A Fictitious Meeting of Michael Balint and C.G. Jung

Stephan Alder
Berlin/Potsdam, Germany
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Analytische Psychologie

I am a Psychoanalist in Berlin/Potsdam, Germany. I was trained in the tradition of C.G. Jung in connection with the developments of the Freudian psychoanalysis. I am also a Balint group leader of the German Balint Society. When I lead Balint-groups I make the connection between the ideas of Jung and Balint.

For this paper I am going to give you an insight into a fictional meeting between Jung and Balint. I assume that all of you have had experience with groups of supervision which focus on the therapistpatient- relationship in the sense of Balint-groups. I invite you to follow the fictional dialog. You have to know that Jung and Balint never met each other. I will show the connection to reality by describing a conversation between Mr. Fred Plaut and myself that I had last year. This short conversation will be in the middle of the Balint-Jung-dialog.

Fictional meeting between Jung and Balint

Two men are strolling along a path:

Jung: I mentioned your name in relation to another person in my books. But of course I know of you. You described this special type of personality, the oknophil type, which loves closeness, didn’t you?

Balint: Yes, I did. It is the fear of being abandoned. That’s why the partner is showered with love and affection until they are crushed.

Jung: This is interesting. It’s a frequent phenomenon of transference in our analyses. And we have the problem of how to solve such a “feeling relationship”. You also described something like a shadow of the oknophil personality type through regression, didn’t you?

Balint: Yes, you mean people who like big spaces and renounce intensive human relationship, the philobat, who loves distance – like a tightrope walker.

Jung: If someone has such an inner constellation, then they will look for risks and avoid dependencies. In a certain way it is a picture of the Trickster-archetype.

Balint: Yes, this is an interesting parallel. The early childhood experience of being abandoned evoked the idea that human relationships are basically unreliable. Therefore the person thinks that it is better to live without help from others, to go their own way – like the tightrope walker – the philobat – type.

Jung: This certainly makes sense. I know what you are talking about. When I go sailing, I am like your Philobat type.

Balint: (laughing) On the other hand I like my groups, because the people always hope that they can learn something from me. And I like them even when they become disappointed when they realize that I don’t have the answers and that they should learn to believe in their own experiences. Then I am like my oknophil type. Maybe it is a healer archetype. You used this language, didn’t you? That was just a bit of fun. Actually, do you know this annoying situation. It happened to me with the subject of regression, when I described The Basic Fault.

Jung: What do you mean?

Balint: It annoys me: “We are known, tolerated, perhaps even read, but certainly not quoted.1

Jung: Oh yes, there are some psychoanalysts who have read my texts, and I haven’t found any citation. This is painful, but I don’t admit it.

Balint: This is like a basic fault, isn’t it? I have heard that you studied alchemy and how two people get into a relationship. Isn’t it a regressive process you described as a process of transference?

Jung: Yes it is. The transference is “… the A and O of the analytical method.” “I am personally happy, if the transference is smooth …2 But it is a power that we as psychotherapists can’t overestimate. The process of changing goes on. It is more a process in our soul.

Balint: Don’t you mean that regression happens at first between two people? I think so: “It is both an interpsychic and an interpersonal phenomenon. We also found strong indications that for the analytic therapy of regressed states its interpersonal aspects were more important.3

Jung: It is always important to find the shadow side in others, i.e., to encounter the dark side in ourselves. And it is also a side that it is not liked. “The person who has no relationships doesn’t have completeness, because he or she can only achieve completeness in the soul, which doesn’t exist without the other side that you always find in the ‘you’”.4I remember the time with my honoured Professor Freud – for him in an early stage of the instinct development – in his opinion the Ego and the Id are not divided – nor are the libido and aggression. My student, Erich Neuman, wrote about this. He named it – I think – the Einheitswirklichkeit: “the union of the reality.”

