross would hold court in all night sessions in coffee houses and cafes, giving brilliant, Freudian analyses of friends, writers, artists and other bohemian types. Gross preached the “gospel” of sexual liberation and obedience to the instincts of the libido. Gross claimed, in a highly exciting and innovative manner, that society was the real enemy. Conforming to the prevalent culture and societal norms could only lead the individual into the doldrums. Gross gained a reputation of being insightful and provocative, yet his unbridled use of narcotics finally landed him in the Bergholzli in the spring of 1908.

There he was treated by Carl Jung who engaged him in long sessions of analysis while Otto Gross returned the favor. Beginning May 11, Jung treated Gross, attempting first to wean him off opium. It is safe to say that Otto Gross bombarded Jung with his ideas of free love and polygamy during their long, sometimes all night analytic sessions. Gross did feel he had a cause to promote – the liberation of the individual from society’s repressive influence – and he had Jung’s rapt attention while the treatment was going on.

Otto Gross escaped from the Bergholzli clinic on June 17, 1908, going over the wall and back to his drug-laden days. Jung’s treatment of Gross ultimately failed, yet there seems to be some impact of Gross on Jung.

On June 19, 1908, Jung wrote to Freud. “In spite of everything, (Gross) is my friend . . . for at the bottom he is a very good and fine man with an unusual mind . . . in Gross, I discovered many aspects of my true nature so that he often seemed like my twin brother.” It was about his time that Sabina and Toni attached themselves to Jung, and it is a matter of speculation as to the degree that Jung responded to their energy and sexuality.

Add to all this the ocean voyage to America in August of 1909 where Freud and Jung were engaged with the new wave of American personalities, plus Jung’s writing of the Transformation and Symbols of the Libido (two volumes) in 1910-12 and Freud’s book on Totem and Taboo, and you can see that there were many morsels on the plates of both Freud and Jung during this time period of 1907-1913. These were turbulent, exciting and demanding years for both Freud and Jung who were both pulled in many different directions by patients, friends and family – and, most of all, by the new and evolving ideas of psychoanalysis.

Freud and Jung were engaged not only with each other on a personal basis, they had their hands full with their own associates, feelings, hopes and dreams. The bond between them was both personal and professional. They had to juggle the many problems and personalities that were attracted to them. They were the stars of their prospective dramas, involved in the theories, practices and politics of psychoanalysis.

So much on each plate. No wonder it overflowed with such a rush of passion at the end.

Ken Wydro
July 10, 2006


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