In a State of Transference
Wild, Political, Psychoanalytic
The title of the next Congress puts transference in a state, and specifies, with its subtitle, a few of these states.
The order of these terms – wild, political and psychoanalytic – does not imply
a progression. For these states differ, articulate and separate in equal
measure, and can sometimes coexist, intersect or even collide.
So, let us begin with the last, psychoanalytic transference, which
requires us to mention the first two as states which exist but which may
occasionally be subverted by the one pertaining specifically to psychoanalysis.
Indeed, the word “transference”, which does not belong specifically to
psychoanalytic terminology, has acquired, first of all as a notion, a very
broad definition in the field of psychoanalysis, corresponding to a set of phenomena
relating to relations between the patient and the analyst. Consequently, this has
led to each analyst having their own conceptions and observations on the
subject, hence the muddle that ensued in the attempt to grasp its true meaning.
Freud introduced the term “transference” (Übertragung) as early as 1895 in his Studies on Hysteria, noticing that there was resistance to
treatment – at the time when it was a question of either laying on hands or
hypnosis – and reflecting upon several kinds of obstacles. A major one he mentions, which he qualifies not
as “inherent in the material” – a term he reserves for resistances
properly speaking – but as “external”, concerns what happens “when the
patient’s relation to the physician is disturbed”.
He then distinguishes three kinds of disturbance, all revolving around the
person of the doctor. The first concerns a personal reproach aimed at the doctor
or the influence of what has been heard about him or his method; the second,
the fear of becoming too attached; and the third the fear of transferring [reporter] onto him representations that
concern the content of the analysis, in other words sexual desires. In this
way, Freud goes on to define transference as a phenomenon that disturbs the
treatment and not as what essentially supports it, namely the patient’s
connection to the analyst.
After this, other articles by Freud reveal a change of perspective. For
example, in 1904, at Clark University in the United States, he affirmed that
“[i]n every psycho-analytic treatment of a neurotic patient the strange
phenomenon that is known as ‘transference’ makes its appearance”. It is thus no longer a question of a
disturbed relationship, but rather of something integral to the treatment.
Let us note again how Freud concluded his 1905 text on the Dora case, a
treatment whose duration of three months was nonetheless rich in teaching,
especially given Lacan’s masterful commentary of it in 1951.
For Freud, it is clear that “[p]sycho-analytic treatment does not create transferences, it merely brings
them to light, like so many other hidden psychical factors”, because unlike other therapies, in
psychoanalytic treatment, “all the patient’s tendencies, including hostile
ones, are aroused […]”. In this way, “[t]ransference, which
seems ordained to be the greatest obstacle to psychoanalysis, becomes its most
powerful ally”, provided, however, that it is identified
and interpreted. We can already see that treating transference in positive or
negative terms, or in terms of love and hate, does not make things move forward
any quicker, and we can thus understand why this “initial infatuation” [“énamoration primaire”] – which can be observed at the beginning
of the treatment and which is none other than Freud’s Verliebtheit playing “a pivotal role in the transference”, and this at the level of the imaginary –
is then designated by Lacan with a new word, “hainamoration”.
Freud goes on to write that he “did not succeed in mastering the
transference” and he admitted that Dora’s eagerness
to provide him with material made him forget to be attentive to “the first
signs of transference, which was being prepared in connection with another part
of the same material”. He then spells out what he should have
seen and interpreted, but these are just suppositions.
Dora, in fact, “acted out an
essential part of her recollections and phantasies instead of reproducing it in
the treatment” and the factor of transference, through
which Freud reminded Dora of Herr K, remained definitively unrecognized by him.
We can already note how the fact that a patient may begin to speak and
associate freely from the first interviews, does not in itself give any
indication of the state of the transference. The signifying articulation,
reduced to its simplest expression, the writing S1-S2, is not sufficient to
speak of psychoanalytic transference. Thus linearity provides no clear evidence
of transference but, as Lacan will go on to develop, transference is to be
defined in terms of pure dialectics and even dialectical reversals. Thus, Lacan gives a direction for the
treatment, which “begins with rectification of the subject’s relations with
reality [réel], and proceeds to development of the transference, and then to
interpretation”. In the 1950s, this interpretation of
transference is defined by Lacan as “[n]othing but to fill the emptiness of
this standstill with a lure. But […] this lure serves a purpose by setting the
whole process in motion anew”.