Balint: Oh yes. You have reminded me about my sister’s classmate from Budapest, Magret Mahler. She spoke about the “Dual union”: two as a unit, like symbiosis between mother and child at the beginning. My admired teacher Ferenczi also wrote this. By the way, is your libido theory similar to the basic assumption that libido and aggression are not differentiated at the beginning? When do they each come into being – the love and the aggression?

Jung: For me this type of separation doesn’t exist. I have the idea of archetypes as patterns of behavior, which structure our soul. Not everything that we experience can be integrated. That’s why complexes arise. At the core of these complexes is an emotion which is always connected with the experience of an emotional complex.

Balint: That’s right. I have heard that you have a mystical understanding of the self, don’t you?

Jung: Yes, I think of the completeness in us which we are not able to grasp as the Self. From this basis the Ego as a complex develops. This was expressed by my admired student, Erich Neumann, as the filialisation of the Self into the Ego.

Balint: So I think your “Self“ is the “Id“ of Freud and out of that the Ego arises. They are comparable, aren’t they?

Jung: Yes and no. Freud’s motto is: where the Id was the Ego should be. For me this development is on both sides. A part of what the Self was should become the Ego which then influences the Self. The Self develops further. We see for example the shadow next to the Ego. Then you find the Anima and Animus as counter sexual references of the Ego. So we find connections to heterosexual couples, maybe also to homosexual souls5 and then they produce something that we call a child. This happens in the outside reality like in the inner reality. In this way our soul becomes richer, it develops. We create models, a new design, we destroy them and create new ones. Do you understand?

Balint: You have spoken a lot. I thought that perhaps you would have preferred to speak to Freud rather than to me?

Jung: Oh no, but a little bit yes. But I’m happy that we have met each other. This is more important. You died nine years after me and I was born twenty years before you. The primary love – is this from you? This is – in my opinion – important although I didn’t note it in my books.

Balint: So I had a shorter life than you. But let us have a look at the primary love. This has been on my mind for a long time because of the death-instinct. I don’t think it is likely that the death-instict exists. I think it is more an intensive destructive reaction after severe disappointment. The primary love is what a child expects from his mother in his dependency and what the mother expects from her child – if that is possible. I think that is what you meant when you described Einheitswirklichkeit.

Jung: Yes, the Einheitswirklichkei“ from Erich Neumann is another term for primary love. The love is in the archetype of the Self. The conjunction is only to be connected with love – the primary love belongs to this.

Balint: As we speak and get to know each other, I remember an idea that I have often had. I have told Fred Plaut in London many times, do you know him? My idea is that we have to see all analytical languages as equal. “Each of them expresses important details of analytic experience, and as long as we cannot translate confidently and reliably the communications expressed in one language into any of the others, we have to tolerate all of them.”6

Jung: That sounds wise. I totally agree with you. Out of you the archetype of the “old wise man” is speaking.

(Balint laughs) I will change the level. I will now describe the conversation I had with Mr. Fred Plaut about the fictional dialogue to show the connection to his reality.

Plaut said: I knew these two men, you describe them as gentlemen. That isn’t correct. They were not gentlemen. Balint was “rude” and Jung didn’t tolerate any opinions other than his own. You know Balint was loyal to Freud and had disdain for Jung because Jung was, in Freud’s opinion, first and foremost a heretic.

Secondly, the mysticism of Jung made a strange impression on the Freudians; also, for Jung, a child didn’t exist. For him only the inner child existed as a mental fruit.

I said: It is like Zeus, who was able to give birth through his head.

Plaut: Yes, he was Zeus. The worship of Jung did take place. Every word he spoke was like a revelation. There were some people who thought about, and later discussed what he had said.

The fictitious dialog between Jung and Balint continues:

Jung: Do you have a theory about your groups?

Balint: I think about the processes of transference and insight. We started in the fifties. We called this “… training cum-research … as group discussion, case conference, research seminar, discussion seminar.” “Our chief aim was a reasonable thorough examination of the ever-changing doctor-patient relationship, i.e. the study of the pharmacology of the drug ‘doctor.’7 You can’t call that a theory. We don’t understand many things.

