The Dangers of Boundaries in Psychotherapy - The Asheville Jung Center Analyzes the History behind the Recent Film, “A Dangerous Method”

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The Asheville Jung Center has both a video seminar and a webinar exploring the topic of the film, “A Dangerous Method.” How historically accurate was the film? Many questions are answered about this recent feature on Jung.

A Dangerous Method 2
How closely does the film reflect the historical characters and their relationships? And looking ahead, how much did Spielrein and Freud really mean for the later work of Jung?

C.G. Jung has come in for quite a lot of public attention in the past several years, first in 2009 and following with the publication of The Red Book and all of the publicity and buzz surrounding that phenomenal work, and now with the Hollywood film, “A Dangerous Method,” which takes place during his years of psychiatric residency at the Burgholzli Klinik in Zurich and his association with Sigmund Freud. Most centrally, the film dwells a young female patient at the Klinik named Sabina Spielrein and her relationships with Jung and Freud. A century after the events depicted, the director David Cronenberg attempts to bring the era back to life in vivid color and on the big screen. The Asheville Jung Center was founded in 2008 to advance the psychology of Carl Jung and promote an international Jungian community. It is affiliated with innerQuest Psychiatry and Counseling, a regional psychiatrist group.

Bearing in mind that the film is not intended to be a documentary but rather a fictionalized depiction of a story lifted from scholarly works, and that all films including documentaries represent a careful selection and presentation of people, places and dramatized events, and therefore the director’s sculpted rendering, many viewers are still left wondering about historical accuracy since this film is based on historical characters and actual happenings. Just how close to historical reality are the portrayals of Jung, Freud and Spielrein? Does the film show the audience today how it really was a century ago, among those people, in their time? Aside from that, what can we say about the film itself as a cinematic work and what kinds of reflection and questions does it provoke in the viewer?

The film is based on a theatrical play by Christopher Hampton (“The Talking Cure”), who took considerable liberties with the story as put forward in John Kerr’s study, A Most Dangerous Method – The Story of Jung, Freud and Sabina Spielrein (1993). How closely does the film reflect the historical characters and their relationships? And looking ahead, how much did Spielrein and Freud really mean for the later work of Jung? How important was this young patient and student for Jung’s theorizing and later thinking? These are questions that are taken up in this seminar.

Another line of reflection is the problem, so graphically raised by the film, of the nature of analytical relationships. Jung’s treatment of Sabina Spielrein, which is generally thought to be one of the first if not the very first of his attempts at using psychoanalytic methods, took place in a university psychiatric clinic in Zurich at a time when what today is calmly referred to as the transference-countertransference dynamic was not yet clearly understood or formulated. It would take decades of experience, theorizing and collaborative observation among many psychoanalysts to come to the full elaboration of the interpersonal and intrapsychic aspects of the analytic relationship. The film highlights the intense erotic relationship that supposedly developed between Spielrein and Jung, and shows how this pioneer in psychoanalysis dealt with it. In this, the film raises questions that are still relevant to analytic practice today.

To address the questions of historical accuracy, the seminar features Angela Graf-Nold, a longtime student of the history of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, who has done original research into the treatment of Spielrein at the Burgholzli Klinik and into the relationships between her and C.G. Jung, Sigmund Freud and other figures shown in the film. For the clinical questions pertaining to transference and the patient-doctor relationship in analysis, Jan Wiener, a recognized authority on this subject and the author of the recent work, The Therapeutic Relationship – Transference, Countertransference and the Making of Meaning, joins the Seminar from Northern England. Dr. Murray Stein, a supervising training analyst and former president of The International School of Analytical Psychology in Zurich, will introduce the Seminar and reflect on the film as cinematic art, add commentary in the other areas and guide the discussion.

The Asheville Jung Center has announced the launch of a large SALE that includes 40% off select Jungian DVD’s, Streaming Videos, and CEU Packages as well as 33% off select transcripts. Many Jungian topics are included in the sale such as the Red Book, the recent film “A Dangerous Method”, and individuation.

The film a dangerous method can be purchased here on Amazon.

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Ryan Deegan
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