For, at moments of stagnation in the dialectic of analysis, transference is
“the appearance […] of the permanent modes according to which [the subject]
constitutes her objects”. And this is why interpretation cannot
be reduced to an explanation that would consist in telling the patient that she
We already have here what Lacan, who was constantly re-interrogating the
concept of transference, will reaffirm in 1964, namely that transference is to
be considered as that which “directs the way in which patients are treated”. Here we can note that it is not the
patient who is directed. Lacan goes on to add that, “conversely, the way in
which they are treated governs the concept”.
This is why transference is the compass that indicates not only the waywardness
of the analyst but also his orientation.
From then on, Lacan not only conceives transference in terms of dialectics,
but as that which is linked to the temporal pulsation of the unconscious. More
precisely, it is that which does not open to the unconscious, but is rather its
closing. We therefore agree with Freud’s contention that transference
constitutes an obstacle and, as he noted in 1912, that the halting of
associations indicates that the patient is under the influence of an idea
relating to the analyst, and that if the analyst points it out to the patient,
“the situation is changed from one in which the associations fail into one in
which they are being kept back”. However, Lacan overcomes the Freudian
obstacle and will show how the position of the analyst is decisive in this
A Knot: Closure and
With this new step, Lacan in fact treats transference as a knot, because it
presents itself as a paradox: on the one hand, its development is necessary to
open the way to interpretation, and on the other, it cuts off the way to the
unconscious. Hence the strategy required of the analyst in handling this knot.
This strategy, where the analyst has less freedom than he does in his tactics
(his interventions), and which is one of the analyst’s three modes of action,
the third being his politics, does not amount to “appeal[ing] to some
healthy part of the subject thought to be there in the real” which is how many analysts, confusing
the subject with the ego, came to lose their way. For to do so would be “to
misunderstand that it is precisely this part that is concerned in the
transference, […] this part that closes the door”;
and this is why it is at this point that the strategy of the analyst and his
interpretation come into play, the latter aiming to reopen the door. However,
do not simplify the topology of this opening-closing, because the unconscious
is not beyond the closure, hidden, like an inside, it is outside, and it is this that, through the
analyst’s open-sesame of interpretation, calls for the reopening of the
shutter. It is clear that the handling of the transference to which the analyst
must pay attention is from this moment on crucial, as regards the status of the
unconscious and its opening in the treatment.
A Conceptual Crisis
Psychoanalytic transference, if it is love,
even an authentic love, is nevertheless not just any love, and it is for this
reason that Lacan devoted a whole seminar to it in 1960-61. It must be emphasized that in his
preceding seminar of 1959-60, he had already examined the question of love from
the angle of courtly love, in order to distinguish it from Christian love. For
Lacan, what was at stake was to establish what place love has – this new love –
within the analytic discourse, and this on the basis of transference. Because,
for Lacan, the question of knowing what transference is was far from being
resolved, and quite a number of diverging views on the subject had been
expressed at different stages in the history of psychoanalysis. Lacan even
referred to it as the site of a “permanent conceptual crisis […] in analysis”, a crisis that is necessary for the very
existence of psychoanalysis. Thus, the question of the analyst’s involvement
within transference cannot be swept away into the hold-all category of
countertransference, which is what had indeed occurred and prevented any
possibility of questioning.
The question of the analyst’s place in transference is one that analysts
must fix their attention upon, because if transference exists as a concept, it
cannot be a dead concept.
The analytic relation starts with a misunderstanding, a mistake about the
person, with the fantasies that the analysand makes the analyst support and
that the analyst accepts to bear. A mistake because it bears no relation to
what he will become at the end of the treatment, due to the analysis of the
transference. Nonetheless, for the analyst, knowing what is involved in an
analysis, having done one himself, is not enough. To be able to respond
appropriately to the analysand, he must consider his “true position” within the transference.
Yet, Lacan also poses this question at the very level of the organization
of the psychoanalytic society, the first fruits of which will be implemented
soon after with the founding of his School and the procedure of the Pass, and
this in order to question what an analyst is.
