Welcome to The Free Ranger, a podcast about telling the stories that matter. On this podcast, we’ll be learning about storytelling from the people who turn important issues into stories: the writers, filmmakers, marketers, academics, and other professionals who weave together the facts to create compelling narratives that make a difference.
Now more than ever, it’s important for us to know the man behind the concept—both his accomplishments and his shortcomings.
We’re thrilled to welcome Jungian analyst and writer Dr. Betsy Cohen. Dr. Cohen is the author of “Jung’s Personal Confession,” an article exploring Jung’s extramarital affairs, and the often unacknowledged impact these relationships had on his work.
Together, we talked about Jung’s personal life, the relationship between patient and therapist, and the importance of vulnerability for human growth . . .
Myles McDonough: All right. We are on with Doctor Betsy Cohen. Doctor Cohen, thank you so much for joining us here on the Free Ranger podcast.
Betsy Cohen: My pleasure.
MM: First question. What is a Jungian analyst and why did you decide to become one?
BC: Well, everybody would define that differently, but. they've all studied Jung in a Jungian Institute or a Jungian group.
And I chose to become a Jungian analyst because I had read Freud and I had been for 25 years. What we call psychoanalytic, which is Freudian, which has changed a lot, but when I was doing it and learning it, it was very rigid and you weren't allowed to be. Actually, you could. I couldn't really feel like a person in the room. I was supposed to be more blank and neutral, and I don't think I helped people as much.
So then I went to the Jung Institute and my cohort of candidates would say now, why are you here? You're Freudian. I said, Look, I just wanted to learn Jung. I was on the freight train and I got off at the Jung stop. And I wouldn't say I'm a diehard Jungian. And I don't, usually I don't use his concepts very much at all. And I've written papers questioning the concepts, so I just thought he was a good analyst at the time because he brought divinity into the psyche. In the spiritual and I thought, well, if some people want that, that's great.
I'm pretty dedicated to my Jewish roots, and that's what brought me into understanding Jung and anti-Semitism because it was horrific and I didn't learn it while I was in training. And he's apologized once to a rabbi, and he was kind to Jewish people. But he did believe in quotas. Of Jews at the Young Institute in Zurich, and he did quote some of Hitler's idiocies at the beginning, and then he realized he was making a mistake. But he did value Hitler as a person to bring back the German country and psyche and you know charm or whatever. So he's made a lot of mistakes in his life.
MM: What areas does your research tend to focus on? You've touched on it a little bit, but I'm curious to hear how you'd summarize it yourself.
BC: My research is pretty much focused on the relationship between the patient and the analyst and I did like Jung’s idea of the psyche in the psychology of the transference, which he wrote in 1946 about the intimacy of patient and therapist.
I wrote a 300 page PhD thesis about welcoming eros into analysis. Jung said he did, but he didn't in any of his writings. But his drawings in the Rosarium from 1550, these are old alchemical drawings.
And so I did a lot of research about that also. It's still about the relationship. I've done a paper called “the Skinless Analyst, mutuality in the psychotherapy relationship,” which had to do with my skinlessness after my husband died. Can a patient get better if the analyst is never skinless? If that patient had a very intrusive mother, then may they might not want to see into the analyst. But other than that I think the analyst or therapist has to learn to be comfortable with their own emotions. It's sort of a mutual emotional surrender.
It's my friend Karen Maroda. She's written a lot of books. She lives in Milwaukee. An analyst. And she writes about that. We have to surrender with our patience to what's happening. And right now I'm writing a novel exploring that. Eros in the relationship.
MM: You wrote another article in 2020 called “Jung’s Personal Confession” in which you write about those relationships between him and the three patients that you mentioned.
BC: Did you read the paper?
MM: Oh, of course, yeah.
BC: Oh, ok! So what did you think of it?
MM: Oh, I thought it was great. I mean, I I didn't know about that part of Jung’s life and particularly what happened between him and Tony Wolfe uh, you know, of course a long, sad story.
I’m wondering, you mentioned the importance of opening up, I suppose, skinlessness between therapist and analysand, patient, client, however you want to refer to them.
BC: If they want to know. If they want to know who you are. I don’t think the therapist should just start exposing herself or self-disclosing unless she knows that’s what the patient wants, because it’s not about her or him, the therapist. It’s about the patient. And where the healing takes place is the space in between the two. That’s called an analytic third.
And Jung knew that because in those drawings that I talked about, the Rosarian Drawings, which he used, those drawings are very intimate. The man and woman come together. They have intercourse, they create something new. That means the patient changes and the analyst changes, that’s what’s new. And that’s positive.
I went to a Freudian consultant once for years and I said, what is it you learned in Freudian analysis? He said: bad news.
