Psychology, 2010, 1, 113-115
doi:10.4236/psych.2010.12015 Published Online June 2010 (
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
Sex, Lies and Letters: A Sample of Significant
Deceptions in the Freud-Jung Relationship
Martin S. Fiebert
California State University at Long Beach, Long Beach, USA.
Received April 14th, 2010; revised May 12nd, 2010; accepted May 15th, 2010.
This project focuses on an examination of the correspondence between and the writings of Sigmund Freud and Carl
Jung. A core theme in their relatio nship has been iden tified as deception, wh ich appears to b e correlated with and per-
haps the cause of the end of their association. Incidences of mistrust and distrust have been detailed and discussed.
Keywords: Freud/Jung Relationship, Minna Bernays, Early Psychoanalytic History
1. Introduction
Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, seminal figures in the
history of Psychology, have been the subject of much
study and discussion. A good deal of it focuses on con-
ceptual differences in their theoretical and psychothera-
peutic approaches. Some is also related to their differing
emphases on, and acceptance of, notions of the uncon-
scious, religious experience, and parapsychological phe-
nomena, among other areas. Jung, in his Memoirs [1],
Ernest Jones [2] and Peter Gay [3] in their comprehen-
sive biographies of Freud have discussed some of the
personal issues that eventually led to the acrimonious
break between the two men.
My research is based on an examination of Freud and
Jung’s writings, their correspondence with each other
and colleagues, and the writings and published recollec-
tions of their acquaintances. I have identified a central
theme, that of deception, that I argue is present through-
out the Freud-Jung relationship. In my view, this pattern
of deception fostered mistrust between them, and is
likely correlated with, if not the cause of, their eventual
2. Freud’s Affair with Minna Bernays
Jung wrote that in March of 1907, Minna Bernays told
him of her sexual intimacy with Freud, her sister’s hus-
band. He specified that she “was very much bothered by
her relationship with Freud an d felt guilty about it. Fro m
her I learned that Freud was in love with her and that
their relationship was indeed very intimate. It was a
shocking discovery for me, and even now (May, 1957) I
can recall the agony I felt at the time” [4].
Apparently Jung never told Freud of Bernays’s decla-
ration. In my view, the woman’s revelation of the affair
had a profound impact on aspects of the Freud-Jung rela-
tionship. In particular, I would argue that Freud’s actions
as related by Bernays influenced Jung’s decision to begin
an affair with Sabina Spielrein, one of his own patients.
The fact that they never discussed the affair and its rami-
fications played a part in subsequent deceptions in which
both Freud and Jung engaged during their mutual dream
analyses while on route to America in 1909.
3. Freud Suspects Jung of Anti-Semitism
In August 1908, Freud communicated to Karl Abraham
his suspicion that Jung harb ored anti-Semitic feelings [5].
Freud did not confront Jung on this issue. But in August
1912, Freud wrote to Otto Rank [3] stating that Jung had
problems with achieving an “integration of Jews and
anti-Semites on the soil of Psychoanalysis.” In his article
of 1914, entitled “The History of the Psychoanalytic
Movement,” Freud publicly chastised Jung for maintain-
ing “certain prejudices with regard to race” [6].
4. Jung’s Affair with Sabina Spielrein
I would argue that when Jung discovered that his mentor
was having a secret, culturally forbidden affair with his
sister-in-law, Minna Bernays, it stimulated and in effect
sanctioned his growing desire for his patient and student,
Sabina Spielrein. According to letters and entries in
Spielrein’s diary, Jung lied to both Freud and Spielrein’s
mother about his relationship with Sabina [7]. In 1909,
Spielrein wrote to Freud and told him of her romance
Sex, Lies and Letters: A Sample of Significant Deceptions in the Freud-Jung Relationship
with Jung. Freud apparently did not take Spielrein’s al-
legations seriously and seemed to accept Jung’s explana-
tion that Spielrein was emotionally disturbed. When
Spielrein visited Vienna in 1912, she and Freud became
close, and he then came to accept her version of the ear-
lier episodes, but did not tell Jung of his knowledge of
the affair or his view of it. In January of 1913, after his
personal relationship with Jung had already deteriorated,
Freud wrote to Spielrein, “Since [the time] I received the
first letter from you, my opinion of him (Jung) has been
greatly altered” [7].
