Sabina Spielrein
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Sabina Spielrein

A Dangerous Method

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About Her

Grew Up... in an abusive household in Rostov-on-Don in Russia at the very start of the 20th century. “My father lost his temper all the time, he was always angry,” she tells her therapist. “It was the most painful kind of love. I couldn't even...couldn't kiss him.” Her father frequently spanked her while she was naked, which caused several troubling after-effects.

Living… in the psych ward of the Burghölzli Hospital in Zurich. She’s enrolled in the medical school at the University, where she’s doing extremely well. It’s here that she meets with Carl Jung an hour or two several times a week to undergo treatment. 

Profession… a medical student. She’s decided to specialize in child psychiatry, perhaps because of her own troubled childhood.

Interests… analyzing herself, and being analyzed. She has plenty of demons from her past. The way her father treated her led her to conflate arousal with physical pain and humiliation. Naturally this has been very interesting to Jung and his mentor, Sigmund Freud. The thesis she’s working on shows her professional promise as a potentially influential thinker: “I'm very interested in the myth of Siegfried -- the idea that something pure and heroic can come, can perhaps only come, from a sin, even a sin as dark as incest.”

Relationship Status… complicated. She’s been having an illicit affair with Carl Jung, her married psychoanalyst and thesis advisor, for some time now. They both know transference plays a role in their relationship, but Sabina also thinks it has to do with the friction between opposites. She’s Russian; he’s Jewish and Aryan. When she began therapy her illness was sexual in nature, and so that’s defined their entire dynamic. For all its forbidden qualities, the relationship also seemed inevitable.

Challenge… keeping her career, honor, and mental state intact. For all the progress she’s made in therapy, she’s damaged herself in new ways. Jung overstepped his boundaries and faces no consequences. Now Jung won’t even acknowledge their affair. Instead he and Freud discuss her as just another case study. It’s dehumanizing.

Personality… intellectual, sexy, and brave. Though if you ask Sabina, she would describe herself differently. She convinced there’s no hope for her, that she’s vile, filthy, and corrupt. Hopefully, she will see the light. 

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