So, transference has nothing to do with evidence, but rather, as we have
already underlined, with the analyst’s strategy, not to mention his politics in
which he is even less free. Therefore, transference raises the
question of the analyst’s place, but also of his being, and is an essential cog
in both the treatment and the analytic group [masse].
In 1967, Lacan puts the transference at the heart of his “Proposition… on
the Psychoanalyst of the School” in the form of an algorithm, introducing that
which gives it its pivotal function: the subject supposed to know. This is so as to extract it from the
intersubjectivity that sticks to the skin of the relationship between analyst
and analysand and, as Lacan puts it so well, to “wipe away the subjective from
this subject”. This analytic relation is not reduced
to two partners, but implies a third: the subject supposed to know, which is
neither the analysand nor the analyst. If there are two desires involved in a
treatment, that of the subject and that of the analyst, and which are not
equivalent, there is nevertheless only one subject at stake. Moreover, if Lacan
spends so long developing the theme of love in his teaching, especially with
regards to transference, it is also to show how desire, which had been
dislodged by Christian love and its commandment to “Love thy neighbor as thyself”
– which evacuates sexuality – must be returned to its place through
psychoanalysis and transference.
What can we say about wild transference and political transference after these
developments on psychoanalytic transference?
A Wild Interpretation
The word “wild” appears in the title of one of Freud’s articles from 1910,
“Wild Psychoanalysis”. If you read it, you will notice that,
in fact, this so-called wild analysis is offered at the level of suggestion, as
advice, and does not concern itself with the nature of the transference and the
place that, in this case, the physician occupies within it. A patient comes to
hold Freud to account because a fellow doctor, in making a wild interpretation
about her, had justified himself by attributing it to Freud and his new way of
seeing things. This is, at least from this perspective, something of the order
of a wild transference. What Freud notes is that within the various
recommendations that the previously consulted physician had provided, no place
had been left for psychoanalysis. Thus, wild transference is here what steps in
to support an interpretation before the transference has been allowed to
develop, in a way that would have made it possible for the analyst to identify
what place he occupies within it. It is thus a transference without analysis,
in other words without interpretation. And that’s what we see flourishing in
therapies that work under suggestion. Freud will even highlight the therapeutic
success that such methods can achieve, for once the patient “has abused the
physician enough and feels far enough away from his influence, his symptoms
give way…”. It is therefore not so much the patient
that is harmed by this way of conducting things, but the physician himself and
the psychoanalytic cause. Indeed, in the same text, Freud goes on to speak
about the foundation of an international psychoanalytic association in which
the members renounce all responsibility for the conduct of those who are not
part of it.
These wild transferences can also occur as an offshoot to a treatment if
they are not spotted in time by the analyst or because the analysand keeps
quiet about them and as a result cannot be interpreted. They produce a return
to the ego, that is to say, a closure of the unconscious. This is why any
lateral transference could be deemed to be wild. This can happen with the
person of a spouse, with a colleague, with any other who becomes on occasion a
counselor, a confidant, a therapist, a master of thought, or everything that
proceeds from the discourse of the master and that makes use of the power that
one has over someone, as opposed to the analyst who deprives himself of the
power of suggestion in order to allow the transference to develop. Now, this
consequently supposes that a place be made for interpretation which, for the
analyst, implies that he should know from what place the interpretation is
An Acting Out
An interpretation can prove to be false when the analyst answers from the
place of his ego, in other words when his prejudices lead him astray, thus
drawing his analysand into the same topographical regression. The
interpretation can also be inaccurate, opening the way to the acting out. We have a number of examples
of this in psychoanalytic literature, such as the Dora case, the case of the
young female homosexual, or Ernst Kris’s fresh brains man. In the framework of
the treatment, it is a call to interpretation, a sign made to the analyst, if
the latter is paying attention to it.
Thus, for Lacan, “acting out is an inroad into transference. It’s wild
transference.” It can happen for someone who is not in
analysis, as a false solution to his desire, but also in analysis, and in this
case, it is calling for a more accurate interpretation with respect to the
place of desire.
This leaves political transference, which would be situated between wild
transference and psychoanalytic transference. Could we say that it is the other
side of the one pertaining to psychoanalysis?