5. Mutual Dream Analyses
Profound deceptions occurred during the dream analyses
Freud and Jung conducted reciprocally during their voy-
age to America in August 1909. The dishonesty itself and
Jung’s intense reaction presaged the eventual ending of
their professional relations and personal friendship.
In his interview with Billinsky [4], Jung recalled that
“Freud had some dreams that bothered him very much.
The dreams were about the triangle-Freud, his wife and
his wife’s younger sister. Freud had no idea I knew about
the triangle and his intimate relationship with his sis-
ter-in-law. And so, when Freud told me about the dream.I
asked (him) to tell me some of his personal associations.
He looked at me with bitterness and said, ‘I could tell
you more but I cannot risk my authority!’” Jung com-
mented in his MEMOIRS [1], “At that moment he lost it
altogether. That sentence burned itself in my memory;
and in it the end of our relationship was already fore-
For his part Jung was also dishonest about revealing to
Freud the meaning of his own dreams. He shared one
dream in which he was exploring a house. Descending
into a cellar he found an ancient vault containing two
human skulls. Analyzing his dream, Freud saw a likely
death wish and pressed Jung for his associations to the
details. Jung thought his dream really referred to ideas on
which he was working, about the collective unconscious.
Fearing Freud’s resistance to his theories, he lied and
said the skulls represented those of his wife, Emma and
her sister [1].
Jung’s unwillingness to honestly explore the meaning
of the two skulls in the dream was clearly a way of pro-
tecting his theories from criticism or attack. Jung’s de-
ception while seeking to mollify Freud, was additionally
I believe, a subtle attempt to establish more honesty in
communication by indirectly revealing his knowledge of
Freud’s affair. Freud, apparently unaware of Jung’s know -
ledge and intent was according to Jung, “greatly re-
lieved” by Jung’s d eceptive interpretation of the skulls.
6. Another Triangle: Emma Jung, Sandor
Ferenczi and Freud
Freud and Jung were not alone in communicating dis-
honestly. Jung’s wife, Emma, and Sandor Ferenczi, a
colleague of Freud and Jung’s, also participated in vari-
ous deceptions.
Emma Jung attempted, although unsuccessfully, to re-
pair what she perceived to be a growing rift between her
husband and Freud. On October 15, 1911, Emma wrote
to Ferenczi asking whether he was aware of Freud’s dis-
approval of her husband’s latest work, and explicitly re-
quested him not to mention her concerns to Freud [8]. On
October 19, Ferenczi betrayed Emma’s confidence by
sending her letter to Freud with one of his own in which
he wondered if Freud was angry with Jung because of the
latter’s interest in the occult and his revision of th e libido
theory [8].
Freud’s answering letter spelled out the way he wanted
Ferenczi to answer Mrs. Jung, asking him not to mention
to her neither occultism nor the libido. Because in Ger-
man the word for “strike” (to avoid) and “emphasize” are
similar, Ferenczi misread Freud’s letter and his instruc-
tions, and informed Emma Jung that her husband’s cur-
rent interests particularly troubled Freud. Fer enczi’s error ,
which was probably inadvertent, led to Emma’s secretly
writing to Freud [9], Jung subsequently found evidence
of that correspondence, and this in turn increased the
mistrust between Freud and Jung and further intensified
their scientific and professional differences.
7. The “Kreuzlingen Gesture”
Freud himself also inadvertently misled Jung, this time
about his sudden visit, in May 1912, to Ludwig Bin-
swanger in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, about forty miles
from Jung’s house in Zurich. Freud did not specifically
arrange to see Jung who was hurt and upset by what he
thought was Freud’s avoiding him. In later correspon-
dence with Freud, Jung referred bitterly to this incident
as the “Kreuzlingen gesture” [9].
In fact, two days before his departure, Freud wrote to
both Jung and Binswanger and actually assumed that
Jung would meet him in Kreuzlingen. However, Jung,
out of town, did not receive Freud’s note in time to make
travel arrangements. More importantly, Jung was not
apprised of the fact that the primary reason for Freud’s
visit was Binswanger’s impending surgery for cancer
[3,10] because Binswanger had asked that the informa-
tion not be shared. Thus, yet another minor and finally
unnecessary secret contributed to the breakdown of the
Freud-Jung rel at i onship.
