Show Me a Sane Man and I Will Cure Him

Carl Jung? Sigmund Freud? Guy Bellamy? Jolande Jacobi? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: As part of a book project I have been tracking down quotations credited to the famed psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. One of the most interesting was:

Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.

The best citation I have found appeared in a newspaper article in 1975. The words were attributed to Jung, but this date is fourteen years after his death. So I am handing this task off to you, if you chose to accept it. This is a somewhat extreme statement with a humorous edge; hence, it probably did not appear in a monograph or journal article.

Quote Investigator: There is evidence that Jung made a remark of this type. The English author Vincent Brome has written a large number of biographies including some about individuals in Sigmund Freud’s circle. In 1978 he published a volume about Jung that included information from an interview with Jolande Jacobi, a long-time assistant to the psychiatrist. Jung died in 1961, and the interview was conducted in 1963 according to Brome. Here is an excerpt describing Jung from the biography together with a footnote [JJCJ]:

It was the explosive person who said one day to his wife, ‘If I get another perfectly normal adult malingering as a sick patient I’ll have him certified!’ And to George Beckwith, his American friend, ‘I’m sometimes driven to the conclusion that boring people need treatment more urgently than mad people.’ Witty on some occasions, he commented to one of his assistants, ‘Show me a sane person and I’ll cure him for you.’ [Footnote 1]

[Footnote 1 for Chapter 23] Jolande Jacobi, author’s interview, 24 Nov 1963.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1932 C. G. Jung wrote an article titled “Sigmund Freud in His Historical Setting”, and he referred to the notion of “a normal man” as a “strange fiction”. This skepticism might be viewed as a precursor to skepticism about the idea of a “sane man” [NMCG]:

How shall we look upon the soul, and how shall we explain a neurosis? This problem presents itself to every practitioner whose cases are not cured even after all the childhood sexual experiences have been dug up, and all the cultural values dissected into bad elements, or when the patient has become that strange fiction—a normal man and a gregarious animal.

In 1957 the education theorist Robin A. Hodgkin published a book titled “Education and Change” that included a version of the saying. Hodgkin did not give a precise attribution; instead, he employed the descriptor “one of Freud’s pupils”. Interestingly, the pronoun signaled that the user of the phrase was female [ECRH]:

There can be few people in the ‘civilized’ world who have not sometimes shown neurotic symptoms. One of Freud’s pupils, herself a famous psychoanalyst, wrote: ‘Show me a normal man and I will cure him’.

In 1963 Vincent Brome interviewed Jolande Jacobi as stated in Brome’s 1978 biography of Jung. Jacobi, who worked with Jung extensively, credited the following words to him [JJCJ]:

Show me a sane person and I’ll cure him for you.

In March 1975 an article in “The British Medical Journal” credited the phrase to Freud but also noted that it might be apocryphal [SFHR]:

“Show me the normal man and I will cure him.” This aphorism, attributed to Freud, may or may not be apocryphal, but its wit and perceptiveness certainly bear the imprint of the master. In effect it means that Sir Galahad, the knight in shining white armour, the paragon of all the virtues, is so perfect as to be abnormal by ordinary standards.

On July 19, 1975 “The Guardian” newspaper published an article by Brome in which he attributed the saying to Jung [VBCJ]:

I set out on a pilgrimage to the holy places of Carl Gustav Jung in Switzerland expecting to encounter the reverence which his name evoked in Jungian circles in London. Instead, it quickly became evident that here was a great man unhonoured in his own land whose name had almost disappeared in that pool of complacency said to characterise the Swiss. Jung once remarked in witty mood, “Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.” Translated into other terms it now became “Show me a great man and I will dismantle him for you.”

In 1977 the humorist Guy Bellamy included a version of the phrase in his novel “The Secret Lemonade Drinker” during a dialog [GBCJ]:

“Show me a normal man and I’ll cure him — Jung. Actually, you keep happening along at somewhat tense moments in my domestic life.”
She lay back on the bed. “Any more quotations you want to get off, …

In November 1978 the Los Angeles Times printed a review of Brome’s biography of Jung. The reviewer was attracted to the quote and reprinted it [LTCJ]:

There was a sharp edge of wit about him, a trait which he shared with Freud. (If it had been more self-directed in each individual, the great schisms might not have occurred, or if they had, with less rancor and fewer bruised egos.) Jung told one of his assistants: “Show me a sane person and I’ll cure him for you.”

In 1984 the industrious quotation collector Robert Byrne included the saying in one of his compilations of the “Best Things Anybody Ever Said” [RBCJ]:

Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.
C. G. Jung (1875-1961)

In conclusion, based on the testimony of Jolande Jacobi as recorded by Vincent Brome QI believes that Carl Jung probably did make the statement under investigation.

The quotation in Robin A. Hodgkin’s 1957 book is intriguing, but QI does not know the identity of the female follower of Freud referenced by Hodgkin.

[JJCJ] 1978, Jung by Vincent Brome, Chapter 23: Middle Age and Africa, Quote Page 200, Footnote Page 302, Atheneum, New York. (Verified on paper)

[NMCG] 1932 September, Character and Personality, [Journal of Personality], Volume 1, Issue 1, Sigmund Freud in His Historical Setting by C. G. Jung, [Translated from German by Cary F. Baynes], Start Page 48, Quote Page 55, Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina. (Verified on microfilm)

[ECRH] 1957, “Education and Change: A book mainly for those who work in countries where education is part of a process of rapid social change” by R. A. Hodgkin [Robin A. Hodgkin], Page 25, Oxford University Press, London. (Verified on paper)

[SFHR] 1975 March 22, The British Medical Journal, Personality Disorders by H. R. Rollin, Start Page 665, Quote Page 665, Published by BMJ Publishing Group. (JSTOR) link

[VBCJ] 1975 July 19, The Guardian (UK), The Saturday Page, “The man who woke the world” by Vincent Brome, Page 9, Column 1, London, UK. (ProQuest) [Thanks to Paul Zimmerman for pointing out this article and thanks to Stephen Goranson for accessing it]

[GBCJ] 1977, The Secret Lemonade Drinker by Guy Bellamy, Page 91, Holt Rinehart and Winston. (Verified on paper)

[LTCJ] 1978 November 21, Los Angeles Times, The Book Report: Jung: Roots of His Myth Alive by Robert Kirsch, [Book review of “Jung” by Vincent Brome], Page F6, Los Angeles, California. (ProQuest)

[RBCJ] 1988, 1,911 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, Selected and Compiled by Robert Byrne, [1984, The Other 637 Best Things Anybody Ever Said], Page 226, A Fawcett Book: Random House, New York. (Google Books preview)

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