tel: 042 9331803
mob: 086 0381073

Sabina Spielrein and the Holocaust.

Psychotherapy — admin @ 4:57 pm

This week in Counselling Connections we are remembering the Holocaust. As we write this post the World is remembering the 70th anniversary today of the freeing of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Our profession has strong links to the Jewish faith. The founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud was Jewish and he fled the Anschluss, the German annexation of Austria in 1938. His daughter, Anna had been interrogated by the Gestapo and held for twenty four hours. Her arrest and release was the event which finally convinced him to abandon his home and celebrated consulting room in Vienna. He secured safe passage to England, where he was welcomed and there he spent the last year of his life. Members of his family weren’t so fortunate and four of his five sisters were killed in concentration camps.

We want to remember in a particular way today a lesser known member of the psychoanalytic profession and the Jewish faith, Sabina Spielrein. Sabina, was born in 1885 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia into what is described as a well-to-do, cosmopolitan, Russian Jewish family. She had an avid interest in science from an early age. In 1904 she went to Zurich to study medicine. She suffered a breakdown there and was put under the care of psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Over the next seven years she was first his patient and then his friend. They were described as ‘emotionally intimate’ and it seems likely that doctor and patient had a profound influence on each other. In 1911 she graduated with a dissertation on the subject of schizophrenia, one of the first published papers on the subject. She presented further papers to the Psychoanalytical association and it seems clear that she was a bright and original thinker on the subject. Much of her early work included descriptions of the struggles of the life and death instincts within the psyche. It seems likely that her work influenced both Jung and Freud.

Sabina married in 1912 and had a daughter, Renate, the following year. She returned to her native Russia in 1924 and in 1926 had a second daughter, Eva. After a period in Moscow she returned to her hometown and founded a psychoanalytic children’s nursery. Psychoanalysis was banned by Stalin but it seems likely that she continued to practice covertly. In 1941 the German army advanced on Rostov. Along with other members of the Jewish community Sabina was captured by the advancing army. On July 27th 1942, Sabina and her daughters Renate and Eva were shot and killed.

We remember them today as symbols of all those innocents killed. We remember Sabina as a brilliant and skilled analyst and wonder at her loss. We wonder how her contribution might have been remembered if she had lived. Her work did not receive the attention it might have and she is not a well known figure in the history of the psychoanalytic movement. We bring Sabina to your attention today as our modest contribution to remembering. Like many we feel it is important that the torch of remembrance is passed on and kept alive by this and by future generations. The horrors of the Holocaust and the unbearable human suffering it brought about are reminders of the dark forces within human kind. We cannot afford to forget the hate that men are capable of and how a death instinct can be directed at a race or religion.

Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

You can read more about Sabina in ‘Freud’s Women’ by Lisa Appignanesi and John Forrester or online at the Jewish Women’s archive:

Back to the Future.

Counselling — admin @ 12:54 pm

Here at Counselling Connections this week we’ve been at the movies. As regular readers will know, our weekly meetings here can take a turn and we can end up talking about all kinds of things. We allow ourselves this luxury as we find we can get in touch with all kinds of interesting things. In psychoanalysis it is called Free Association, allowing yourself to flow freely from one idea to the next without censoring what you say. Anyway, this week’s digressions lead us to talking about the movies. This year’s Oscar nominations are due to be announced this afternoon and we got to talking about what movies would rank in an awards ceremony for films which were judged to have relevance to therapy. And a clear front runner is the movie that became a series: Back to the Future.

The plot of Back to the Future involves the hero, Marty McFly being transported back in time to when his parents were not yet dating. The ability to return to the past means that significant events that happen will shape the future and involve a ‘new’ future which differs from the one from which Marty has just returned. If you follow. This concept is represented well in the movie plot and poses all kinds of dilemmas for the hero as he takes steps to ensure that his parents do begin to date and fall in love. In this way he ensures his own future existence. An additional point of interest for those of us in the field of psychotherapy involves Marty’s father standing up to a bully. In asserting himself with this bullying figure the father changes the future and when Marty returns to 1985 where the film begins there is a new relationship between his father and his former tormentor. In the amended version of history the father is confident and assertive.

All of these themes are played out in the drama of the film’s story line. In real life we cannot return to the past and change things so as to return to the present and enjoy a different reality. The film, it could be said, represents our wish to be able to achieve this impossible feat. In reality we often struggle in the present with the leftover effects of past events. These can be in the form of significant, traumatic events or more mundane frustrations at the path our lives have taken. Sometimes, it is said of therapy, that although we cannot change past events we can change how we view them. This is certainly true and it can take up a good deal of our therapeutic work.

Sometimes a therapy involves a kind of Back to the Future of sorts in that we look at our life’s narrative to date and consider the effects of decisions we made and options we took or didn’t take. The best we can do in terms of aiming to achieve the wish expressed in the film is to make now the time to make some sort of stand or take some sort of action to bring about a changed future. And this doesn’t have to involve punching a bully and knocking him unconscious. It more usually involves a sort of taking stock; making a decision and finding the determination to begin working on some sort of project. This project can be a college course, a change in diet or exercise or something more abstract involving a clearer vision of a future version of our own self that we would like to aim for.

Sometimes a therapy can involve reviewing the timeline and the narrative of our life to date. Often this means that our patterns become clearer, facilitating an awareness of what we have been trying to achieve in life. This applies as much to our love lives as it does to work; lieben und arbeiten as Freud put it, to love and to work. The punch that Marty’s father threw in the film represents a single dramatic event that changed his future self. Real life it is not quite as simple as that and it is not possible to achieve lasting change in one single act. It will take time and awareness and conscious work. This is what therapy involves and we are pleased to be able to facilitate our clients in this process as they review their own pasts and dream up and try to put onto action a future of their own choosing.

Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

Copyright © 2011 Counselling Connection, designed by Aura Internet Services