In August 1904, Sabina Spielrein arrives at the Burghölzli, the pre-eminent psychiatric hospital in Zürich, suffering from hysteria and begins a new course of treatment with the young Swiss doctor Carl Jung. He uses word association and dream interpretation as part of his approach to psychoanalysis, and finds that Spielrein’s condition was triggered by the humiliation and sexual arousal she felt as a child when her father spanked her naked.A Dangerous Method 2011 .
Jung and chief of medicine Eugen Bleuler recognize Spielrein’s intelligence and energy, and allow her to assist them in their experiments. She measures the physical reactions of subjects during word association, to provide empirical data as a scientific basis for psychoanalysis. She soon learns that much of this new science is founded on the doctors’ observations of themselves, each other, and their families, not just their patients. The doctors, Jung and Freud, correspond at length before they meet, and begin sharing their dreams and analysing each other, and Freud himself soon adopts Jung as his heir and agent.
Jung finds in Spielrein a kindred spirit, and their attraction deepens due to transference. Jung resists the idea of cheating on his wife, Emma, and breaking the taboo of sex with a patient, but his resolve is weakened by the wild and unrepentant confidences of his new patient Otto Gross, a brilliant, philandering, unstable psychoanalyst. Gross decries monogamy in general and suggests that resistance to transference is symptomatic of the repression of normal, healthy sexual impulses, exhorting Jung to indulge himself with abandon.
Jung finally begins an affair with Spielrein, including rudimentary bondage and spanking. Things become even more tangled as he becomes her advisor to her dissertation; he publishes not only his studies of her as a patient but eventually her treatise as well. Spielrein wants to conceive a child with Jung, but he refuses. After his attempt to confine their relationship again to doctor and patient, she appeals to Freud for his professional help, and forces Jung to tell Freud the truth about their relationship, reminding him that she could have publicly damaged him but did not want to.