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Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 64, Issue 2, pp 259–278 | Cite as

“The Power that Beautifies and Destroys”: Sabina Spielrein and “Destruction as a Cause of Coming into Being”

  • Pamela Cooper-WhiteEmail author
Article

Abstract

Sabina Spielrein has mostly been known, if at all, as the patient with whom Carl Jung became romantically involved and who then turned to Freud for advice. While the boundary violation alarmed Freud and became the catalyst for his technical papers on transference, Spielrein’s own intellectual contributions have seldom been acknowledged. It is as if this early trauma in the history of psychoanalysis and analytic psychology created a dissociative erasure of Spielrein’s story and her work. This article offers a look into Spielrein’s own work as an analyst and theorist, with particular emphasis on her 1911 paper “Destruction as a Cause of Coming into Being,” which she read shortly after her admission to Freud’s circle—the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society—around the time of the “great divorce” between Jung and Freud. Included here is a summary of the paper, situating it in Spielrein’s biography, as well as a discussion of the reception of the paper in her own time and more recently. Spielrein’s little-known works—including an early conceptualization of the so-called “death instinct” later formulated by Freud—give evidence for Spielrein’s rightful place as a pioneer of psychoanalysis. The article ends with an exploration of how Spielrein’s fearless theoretical, religious, and mythological ideas enriched her creative work but at the same time may have blinded her to the deadly reality of the Holocaust, which cost Spielrein her life.

Keywords

Sabina Spielrein C. G. Jung Sigmund Freud Psychoanalysis History of psychoanalysis A Dangerous Method Death instinct Destruction as a Cause of Coming into Being Archetype Resurrection Savior pattern Eternal life Richard Wagner Jewish Vienna Psychoanalytic Society Holocaust 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Columbia Theological SeminaryDecaturUSA

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