MM: A lot of that article focuses on the extent to which Jung practiced what he preached in that regard. He would talk about mutuality. He would talk about that third space, that space in between. Uh, but I got the sense from reading it that you didn't feel that he often reached that himself in his own work.
BC: Well, I wrote another paper about Jung’s cases. And I analyzed 237 cases that he wrote up. Little vignettes throughout his 16 volumes. He didn’t expose his feelings. He did with Sabina Spielrein. And he wrote, you know, her letters that are all now available for the public and which he was very vulnerable to his love for. And she was in the movie A Dangerous Method. I don’t know if you saw the movie, but they made her into a real hysteric.
And she actually, whatever she was to begin with, she got better. Because of him and her. It’s always both people. And she became a well-known writer in the psychoanalytic field. But she moved out of Zurich in 1910, and they had had, like, a deep, deep, emotional affair, which is documented in these letters.
And that was the year when she left Zurich that he connected to Tony Wolfe. It was the second one. If someone wants to find a lot of emotionality in Jung about a patient, I’d be curious.
MM: How did he tend to approach things instead?
BC: Apodictically. He would say this is what’s happening, this is what your dream means, this is the complex you’re in. I mean, he did have a dream about a patient on a hill and he realized he had been talking down to her, but that was highly unusual.
It’s different though. You know, he practiced for 61 years. And he died, I think early 60s, so it’s changed a lot since him, but because of him we have rules now, about boundaries. Because Freud was horrified at what Jung was doing. It hasn’t worked when analysts have tried to sleep with their patients. It’s harmful, very harmful. Now people will always say, well, so and so did it and they’re happily married. But, you know, I’m not in favor of it. And thank you to Jung for helping us come up with these rules and ethics!
MM: You also wrote in “Jung’s Personal Confession”, this might be related, that Jung had a tendency to privilege the collective over the individual. The objective over the personal. I wonder if you could speak to that a bit.
BC: Okay. Thank you. He actually separated them. He called the collective the impersonal and I don’t believe you can separate them and many other people have written about that because we experience anything from the collective or the archetypal through the personal. It’s our own personal…if there’s a good mother archetype. I have my own image of what that is and someone else has a different image. I think that was a mistake to separate them. I think it’s impossible.
I wanted to say about his personal confession, he said in 1935, “I consider my contribution to psychology to be my subjective confession. It’s my personal psychology.” While at the time, you know, he was trying to…out there in the world. He says every psychology, my own included, has the character of a subjective confession.
Frieda Fordham, who was married to a famous Jungian writer, early, she said “Jung was the patient and Toni Wolfe was the analyst.” So he definitely changed the boundaries.
And Mark Saban, a lovely Jungian analyst alive now, said “What is clear from the letters between Carl Jung and Sabina Spielrein is Jung became the patient and Sabina the analyst.”
MM: So it was definitely more of a two way street than Jung being the master analyst who is fixing these people up and helping them out.
BC: And when I wrote the paper on his 237 cases…we don’t know what he really did. And maybe he made these vignettes very short because he was more interested in his theory, but he got really sick of seeing patients. He told Francis Wicks, who was alive then, an analyst, that “Patients eat me.”
And he complained to Jane Wheelwright, who was married to one of our founders, Joseph Wheelwright. She went to him for analysis. He said: “I’ve been listening to mothers way too long.” And so, toward the end, he really didn’t see as many patients. And he was always gone about six months a year, so it was hard to develop the kind of intimate relationships that we have today.
MM: Just purely from a logistical standpoint, he wouldn’t be in the office for much of the year.
BC: No, and it was very important for him to be scientific. Because people made fun of him for being a mystic and out there and weird, because of his desire to learn more about the collective unconscious etc. And he liked yoga and he was very drawn to Eastern philosophy.
MM: Speaking of mysticism, you mentioned the Rosarium drawings a handful of times before. What are the Rosarium drawings that you're referring to?
BC: The drawings in and of themselves, they’re in his volume 16, Psychology of the Transference. And they’re early. It’s from an early alchemical text from 1550. And they, these drawings, ten of them–there were actually 20, but he took ten–and said “This is an analogy of psychotherapy and what happens.”
MM: And uh, what does his choice of these alchemical drawings say about his approach to the therapeutic process, do you think?
BC: Well, I think that's a wonderful question because that's kind of the point, in that…if he felt the psychology, healing took place by this king and queen–who were the main characters, the only two characters in the drawings–going into an alchemical bath and making love and changing because of that.
He never wrote about that, with his patients, about his patients. But though I do think he had a conjiunctio, which was this blending of the two, coming together, with those three women. Sabina and then another one, Maria Meltzer, and then for over 30 years Toni Wolfe. If anybody listening to this podcast is interested, I’m happy to send them my paper.
