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A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud & Sabina Spielrein

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  473 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
In 1907, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung began what promised to be both a momentous collaboration and the deepest friendship of each man’s life. Six years later they were bitter antagonists, locked in a savage struggle that was as much personal and emotional as it was theoretical and professional. Between them stood a young woman named Sabina Spielrein, who had been both patie ...more
Paperback, 624 pages
Published February 23rd 2011 by Vintage Books (first published August 24th 1993)
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Nov 12, 2011 Robin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was not what I was expecting. I was under the impression that this would be a book in plain english that would discuss in detail the affair between Spielrein and Jung as well as their relationship with Freud. Instead, it read like a 500+ page essay written in psych jargon. Reading it was arduous as I had to put it down many times to think about what author John Kerr had written. in addition, there are many other psychologists mentioned and the text drifts to their stories. The book becomes ...more
Apr 15, 2012 Alexa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm not sure exactly how to review this book. Honestly, since Goodreads corresponds their stars to how much "I" liked it, as opposed to how "good" I thought it was (i.e. 4 stars means I "really liked it" as opposed to "very good"), I'm almost tempted to give it three stars, even though I also thought "it was amazing."

But perhaps I'm over-thinking the star thing.

Anyway, the book is amazing. The author is knowledgeable to an almost frightening degree, and the background he provides on both Jung an
Erik Graff
Apr 16, 2010 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historians of depth psychologies
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: psychology
This book will fascinate anyone interested in the personal biographies of Freud or Jung, most particularly in reference to their breakup. It will also be of interest to psychotherapists who will encounter transferences and counter-transferences in their practices as it is a case study of the phenomenon which Freud judged the sine qua non of successful therapy. Finally, it should be of interest to medical ethicists.

For over a decade I saw myself as training for a career as a psychotherapist, obta
Dennis McCort
Dec 02, 2014 Dennis McCort rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: psychology students; those interested in psychoanalysis
Recommended to Dennis by: advertising
If you're fascinated by the idea of an unconscious mind, as I am, then this is a book for you. You’ll need that fascination to sustain you through some 600 pages of detailed and painstaking chronicling of the Freud-Jung relationship and the early development of the psychoanalytic movement just after the turn of the 20th century.

Historian John Kerr views the father of psychoanalysis and his designated heir as two corners of a triangle with the brilliant Sabina Spielrein, daughter of a Russian me
Liam Guilar
Jun 18, 2012 Liam Guilar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an enjoyable, very readable history of the early days of the psychoanalytical movement. It targets the “Intelligent general reader”. Kerr’s style is informal, conversational, and he manages to keep moving through the mass of material he has gathered. It is not a novel, or a love story. And how it was made into a film is an interesting question the trailer on youtube doesn't really answer.

Ironically Sabina Speilrein seems “off stage” even when she’s on it. This may be partially the resul
May 26, 2012 Kit rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recentlyread
This is a phenomenal work of intellectual history, strongly feminist in both its rehabilitation of a forgotten woman psychoanalyst and in its persistent uncovering of the roots of supposedly universal theories in particular historical and personal experiences.

An amazing story and an intensively demanding read. I was especially thrilled by Kerr's interpretations of Jung and Spielrein's private symbolism and of certain signs and symptoms evinced by each theorist's various public writings and priv
Martin Hassman
Jan 01, 2014 Martin Hassman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
Pěkná kniha, které nemohu dát všech pět hvězdiček, protože mne zprvu zklamala. Zklamala, protože je něčím jiným, než jsem očekával. Jedná se o předlohu filmu Nebezpečná metoda, ale s tím filmem nemá až tak moc společného. Po vzoru filmové podoby jsem čekal beletrii snadno čitelnou a srozumitelnou laikům. Z knihy se vyklubala odborná historická studie analyzující počátky psychoanalýzy a zejména trojúhelníku Freud-Jung-Spielreinová. Kdyby člověk o problematice zhola nic nevěděl, jen stěží by knihu ...more
Elizabeth Moffat
Nov 14, 2012 Elizabeth Moffat rated it liked it
An interesting account of Freud and Jung and "the woman who came between them!" Except she didn't. Not REALLY. I haven't seen the film but they always try to sex these things up don't they? With some fascinating insights into the world of psycho-analysis, I was intrigued by this book, and although a bit dry at times, think it would appeal to lovers of psychology.
Daniel Farabaugh
Apr 09, 2012 Daniel Farabaugh rated it did not like it
I just cannot continue reading this book. The back and forth between the two protagonists is not particularly engaging and the author fails to put this into a larger context. I still really do not know what the role of the woman is in the whole story. It has just degenerated into a series of minutia from letters written back and forth.
H.O. Tanager
Jan 15, 2015 H.O. Tanager rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
This book is a long read, but a fantastic one if you are interested in the beginning of modern psychology. Come for the scandalous love story involving Speilrein, stay for the terrible breakup between Freud and Jung.

