Lou Andreas Salome and her “audacity to be free”

by Andrada Costoiu

Photo: Lou Andreas-Salomé – Foto Atelier Elvira, WikiCommons

There are so many things we take for granted, such is freedom. Being free to speak our minds, to pursue our dreams, and to do the things we want to do. But what if you lived in a different place or in a different time, what if you had to fight to be you everyday? 

Lou Andreas Salome was an extremely bright woman, one that Nietzsche, Rene Maria Rilke (a famous German poet), Paul Ree (a German philosopher) fell in love with.  She was also a confidante of Sigmund Freud and a sort of a godmother to Freud’s daughter, Anna Freud. That’s an impressive list of fascinating people, isn’t it?  

She made herself free of the society rules and became immersed in her work. She ignored her family’s and the general social expectations, which held that the purpose of a woman was to get married, have children and be dependent on her man. Pressed by everyone around her to undertake a conventional life, she constantly refused to do so.

She lived in Germany, where under the influential Prussian civil code an unmarried woman remained under the ward of her father and a married woman under the ward of her husband…and the husband, until 1860 could take his wife to the police station to be beaten….Imagine that!

I think she was a larger-than-life figure. Besides these top thinkers that were entwined in her life, her accomplishments in the fields of philosophy, psychology, and her published writings as a poet, essayist, and novelist are extraordinary.  She was one of the first female psychoanalysts and one of the first women to write psychoanalytically on female sexuality.

How did she remain under the radar?!

She was born in Russia, Sankt Petersburg in 1861.  She was curious and wanted to learn, so she persuaded a Dutch priest to teach her theology, philosophy, world religions and German literature. The priest, who was married and 25 years older than her, fell in love with her and proposed. Of course, she wasn’t interested and the lessons stopped.  She was only 17 years old…

After her father’s death she moved to Zurich; then because she developed a lung disease they moved to Rome. She was 21. Here she met Paul Ree, a German philosopher than happened to be Nietzsche’s friend. Paul Ree is not that famous, but Nietzsche’s (1844–1900)philosophy has been and still is of influence in present time. Nietzsche’s way of thinking was fresh; he challenged the traditional values and I like that about him. With the risk of being deterred from the subject, I’m going to include here few of Nietzsche’s quotes:

“ There are no beautiful surfaces without a terrible depth”

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

“The higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.”

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

—Friedrich Nietzsche

Lou, Nietzsche and Ree spend time and were planning to all move together, in a kind of brotherhood-sisterhood living, where they would all concentrate on their work. 

This is a famous picture the three of them took in Luzerne, with Lou holding a whip and Nietzsche and Ree pulling the cart. It symbolizes the power she had over them…

Photo:Nietzsche paul-ree lou-von-salome, 1882,WikiCommons

Nietzsche and Ree were smitten with her and both proposed. She rejected their proposals. The relationship with Nietzsche ended up first, partly because of his possessive sister, Elizabeth Nietzsche, who in my opinion was a not very nice(I’ll just say this to keep the language of my writing clean). Some scholars say that Nietzsche wrote his famous book Thus Spoke Zarathustra as a response to his broken heart. Ree left her when she agreed to enter into a sham marriage (meaning no sex) with a linguistics scholar Friedrich Carl Andreas. They stayed married this way for 23 years, until his death in 1930.

Then she became deeply involved with Rene Maria Rilke, a German poet. I read his poetry and it’s beautiful. She persuaded him to change his name from Rene to Rainer. He was the first man that she got involved with  sexually, she was around 30.  She felt that she and Rilke were so well suited because he was in touch with the feminine side of himself. She often referenced herself as “androgynous” and she said that everyone should find the opposite sex within themselves. I find this a bit odd, a bit puzzling! If I am a woman, can I also find the man in me?! If you’re a man, can you also find the woman in you?! 

Last, in 1911, Salome went to Vienna, to undergo psychoanalysis with Freud.  Her ideas were inspirational to Freud, specifically on the topic of narcissism. They were actually linked by their common interest in narcissism. While Freud studied narcissism from outside, she studied narcissism from within. They had opposing views. For Freud, narcissism was a formation of one’s own self-image, for Salome narcissism broke out from the framework of the “I” and went beyond the boundaries of “love for oneself”. For Salome narcissism was a maniacal condition of love towards oneself and towards the surrounding world. Interesting, isn’t it!!! She became a psychoanalyst, and practiced until the Nazis came to power. She was five years younger than Freud and despite the rumors about their romantic involvement their relationship was mostly intellectual.

There is a good movie about her, in German: Lou Andreas Salome and the audacity to be free. This is where I got the inspiration for my title. The movie made me a bit sad, but we should always follow our dreams and always think about what do we want to be remembered for. 