MM: For sure, thank you.
BC: You could email me, and those papers are also on academia.edu.
MM: Very good. So we’ve mentioned Sabina, we’ve mentioned Maria. Now we’ve talked about Toni. We have not yet talked about Emma Reichenbach, eventually Emma Jung. Of course, the woman that he married. What was the relationship between them there? Carl and Emma.
BC: She was, it was typical, right? She ran the household. She probably had a lot of help. She was the richest woman in Zurich. When he married her that enabled him to have a much easier lifestyle. And he loved travel. And all of his largess came from her.
At, you know, at the beginning, but she’s the one that had the problem of having, unfortunately, to deal with Toni Wolfe for all those years because Toni Wolfe would go to their house twice a week. Sunday brunches. I mean this…Jung’s son writes about this and talks about this, how she was part of the family, but nobody really liked her because it was odd then to have a mistress and a wife at the same meal.
And then she came every day while he was having his breakdown. She came every day and helped him get a grip. Helped him with his thinking, helped him with his soul, and believed in him. I think it was troublesome for Emma, and he had Emma and Toni go to therapy to work it out! He didn’t go to that therapy.
Poor Emma, I felt sorry for her. After Toni died, which he did not come to Toni’s bedside or…just dumped her after his heart attack is what happened. And she died alone and very unhappy. And after she died, he became closer to Emma. He wrote a paper in, I think it was 1917, about marriage as a psychological relationship. And he talked about what he called the container and the contained. And his wife was his container. He needed her to be able to have the freedom that he wanted. And what he wanted was Toni.
And there was such a thing then–the monastic marriage–where they hold the left hands. That’s in one of the alchemical drawings. The king and queen. So he really felt she was his second wife. He described her as his spiritual wife. He took her everywhere and sometimes he went on vacations with her.
Emily had a lot to deal with, and she took care of Jung. She did try to divorce him a couple of times based on Deirdre Bair’s autobiography of Jung called Jung, but I don’t know if all…I don’t know where she got her sources, but I’m not…I wouldn’t be surprised.
But I thought it was interesting that he justified his relationship with Toni theoretically. About what a marriage should be.
MM: So he had um, when the question was put to him, he approached it as, as you said earlier, as a scientist, as a theorist, rather than as a person in a marriage with another human being.
BC: Where you’re overcome when that happens, you’re overcome. You’re…the eros takes over your mind in a way it can’t…you know when people are in this state of bliss with someone else? Well I wouldn't say Young had that, but I would say having to deal with Emma and Tony, who are very jealous of each other, was overwhelming for him.
Although I don’t think he writes about that. But it had to have been.
MM: Yeah, that would seem to make sense. You've mentioned a couple of times the importance of you've said “skinless-ness”, if that's what's desired by the patient, if that's what the patient needs. I was going to ask, why is it important that this mutuality occurs, that the therapist is changed by the patient, just as they may change the patient in turn?
BC: Jung hoped that was the outcome of the therapy, that both the patient and the analyst changed. It's important because if some patients want to feel comfortable, they might want to know something about me. Am I married? Do I have kids? What do I think of this? What do I think of that?
I think if you aren't truthful with your patient that's, one, rude. And the patient . . . it's harder to grow in that environment. I think the patient has to feel loved.
MM: Love isn't often something that you might hear a maybe like a cognitive behavioral therapist mentioning when they're discussing the therapeutic process. How do you feel that that comes into therapy? What's the role of love between a therapist and someone that they’re working with?
BC: Well, first of all, the cognitive behavioral therapist is doing techniques. So they're not believing in the unconscious particularly, and they're not trying to examine the patient’s unconscious. They’re telling them what to do, in ways that are hopefully helpful.
And I think that the healing of a therapeutic relationship is through love, and I think it’s the relationship that heals.
Jung said eros is relationship. So he got it. He understood it. But I think it was too uncomfortable for him, to write about it out–and also he would have hurt Emma if he wrote about his affair with Toni.
What happened was Tony's mother brought her to analysis in 1910 with Jung and Jung fell for her because of her mind. She knew a lot about Greek mythology. She knew about Eastern thinking and philosophy. And they terminated when she feel better, and then he had two dreams a year later, in which she was–one was, she was drowning and he saved her. And another was he was very, very upset to lose her. So he reached out to her, and asked her to come over and they could talk about ideas. So she became his muse.
But the upsetting thing for me was he never credited her. Not once in any of the papers or the books or the lectures. Not once. That’s it.
MM: And how long did their collaboration last?
BC: About 30 years. And a lot of this was her ideas.
MM: So Jung’s work. Obviously influential in the field of psychology. But it’s also had an impact beyond that. One of the things that we keep referring back to in our work at Free Range is a very simplified idea of archetypes. The idea that these might exist in the human mind and that they are something that people respond to.
