John Haule. The Love Cure: Therapy Erotic and Sexual

John Haule's provocatively titled The Love Cure: Therapy Erotic and Sexual is sure to pique anyone's interest.

(Woodstock, Conn.: Spring Publications, 1996)

Reviewed by David Sedgwick

Originally published in Quadrant, vol. 28, no. 2 (summer 1998)


John Haule's provocatively titled The Love Cure: Therapy Erotic and Sexual is sure to pique anyone's interest. Dr. Haule, a Jungian analyst from Boston, has written before on romantic love in literature, myth, and religion (Pilgrimage of the Heart: The Path of Romantic Love , originally and felicitously entitled Divine Madness). Now he brings his well-honed ideas to bear on the clinical situation in particular, namely, on the controversial issues of therapist-patient eroticism and sex.

Few topics raise more hackles in the public mind or therapeutic community. The Love Cure —which is a subtle, thought-provoking meditation on this volatile area—is in part a response to another fine book by a Jungian analyst, Peter Rutter's Sex in the Forbidden Zone (Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1989). According to Haule, Rutter's book, while sensitive and caring in its exploration and proscription of sexual acting out, also is "oriented entirely by the coordi nates of the persona field," that is, by collective opinion and regulation. Thus Rutter allegedly ignores archetypal erotic dynamics, "cordons off the erotic field as counter to the aims of therapy,...and may be suspected of being in flight from Eros" (p. 21).

Haule has set up a straw man in Rutter here—but it doesn't matter. He uses Rutter's ethical and empathic, indeed erotic (the eros of sacrifice and limit-setting), book as a jumping off point for his (Haule's) own reflections on eros in the analytic encounter. Haule is adamant, and rightly so, about not letting political correctness preemptively banish eros from the consulting room, because eros—"the love cure"—is the soul and source of healing. In fact, so important are erotic energies in therapy that, for Haule, the question of their expression in analyst-patient sexual interaction must, "in principle," be left open.

Haule is not encouraging therapist-patient sex, but he is against making any assumptions, because assumptions may cut off the real healing possibilities of a contained eros. Yet he eventually winds up at Rutter's restrained position, noting that the latter has indeed "grasped the essential" when Rutter describes the "healing moments" that occur when a person in power "relinquishes his sexual agenda toward his protege." (protégé is a good word here: a patient is, in the best psychological sense, under an analyst's "protection" as she learns about herself in analysis.)

The idea of analysis as an erotic field is as old as Freud and was, as we now know, enacted to some extent by Jung with Sabina Spielrein and Toni Wolff (to our concern, if not our dismay, no matter how meaningful and how productive theoretically these relationships were). Haule suggests that Jung's use of erotic but obscure alchemical images in Psychology of the Transference successfully cloaked their autobiographical dimension—an idea that had never occurred to this reviewer, so effectively does the symbolic dimension of that work dominate the clinical, much less the autobiographical.

Moving first, as Jung did, from the idea of eros as strictly sexual, Haule recalls Freud's early comment to Jung that "the cure is effected by love." Using his own close study of the phenomenology of ecstatic romantic and spiritual experiences, as well as Heinz Kohut's empathy-grounded studies of narcissistic "selfobject" needs, Haule works through Freud's further comment that an analyst "gives them the love that they longed for as children." Haule himself ultimately arrives at the idea of the analyst's "therapeutic love for the self-in-becoming" of the patient (p. 90).

These ideas are not new ones for Jungians or others. Andrew Samuels, for instance, summarized it well when he noted that analyst and patient are "analytically married...no eros, no analysis" (The Plural Psyche, London: Routledge, 1989, pp. 185, 190) and this reviewer detailed erotic struggles in a countertransference case study (The Wounded Healer, London: Routledge, 1994). However, Haule furthers the issue by revealing in detail the interior logic of the argument that winds up at, so to speak, the erotic-empathic position.

In addition to the work of Kohut and religious mystics, Haule cites to good effect psychoanalyst Harold Searles's "Oedipal Love in the Countertransference" (1959), a beautifully conceived and movingly written account of mutual romantic love and its relinquishment (italics mine) in both parental and transference/countertransference contexts. Haule's treatise emphasizes quickly and foremost the mutual love, moving more slowly to the relinquishment aspect. His respect for the spiritual, emotional, and healing powers of a deep eros involvement prohibits his own a priori prohibition of sexual engagement with patients.

Haule cycles around to this frequently in the book, always keeping the door open, or at least cracked: "Very likely the inappropriateness of sexual enactment will turn out to be verified in the vast majority of cases....There may be one in several million patients for whom a sexual relationship with the therapist would be supported by the unfolding of both selves and the we." He is concerned too about the effect on a patient of an "abrupt termination" when erotic energies have arisen and about thereby pigeon-holing a patient as being "in need of protection from her sexual self" (p. 167).

All this is very true and Haule's defense of eros is crucial. His empathic articulations of the phenomenology of the "I" and "you" melting into the "we" (yet also retaining an eros-based distance) and his descriptions of religious-spiritual ecstasies are brilliant, almost tantalizing. On the other hand, any inference we might make that deep romance or religioerotic "rapture" have charged the field in most sexual enactments in therapy would be a sizable assumption: more often, it seems, the temenos has been desecrated by therapists who are nowhere near the sophisticated, highly differentiated erotics of Haule's argument. Most sexual "acting out" in therapy is hardly erotic in Haule's sense, or in any sustained sense.

Much as we tend to detest the Law—the "persona field" of collective intrusion and knee-jerk rules—there are times when it is not really a problem, or even, heaven forbid, times when it is right. Ethical guidelines about sex with patients do not inherently hinder us from exploring threateningly erotic countertransference/transference situations. John Haule is not necessarily arguing otherwise but is making a spirited defense of the realm of eros, lest in overreaction the thought police prevent us from imagining and experiencing the healing energies—a cure effected by several kinds of love—that can arise in the safe container (the vas bene clausum ) of analysis.


David Sedgwick, Ph.D., is a Jungian analyst in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of Jung and Searles: A Comparative Study (1993), The Wounded Healer: Countertransference From a Jungian Perspective (1994), and Introduction to Jungian Psychotherapy: The Therapeutic Relationship (forthcoming). He is an associate editor of C.G. Jung, Analytical Psychology, and Culture (a website) and a freelance copy editor for Princeton University Press and for Carden Jennings Publishing.