This book is impeccably researched. It is a credit to the author (as well as the dramatic actions of his subjects) that it is so gripping.
Jan 07, 2008 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
A great introduction to the Freud and Jung relationship. Where they divided, where they merged, and how Sabina Speilrein influence their work without really any due credit.
Marianne Wilson
Jan 24, 2017 Marianne Wilson rated it liked it
Scholarly though readable, overlong, repetitive history of the beginning of psychoanalysis, as seen through the lives and theories of three of the principle players: Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Sabina Speilrein.
Oct 22, 2012 Val rated it liked it
Shelves: byt-main, non-fiction
This book is about the development of psychoanalysis and not about whether Sabina Spielrein had kinky rumpy-pumpy with Carl Jung. It is not the book of the film.
It does include Sabrina's memory of her father spanking her brother and her fantasies about him also spanking her, as this was written up as one of Jung's test cases. (It is not clear whether the father ever actually spanked his daughter as well as his son.)

There are a lot of test cases, with several of the doctors analysing themselves a
Adriana Scarpin
"Algumas vezes, quando uma pessoa não consegue se fazer entender, é possível que a culpa seja dela própria. Talvez por estar falando de forma obscura; talvez por reclamar demais; talvez por falar de forma muito pessoal. E, talvez, Spielrein pudesse ser incluída nos três casos. Mas, analisando bem, não se pode culpá-la por sua incapacidade de conquistar o reconhecimento para suas conclusões sobre a repressão; os culpados foram Freud e Jung. Preocupados com suas próprias teorias, e cada um com o o ...more
Incredibly difficult to read, not because it's not good, because it really _is_ very good. But wow is it an ugly story. The sheer amount of research that had to be involved in writing this must have been astounding. The author Kerr must have had walls covered in post-it notes as he trails detective like three people through the changes of psychiatry into psychoanalysis during the early 1900s. I was fascinated and horrified as he tells their stories. I don't think I've ever seen a clearer image o ...more
Feb 19, 2013 Carl rated it liked it
A dense plodding difficult read whch demands much of its reader but offers much to those who stick it out. I came at this book from the wrong direction. Having seen Cronenberg's film A Dangerous Method (LOOSELY based on this book and the play the Talking Cure) I expected this book to be mostly about the troika of Jung-Freud-Spielrein relationship and only tangentially about pyschoanalysis(what the movie was more or less). The ratio in the book is much the reverse- mostly about the birth of pysch ...more
Nov 15, 2014 Ann rated it it was ok
Soms wel boeiend maar na het lezen van dit boek is het overheersende gevoel toch dat zowel Freud als Jung onvolwassen en egocentrische mannen waren die voornamelijk bezig waren met zichzelf. Ze analyseren zichzelf en elkaar en hun dromen en patiënten zijn een middel om hun eigen theorietjes door te drukken. Je krijgt niet het gevoel dat het helpen van de lijdende mens erg belangrijk is voor hen. Sommige patiënten zullen wellicht baat hebben gehad bij alle aandacht en het blijkt dat verschillende ...more
Jerry Peace
Soon lost in the jungle of jargon, I had to focus more on relationships and not the "whats" but the "hows." I am surprised at how much both Freud and Jung played Twister, painfully forcing "facts" (dreams and word associations and the such)into their previously constructed theories- kind of an early twentieth century psychological Fox News lite. To me, while Kerr's book seems to argue against an omnipresent road map to the unconscious, certain road signs do appear useful- word associations, arch ...more
Sep 23, 2016 PRINCESS rated it really liked it
“Great psychotherapists require great patients.”
D.J. Enright

A bizarre but challenging story. This was my first time to be introduced to such feelings, information and facts! Excellent history of psychiatry, Dangerously amazing!

A hysterical 20-year-old Russian Jewish student, relating how between the ages of three and four she had seen her father spanking her older brother on the bare bottom, and how later, by pressing her heel against her anus, she would try to defecate and at the same time prev
Jun 21, 2015 Jonathan rated it really liked it
Mixed feelings. Very smart. Unusually balanced in its appreciation of the strengths of psychoanalysis and critique of its weaknesses. The afterword is excellent, really thoughtful.

On the other hand, too much of it is devoted to the well known story of the rise and fall of the friendship between Freud and Jung. Not much new here, though the story underscores how juvenile Freud could be in his relations with colleagues, and what a colossal error he made in insisting that deviations from his theor
Jun 20, 2012 Ann rated it it was ok
Shelves: stopped-reading
I began this book thinking how incredible it would be to know so much about these influential men of their time. I was also incredibly intrigued by Spielrein's role and subsequent professional life having known each man so personally on professional and intimate levels. However, as I kept reading, I was bogged down by the verbiage and the minutiae of details and people incorporated into the history. While I am impressed by Kerr's devotion to accuracy, I was too overwhelmed to finish the book. Ab ...more
Elizabeth  Holter
Jan 21, 2012 Elizabeth Holter rated it liked it
Fascinating look at the personalities of Freud and Jung, and at the place and time and milieu which gave us their theories. Reads like a PhD thesis - a very well written one- but the rigorous documentation used to bolster the story and the conclusions gets in the way of a "good read," and gives the book a tedious, repetitive feel. Worth it for the reader who wants to better understand the way ideas germinate and spread. Three stars may be a little low for the amount of information and education ...more
Jennifer W
It took me far too long to finish this book. Not because it wasn't interesting, but because I could only listen to it on my home laptop. I really should know better than to listen to non-fiction, I can never process it the way I can when I read it on the page.