How can those of us whose work or field is influenced by Jung make he most of his contributions without making some of the mistakes that he did in his own approach to the work?
BC: If you want to think in terms of archetypes–which, I don’t tend to think in terms of archetypes, I tend not to like labeling this is this and that is that, because I find those kind of statements very reductive–but let’s say there is. There are types that are just patterns in the psyche. They're just patterns and they're similar in all cultures or they can be. Like Mother has a lot going for it, or father or teacher.
Those are all archetypes that we have and they influence us if we let them, but it could just be our own personal mother too that influenced us. So Jung felt that it was a universal mother and a personal mother. But I told you, those can’t be separated really, so.
MM: it seems like Jung at his best was able to keep that in mind. To see the universal working through the personal. But [he] would often fall back on a place of distance where he would rely more on the universal than the personal. Do you think that one of the challenges of working with Jungian material in and out of a psychoanalytic setting is to try to hold those two things and balance ourselves, and if so, how do we do that? How do we start to do that?
BC: You live in tension. I mean, let's just say we have a positive transference to our therapist, and we develop a longing for that person. That has to be contained. So right there, you’re in a tension. Now, if you have a destructive archetype, that’s going to create tension if you know–if you’re not realizing this is more than personal. And it’s personal.
So if they're always both happening and they create a lot of tension, then they also–the archetypes can help guide us if we want them to.
Say you believed in a good mother archetype, and your wife wasn’t that. Well, that would create a conflict for you because you have this ideal in mind. But you project onto your wife, and she's failing to live up to that. So I think we have to learn when we're projecting archetypal imagery onto people.
MM: That reminds me of a point you made in the article. I'm not going to try to remember or pronounce the Greek term that Jung used, but he very explicitly–I believe he wrote this down or somebody attributed it to him later on–but he referred to Toni in these very archetypal ways. As you said, the monastic wife, the muse. However we want to think about it.
She was perhaps that for him, but she was also–there was an age gap between them as well, right? She was a young woman who had been his patient and became his mistress over the course of time. So there was–
BC: And his confidant! She became his mistress, his confidant, she edited his material. She was right there. I think he had archetypal projections on to her as the Muse.
MM: In “Jung’s Personal Confession,” you also paraphrase Jungian analyst Mark Saban, who writes about the need for Jungian psychology as he says to individuate and transform as Jung recommended for the individual. Uh, he says the concepts will . . . his words become encrusted, fixed, frozen if they are not continually challenged and explored, and brought into tension. There’s that word again, with the unknown.
I was wondering if you could speak to that a little bit this need for the field to continue to evolve and change, and ask what would you like the future of Jungian analysis to look like if you could steer that ship in any particular direction?
BC: I think what Mark said is brilliant and I agree with it. And Jung himself actually changed his thinking a lot. He was always changing what he thought it was, so to keeping doing that into the future is important.
And some places that people are changing Jung’s idea of animus and anima because they were very gender biased. And we don't have that anymore, we realized. If let's say I have an animus, a masculine figure inside of me, or it’s way different and my feminine is way different. Women can be masculine, and that’s fine. But he was very rigid in his stereotypes of men and women. So that has changed, I would say for most Jungian analysts, I hope.
I think that this field of relational psychoanalysis, it's contemporary psychoanalysis, it's called relational. I’m hoping that Jungians will learn more about that and realize how to just deeply relate to the person as a real person and realize the transference and countertransference are important, but they're alongside the real relationship. Like what actually happens between us that where nobody's projecting?
Feeling into the other. It’s just real, in the moment. That’s one thing I envision.
Most of my papers have been about the crusted theories of Jung, whether it was the anti-Semitism or his idea of complexes.
You know, or the one about the skinless analyst, I only use that word skinless analyst, because once after my husband died, I was walking across the street and I felt I didn't have skin. And that there is–people could see right into me and just feel my grief.
And all my patients knew that my husband had died, because I told them–because I had to leave, and it would be bizarre if they found out from someone else. Berkeley is a small community.
MM: All right. Doctor Betsy Cohen, thank you so much for joining us on the Free Ranger podcast here today. It was a delight having you. I'm glad we got the chance to talk.
BC: I’m happy to talk because I mostly listen.
MM: And you mentioned there's a handful of papers that people should feel free to reach out to you about. Is there anything else, any other things that you wanted to plug or let people know about?
BC: I'm happy to come back on when my novel gets printed.
MM: Excellent! Hopefully we’ll be in touch.
BC: And if they're wondering how to find me, I'm at email@example.com.
MM: Gotcha. All right, thank you so much.
BC: Thank you, Myles. You’re easy to be with. Thank you.
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