A Dangerous MethodPosted: January 16, 2013
It’s easy to look at a movie like A Dangerous Method (2011) and say “that was a long time ago…psychoanalysis has progressed far beyond that.” Well, you would be surprised to find out it really hasn’t. Freud and Jung are two huge names in Psychology and the whole concept of psychoanalysis. I was tested time and time again as a Psychology major about Freud’s Psychosexual stages (oral, anal, phallic, latent, genital). I read his case studies and theories on hysteria. People joke about penis envy and Freudian slips but those were groundbreaking ideas for Freud. He related things as trivial as a cough to sexual dysfunctions or fantasies. (If you would like further explanation of that I am happy to provide it.)
Obviously A Dangerous Method is a movie and may or may not represent the real interactions between Freud, Jung, and Spielrein. Spielrein was definitely raised in unorthodox fashion that led her to experience pleasure when she was beaten by her father. This would qualify her for a myriad of sexual dysfunctions and would require psychoanalysis and therapy to lead her to a healthy sexual behavior. Whether or not the relationship with Jung and Spielrein was intimate has not been fully revealed, but signs definitely point to an inappropriate relationship. The only course I took on counseling in college stressed the importance of maintaining distance between a therapist and client. Jung and Spielrein began to work together on things other than her recovery and since this is a movie one thing leads to another…leads to the bedroom. Jung gets caught up in the idea that we should never repress our desires for pleasure. He brings this idea to Freud and the two have lengthy sessions discussing the human psyche and if repression has negative effects on our personalities. It may have been 100 years ago but these conversations and theories are the basis for psychoanalysis and cognitive therapy. The whole concept of laying on a couch and saying “How do you feel about that?” comes from these two men. The movie raises important questions about how we view sexual drive and deviance, and gives important insight into the early work of Freud and Jung. Freud interprets some of Jung’s dreams and to an outsider this may seem like something Miss Cleo used to do but we did it in my college classrooms and it was fascinating. We may not have actually been interpreting each other’s dreams but at times you discovered things that were buried in your thoughts. These guys may have had some “crazy” ideas but others were amazing. As I said at the beginning of the post it is easy to believe that we have come a long way since then, but it is important to acknowledge that the work of these two men is still taught in high schools and universities all over the world.
I highly recommend this movie to psychology majors or people interested in the history of the discipline. Fassbender, Mortensen, and Knightley give great performances. Knightley in particular portrays Spielrein’s hysteria beautifully. It should also be noted that in real life the work of Spielrein has been all but forgotten, but she became a well known theorist herself before being captured and killed by the Nazis. To end this post on a lighter note, they sell Freudian Slippers, every year at Christmas I think I am going to get a pair, and every year I am disappointed.