I feel like I needed more info on Freud and Jung's theories so that I could see how they differed later in their relationship. Perhaps this was a difficulty due to listening. I will likely read this book at some point in the future to see
Sep 18, 2013 kate added it
This book is unexpectedly funny, I find myself cracking up quite often. Apparently the founders of psychology were occasionally immature and highly imperfect and Kerr's dry sense of humor really showcases the foibles of the odd egomaniacs involved in the joining of the vienna and zurich schools of thought.

His theory about the sex/death theory of sabina spielrein is quite fascinating - as her published work interconnects with jung's theories, Kerr weaves in a human passion lived by speilrein more
Kent Winward
Feb 01, 2012 Kent Winward rated it liked it
No big surprise that the book is more tame than the movie. The most enjoyable parts of the book were some of the discussions about the Freud/Jung conflict and relationship, including the decided lack of the use of the scientific method in the development of psychoanalysis and the Christian/Jew conflict. Spielrein's thoughts on sex and death was when she was the most alive on the page. Many of the author's premises stretched and then broke the bounds of believability, such as Spielrein being the ...more
Jun 17, 2013 Vicky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A mighty tome, in detailed academic style by an author who obviously accepts as a matter of course, some of the more hard core aspects of psychoanalytic theory. Sometimes he remembers that these are only his opinions and sometimes not! Far more about Jung and Freud than Spielrein partly due to the lack of primary sources available, I guess.
I read this after seeing the Cronenberg film. I have learned an awful lot more about Jungian theory and its origins from this book (most of it off putting!)
Jul 20, 2014 Molly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a long slog. At first, I was impressed by the author's clear writing style, but it became clear that his strength was in crafting small sections of a few pages. The overall narrative lacked momentum and structure. Also, I was curious that this was aimed at a lay readership, since he examines the minutia of individual psychoanalytic meetings and conferences, but without contextualizing his reports. What, for example, is still deemed correct or useful by the psychoanalytic community? I ca ...more
Apr 28, 2014 Brendan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While this book told me a lot about Freud and Jung that I never knew, it often seemed like the author was jumping into speculation and assumption. At times it seemed he fell into the same trap that his subjects did--seeing something there because he wanted it to be there, interpreting events to fit his worldview. This book is not for the casual reader. It is long, detailed, and dense. If you're not in the field or a Freud/Jung buff this book is not for you.
Madeleine McLaughlin
Apr 24, 2014 Madeleine McLaughlin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
I never believed much in Sigmund Freud but I find his life fascinating. This story of Freud, Jung and Sabina (forgot her last name) is interesting in that it gives an insight into this woman nobody knows existed. She was killed by the Nazis later in life because she was Jewish and one can feel the sadness of this happenstance in that the world lost an original thinker and bold woman. A real nice read.
Jane Baker
Finally! I Finally finished it. Kerr is amazing to have written something so detailed and long! As it says - about the relationship between Jung, Freud and Sprielrein. It looks like a drama, it is sort of, but not what you think. I can't wait to see what hollywood have done to it. It's dense and about theory. Ever so often you would get a hit of drama. Freud is such a...I just can't describe the politic bickering, psychoanalyzing as a religion of Freud.
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“Sometimes when a person is not being heard, it is appropriate to blame him or her. Perhaps he or she is speaking obscurely; perhaps he is claiming too much; perhaps she is speaking rather too personally. And one can, perhaps, charge Spielrein on all three counts. But, on balance, her inability to win recognition for her insight into repression was not her fault; it was Freud’s and Jung’s. Preoccupied with their own theories, and with each other, the two men simply did not pause even to take in the ideas of this junior colleague let alone to lend a helping hand in finding a more felicitous expression for her thought. More ominously still, both men privately justified their disregard by implicitly casting her once more into the role of patient, as though that role somehow precluded a person from having a voice or a vision of his or her own. It was and remains a damning comment on how psychoanalysis was evolving that so unfair a rhetorical maneuver, one so at odds with the essential genius of the new therapeutic method, came so easily to hand. In the great race between Freud and Jung to systematize psychoanalytic theory, to codify it once and for all, a simpler truth was lost sight of: Sometimes a person is not heard because she is not listened to.” 7 likes
“Načež hlas v mém nitru pronesl: Je to umění. Překvapilo mě to. Nikdy mě nenapadlo, že to, co píši, má něco společného s uměním. Pak mě ale napadlo: Mé nevědomí možná utváří osobnost, která není já, která však naléhavě usiluje o vyjádření. Zcela bezpečně jsem věděl, že ten hlas vyšel z ženy. Poznal jsem hlas jedné pacientky, nadané psychopatky se silným přenosem na mne. V mé mysli se stala živou postavou.” 0 likes
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