Sabina Spielrein

Sabina Spielrein (1918).

Sabina Nikolayevna Spielrein (Russian: Сабина Николаевна Шпильрейн; 25 October 1885 OS – 11 August 1942) was a Russian physician and one of the first female psychoanalysts.


She was born in 1885 into a wealthy Jewish family in Rostov-on-Don, Russian Empire. Sabina was the eldest of five children. From her early childhood, Sabina was highly imaginative and believed that she had a 'higher calling' to achieve greatness, and she communicated about this privately with a 'guardian spirit'. However, her parents' marriage was turbulent and she experienced physical violence from both of them. She suffered from multiple somatic symptoms and obsessions. Some commentators believe she may have been sexually abused by someone in the family. She attended a Froebel school followed by the Yekaterinskaya Gymnasium in Rostov, where she excelled in science, music and languages. She learned to speak three languages fluently. During her teens, she continued to be troubled emotionally and became infatuated first with her history teacher, then with a paternal uncle.

As a young woman, Spielrein was in succession the patient, then student, then colleague of Carl Gustav Jung, with whom she had an intimate relationship during 1908-1910, as is documented in their correspondence from the time and her diaries. She also met, corresponded, and had a collegial relationship with Sigmund Freud. One of her more famous analysands was the Swiss developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget. She worked as a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, teacher and paediatrician in Switzerland and Russia. In a thirty-year professional career, she published over 35 papers in three languages (German, French and Russian), covering psychoanalysis, developmental psychology, psycholinguistics and educational psychology. Her best known and perhaps most influential published work in the field of psychoanalysis is the essay titled "Destruction as the Cause of Coming Into Being", written in German in 1912.

She married in 1912 and had two daughters. In the next decade, she lived for periods in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. In 1923 she moved back to Russia, which was now part of the newly founded Soviet Union. Her husband died in 1936. In 1937 during the Great Purge, a campaign of political repression in the Soviet Union, all three of her brothers Isaac, Jan and Emil Spielrein were arrested, and executed in 1937 and 1938.

Spielrein died in 1942 in the holocaust when the German army occupied for the second time her city Rostov-on-Don. Among the 27,000 mostly Jewish victims who were shot dead were Sabina Spielrein (57) and both of her daughters Renata (29) and Eva (16).


Sabina Spielrein was an extremely bright but mentally ill masochistic spanking fetishist. She was often spanked as a child for things like encopresis, her habit of avoiding defecation as long as possible, which generally leads to inadvertent soiling. She later confessed how humiliating it was for her to be spanked by her father on her bare buttocks while her younger brothers watched. Growing up, Sabina developed depression, nervous tics, compulsive masturbation, and psychosomatic ailments. At the age of 16, her mental health worsened. Following the sudden death of her only sister Emilia from typhoid, Spielrein's mental health started to deteriorate further and at the age of 18 she suffered a breakdown with severe hysteria including tics, grimaces, and uncontrollable laughing and crying. In August 1904, she was admitted to a Swiss mental hospital near Zurich where Jung worked. In the days following her admission, Spielrein disclosed to Jung that her father had often beaten her, and that she was troubled by masochistic fantasies of being beaten. In a letter to Freud, Jung explained her case:

The physical chastisements administered to the patient’s posterior by her father from the age of four until seven had unfortunately become associated with the patient’s premature and now highly developed sexual awareness. This sexuality came to be expressed by the patient from very early on by her rubbing her thighs together to commence an act of masturbation. Masturbation always occurred after she underwent punishment from her father. After a while the beatings were no longer necessary to initiate sexual arousal; it came to betriggered through mere threats and other situations implying violence, such as verbal abuse, threatening movements of the hands, etc. After a time she could not even look at her father’s hands without becoming sexually aroused, or watch him eat without imagining how the food was ejected, and then being thrashed on the buttocks, etc. These associations extended to the younger brother too, who also masturbated frequently from an early age. Threats to the boy or ill-treatment of him aroused her and she had to masturbate whenever she saw him being punished. Gradually any situation which reflected violence aroused her, for instance being told to obey. As soon as she was alone she was plagued by obsessional fantasies, for example, she would imagine all kinds of torments; the same thing happened in her dreams: for example, she often dreamt that she was eating her lunch and simultaneously sitting on the lavatory and that everything was going straight out through her bottom; at the same time she was surrounded by a large crowd of people watching her; on another occasion she was being whipped in front of a great mob of people, etc.
  — Carl Gustav Jung, Report on Miss Spielrein to Professor Freud in Vienna, handed over to Mrs Spielrein for use if the occasion arises, 15 September 1905[1]

During treatment, Jung and Spielrein fell in love with each other. It is unknown whether they had sexual intercourse or if it was only a platonic love. There is no indication that the relationship of Spielrein and Jung involved sadism or masochism, as suggested in theatrical renditions of the story.

Spielrein is sometimes regarded as having been the inspiration for Jung's conception of the anima, and her case may also have laid groundwork for Freud's A child is being beaten (1919).


Spielrein attended at medical school at the University of Zurich from June 1905 to January 1911, excelling there academically. In 1912 Spielrein married the Russian Jewish physician Pavel Nahumovitch Sheftel. She published many influential papers as a psychoanalyst.

From 1920 to 1923, she worked at a private school in Geneva, the Rousseau Institute, a pioneering clinical, training and research centre for child development. In 1923, she moved to Moscow to work in the "Detski Dom", a "Psychoanalytic Orphanage–Laboratory", which was a school based on Freud's ideas. In Detski Dom, use of discipline was avoided and children were allowed maximum freedom of movement. Sexual exploration and curiosity was also permitted. The school had to close in 1924, in the wake of accusations of experiments to stimulate the children's sexuality prematurely.

For at least the next decade, Spielrein continued to work actively as a pediatrician, carrying out further research, lecturing on psychoanalysis, and publishing in the west until 1931.

Spielrein in literature, theatre plays and filmEdit

Spielrein figures prominently in two contemporary British plays: Sabina (1998) by Snoo Wilson and The Talking Cure (2003) by Christopher Hampton (based on the book A Most Dangerous Method). Both plays were preceded by the Off Broadway production of Sabina (1996) by Willy Holtzman.

In 2011, Hampton adapted his own play for the feature film A Dangerous Method.

A Risque Method (CP-125, Chelsea Pfeiffer Entertainment) is a spanking video in which Mei Mara plays a patient who is spanked by her strict therapist played by Chelsea Pfeiffer.

See alsoEdit


  This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Sabina Spielrein. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Spanking Art, the text of Wikipedia is available under a copyleft license, the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license.