Why do I find her inspiring ? I find her inspiring because she was a woman who managed to live a self-determined, independent life. She went against all odds and became who she wanted to be. 


© Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 . Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Andrada Costoiu and a-passion4life.com, 2019 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

16 thoughts on “Lou Andreas Salome and her “audacity to be free”

  1. Another exceptional write by you! Society’s expectations are a big part of why people lose their natural identities. Miserable marriages, unwanted children, complete falsehoods of their own lives. It’s an honor to have you reading my blog and following, thank you very much! ☀️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How kind of you to share those words to me! Thank you very much!
    I Have Become one of your biggest fans! The quality of your writing goes well with a nice cup of coffee on a beautiful Autumn morning. ☀️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Andrada, I’m no longer posting, but I wanted to tell you that I still come here to read your wonderful writing! There are a handful of writers here at WP that I just adore! Your soul is showing in your writing. Enjoy your ventures in writing! Writing is a beautiful way to find where you’ve REALLY been Looking back can change everything!! ❤️☀️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OH! I’ve been wondering where you are, and where are your beautiful poems! I hope you still write, in private and when you’re ready to share, in any form….do that, because your writing has a soul!
    I am glad to hear that you’ll still visit my page, this way we’ll be connected and I’m so happy about that. I too write poems but I cannot put these on-line anymore, or at least not yet. I have been sending new poems to magazines instead; they don’t want anything that has been published already, not even on a blog.
    Please do keep in touch!


  5. Hi there! You’re absolutely right about having poetry or any kind of literature sent to publishers or magazines that may have already been posted. Most of my writing was written years back. And all the proper measures were taken to make sure that my poetry was copyrighted properly before posted online.Many of my poems are in a small book that was created for friends and family. I’m in the process ( slowly) of writing a children’s book and a romance novel. Fun! None of that writing appears online anywhere. Best wishes with your writing! Always stay true to your poetry…write your words from your heart and soul! People/Readers will remember your work!☀️ Happy Holidays to you and yours! Keep your heart cozy and warm, always!☀️ Thank you for your kind words! a small note: I don’t see my poetry as other people do, but I suppose none of us do, but I’ve had a lot of poets tell me my words are beautiful. I’m not so sure about all that, I just wish they would tell me why they feel that way. You know, what is it that makes them say that about my work. There are so many amazing outstanding writers today! I find it very impressive, and delightful to know that there are some really amazing people who think better of our world, and share positive thoughts for others to consider! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Happy holidays to you too ❤️, and good luck writing! I feel that your writing has a soul and that’s more important, because it’s not just words …it’s feeling , learning , experiencing all together ❤️


  7. Andrada, last night I was sitting with a friend of mine and we were talking about poets and writers. I’ve not had any writing education whatsoever and I think that’s probably why I don’t have very many readers. My writing simply comes from my heart, from my experiences. In my earlier years I ended up being a single mom, I’ve had many struggles of my own. And I hope that people can see that in my writing? I wanted to thank you very much for the nice things you have said about my writing. It means a lot to me considering I have no idea what I’m doing. I just wanted to share words with people. There are so many people in the who need to know that they’re not alone. I’m looking forward to reading more of your work, there’s just something about your writing that caught my attention. I see you going very far in the world of writing.
    I have really enjoyed reading about the historical women that you’ve been posting about! Thank you for your respect! Best wishes in your endeavors! ☀️

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ah, you too, keep writing ❤️. I do not think writing needs training , some of the best writers don’t have an English literature or other kids of writing degrees. Best you can do is research your subjects, what you would like to write about …and then let it out in your own words and vision. You are not alone, we are not alone even if at moments of low we feel this way. So, believe in yourself and go do whatever makes you happy ❤️


  9. Aha, I believe the meaning behind every man should find the woman within, and visa versa, is implying that we all as a society have a complete identity, and men have take none role, and women another. Or one could argue, men have forced one role onto women, and kept another for himself, tho this overlooks wether or not the matter is a nature or nurture origin problem.

    Perhaps its a bit fanciful and ambitious, but thet is where these ideas come from the time of Frued or more specifically Jung – I’m no expert, but I have understood it that way 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You are right , the role of men and women were so different and her self assertion was a courageous and at the same time a scandalous act in the specific historical context that she lived. Perhaps by making the case of an identity that is the the merger between the two gender sides, male and female, she was negotiating an new identity for women. Throughout her work I don’t think she was drawn into the issue of equality, but she always asserted the independent nature of women.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A very exciting time to be alive, for academics – I think they saw the future as being anything and everything is possible. I heard of her before, I think I saw something on TV – I love that era for its pioneering thinkers!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Me too, I love that era …and I think we should still think the same , there is so much to learn and discover. I am an academic as well, and there is a lot of red tape …but that should not put mind barriers 🌸


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