8. The Committee
In response to the growing tension and mistrust in the
Freud-Jung relationship, and, in particular, to the inten-
sity of Jung’s reaction to the “Kreuzlingen gesture,”
Ernest Jones, a feisty and loyal supporter of Freud, initi-
ated a grand deception which had profound implications
for both the Freud-Jung relationship and the history of
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
Sex, Lies and Letters: A Sample of Significant Deceptions in the Freud-Jung Relationship
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
Psychoanalysis. In the summer of 1912, Jones suggested
that a small group of trusted analysts form a kind of
“palace guard” around Freud to protect him from future
dissension. Freud warmly accepted this idea but cau-
tioned, “The committee would have to be strictly secret
in its existence and actions” [2]. The group consisted of
Jones, Ferenczi, Rank, Sachs and Abraham, and for many
years advised Freud and guided Psychoanalyt ic pol i cy .
Although Jung was the elected president of the Inter-
national Psychoanalytic Society and had earlier been des-
ignated by Freud as his “son and heir” [9], he was kept
ignorant regarding the committee’s existence and actions.
9. Freud, Jung and Homophobia
In a letter written on November 29, 1912, Freud tried to
hide his homoerotic feelings for Jung. I believe this de-
ception was a significant element in precipitating the end
of their personal relationship. After Freud and Jung had
apparently reconciled some of their theoretical differ-
ences during a conference in Munich on November 24,
1912, and had cleared up the misunderstanding concern-
ing Freud’s visit to Binswanger, Freud fainted, for the
second time, in Jung’s presence. Jung carried Freud over
to a sofa. Two days later Jung wrote Freud a very friendly
note, apologizing for earlier difficulties and inquiring after
Freud’s health [1,9]. Freud’s response to Jung acknowl-
edged some unresolved differences in their theoretical
views, specifically on the libido. Then, referring to his
fainting spell, he wrote, “according to my private diag-
nosis, it was migrain e not without a psychic factor which
unfortunately I haven’t had time to track down a bit of
neurosis I ought to look into” [9]. However, Freud was
much more candid in a letter to Jone s when he attributed
his fainting spell to an “unruly homosexual feeling,” wh-
ich involved a transference of his earlier, intense friend-
ship with Wilhelm Fliess to one with Jung [8].
Jung exploded with rage over Freud’s letter and ex-
planation of his loss of consciousness. He was angry both
at Freud’s downplaying the meaning of the faint, and at
what he perceived as Freud’s trivializing of Jung’s con-
tribution to Libido Theory [9]. I suspect that on another
level Jung sensed Freud’s homoerotic conflict, perhaps
intensified by the physical contact created by his carrying
Freud and was angered that Freud was dishonest about its
It should be mentioned that Jung, himself, was par-
ticularly vulnerable to both homoerotic and homophobic
feelings. Earlier in their relationship, in 1907, Jung had
confessed to Freud that as a boy he had been homosex-
ually assaulted by a man he trusted. He also admitted,
when he asked Freud for his photograph, that he had “re-
ligious crush” on Freud which he was aware had “clear
erotic undert o n es” [9] .
After exchanging several angry lett ers with Jung, Freud
waited two weeks and then on January 3, 1913 wrote, “I
propose that we abandon our personal relations entirely”
[1] C. G. Jung, “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” In: A.
Jaffe, Ed., Vintage, New York, 1963.
[2] E. Jones, “Life and Work of Sigmund Freud,” Basic
Books, New York, 1953, 1955, 1957.
[3] P. Gay, “Freud: A Life for Our Time,” Norton, New York,
[4] J. M. Billinsky, “Jung and Freud: The End of a Ro-
mance,” Andover Newton Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 2, 1969,
pp. 39-43.
[5] H. C. Curtis, “A Psychoanalytic Dialogue: The Letters of
Sigmund Freud and Karl Abraham,” In: H. C. Abraham
and E. L. Freud, Eds., Basic Books, New York, 1965, pp.
[6] S. Freud, “On the History of Psychoanalytic Movement,”
Collected Papers, Basic Books, New York, 1959.
[7] A. Carotenuto, “A Secret Symmetry: Sabina Spielrein
between Jung and Freud,” Pantheon, New York, 1984.
[8] L. Donn, “Freud and Jung: Years of Friendship, Years of
Loss,” Collier, New York, 1988.
[9] W. McGuire, “The Freud-Jung Letters: The Correspon-
dence between Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung. M. A,”
Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1974.
[10] L. Binswanger, “Sigmund Freud: Reminiscences of a
Friendship,” Grune & Stratton, New York, 1957.