Jung: I don’t think very much of groups. As “a group-creature we are all in a fog …” “In the group, everybody behaves irrationally, irresponsibly, unpredictably and unreliably –, …8 The group-creature is primitive. The individual is able to distance themselves from the group and is able to develop. On the other hand: “A positive relationship between an individual and the society or a group is very important because no individual lives alone, but depends on a group. The self – actually the centre of the individual – is diverse in it’s nature. It is in this sense a group.9

Balint: That sounds like a contradiction. On the one hand you see the foggy group-creature and on the other hand you call the Self a group.

Jung: You are right, these are different terms. The foggy group-creatures and the Self as a group. The archetypal constellation of the unconscious Ego and its shadow – they become vivid.

Balint: That sounds quite nice – with light and shadow, but it is also very general.

Jung: It is very general. Nevertheless it is generally important. The shadow as the foggy group-soul should be seen by the conscious group.

Balint: So now you are interested in groups. It is an unthinkable step, if we look at your literature.

Jung: It is also unthinkable for us to speak to each other. So you see there are more unthinkable and unfeelable items possible.

Balint: Typology, as you understand it, is also a theory of relationship like a couple. For example the unconscious part of the feeling is projected, the conscious part of thinking you find in the identification.

Jung: I agree with you. We need the other to encounter ourselves. Now I share your position as to the importance of the interaction which happens before the development of the Ego. But please, tell me: how do you handle your groups?

Balint: A doctor tells the group about a patient who comes to mind. We had six to twelve doctors. We met every week for two to three years. “… the doctors were asked to report freely on their experiences with their patients. They were allowed to use their clinical notes, but only as an aide-memoire and not as a précis (script, St.A.). From the beginning our intention was that a doctor ’s report should include as full an account as possible of his emotional responses to his patient, or even his emotional involvement in his patient’s problems.10 I tried to create an atmosphere of free discussion – in our analytical style – the principle of the free association of our admired Professor Freud.

Jung: Oh, that’s good. The doctor who is infected by his patient gives his infection to the others and they have to cope with it. The collective unconscious connects. Tell me, doesn’t everybody just talk about themselves?

Balint: Yes and no. I relate everything that is shared in the group to the case and the relationship between the therapist and the patient. So it is a patient-related self experience.

Jung: Oh yes, this is the participation mystique

Both strolled along a path in a forest discussing as they went. After a turn in the path they went out of my view. It seemed that the dialogue had not yet ended.

The sunny weather accompanied them as they continued to stroll.

Appendix: A short summary of the recent position of the Balintgroup- work

Michael Balint (1896-1970) founded this psychoanalytical supervision concept in a group. The focus is the therapist-patient-relationship. Balint group work is based on theory, can be taught and can be learned. It can be used to make a diagnosis in the therapist-patient relationship and in therapy. (Luban-Plozza et al, 1998, Rappe-Giesecke, 1994, Nedelmann, 1989.)

The Balint group work gives members of all helping professions, like doctors, psychologists, psychotherapists for children and youth, nurses and social workers (also priests, lawyers, teachers), an opportunity to share and to work through relationships with clients or patients in groups of six to twelve people.


  • 1 Balint, Michael, The Basic Fault, 2003, p. 155.
  • 2 Jung, C.G., CW, p. 16, §358.
  • 3 Balint, The Basic Fault, 1968, 1999, p. 159.
  • 4 Jung, CW 16, §260. Trans. author.
  • 5 Jung, CW 16, §419, n. 15.
  • 6 Balint, The Basic Fault, 2003, p. 96.
  • 7 Balint, The Doctor, His Patient, and the Illness, 2000, p. 3, 4.
  • 8 Jung, CW 18, §1321, §1315. Trans. author.
  • 9 Kleespies, W., Gruppentherapie und Analytische Psychologie, Anal. Psychol., Aug. 1995, S. 164; trans. author.
  • 10 Balint, The Doctor, His Patient, and the Illness, 2000, p. 4.