Lacan gave a seminar which he originally
entitled La psychanalyse à l’envers, at a time when
politics took to the streets and where he did not hesitate to go looking for a
new discourse of the master – that of the University, thrown into question by
students in revolt against it as well as against other institutions that were
also under the sway of the master’s discourse.
It was furthermore an important political moment for psychoanalysis: a
moment when Lacan had created his school and was formalizing his four
What is at the heart of these discourses is the question of the desire to
know, in so far as the master does not wish to know anything and the University
only prolongs this ignorance by stamping knowledge with the mark of an all that governs the production of units
of value. This totalization of knowledge is, according to Lacan, “immanent in
politics as such”. It is part of “the imaginary idea of
the whole that is given by the body, as drawing on the good form of
satisfaction, on what, ultimately, forms a sphere, [and that] has always been
used in politics by the party of political preaching”.
Note that this has never been so striking and amplified as today, with body
images, especially those of politicians, filling our screens.
In analytic treatment, if bodies are present, the image of the body must be
so as little as possible, and this is why, from the moment the transference
develops, Freud “no longer addressed the person […] in his proximity, which is
why he refused to work fact to face with him”.
In the discourse of the master, the body is produced as a surplus-enjoyment,
and in the discourse of the analyst it is reduced to being a semblant of the
object, namely the silence, the voice, and the gaze that the analyst lends to
the analysand for the time it takes for the latter to grasp what really causes
In the discourse of the analyst, knowledge, S2, is on his side: “he
acquires this knowledge through listening to his analysand”
– this is indeed a transference of knowledge – and “at a certain level [it] can
be limited to analytical know-how”.
Thus, via this transference, the analyst will approach this knowledge as truth,
that is to say as something that is not a whole and can only be half-said. This
knowledge as truth, as a half-saying, is the very structure of the
interpretation expected from an analyst. This is supposed to lead to a
knowledge to which the analyst makes himself “hostage”, “a knowledge of which
he is prepared, in advance, to be the product of the psychoanalysand’s
cogitations […] insofar as, as this product, he is in the end destined to
become a loss, to be eliminated from the process”.
Here we find, ten years on, the extension of the articulation of the subject supposed to know as a ternary
element in the algorithm of transference.
Is this not a knowledge that must be situated as the other side of
politics, when politics is taken up in the discourse of the Master or in that
of the University?
A Social Bond
Lacan also emphasizes that he did not say “politics is the unconscious, but
quite simply the unconscious is politics”.
He formulates this with regard to the logic of the fantasy, clarifying that
what he means by this aphorism is that what binds men together and what opposes
them is precisely part of what he is trying to articulate with this logic.
Lacan then asks why it is better to be accepted rather than rejected, which is
what well-meaning morality might say. Without this logic proper to fantasy,
“slippages can occur, which entail that before noticing that to be rejected is
an essential dimension for the neurotic, it is in any case necessary that he
offer himself [s’offre]”. So, for the neurotic, as for the
analyst himself, though of course not from the same place, this consists with
the offer to try to do something with demand. This is true for transference in
analysis, but also in society, where the psychoanalyst, with the discourse he
offers, can create a demand. It is not the same kind of demand as that of the
Other of politics “under aspects of democracy and the market”. It is in this sense that one can say,
with Lacan, that “being
a psychoanalyst means having a place in society”. In fact, this demand can be called transference and stand out from the
effects of suggestion, not to mention hypnosis, and also from the generalized
identifications produced by other discourses.
Paris, October 30, 2017
Translated by Philip
 Freud, S., Breuer J., Studies in Hysteria, SE II, p. 301.
 Freud, S., “Fifth
Lecture”, Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis,
SE XI, p. 51.
 Freud, S., “A Fragment of a Case of Hysteria”,
SE VII, p. 117.
 Lacan, J., “The Direction of the Treatment and
the Principles of Its Power”, Écrits,
trans. B. Fink, London & New York, Norton, 2006, p. 503.
 Lacan. J., The Seminar, Book I: Freud’s Papers on
Technique, trans. J. Forrester, London & New York, Norton, 1988, p.
 Lacan, J., Seminar XX: Encore, trans. B. Fink,
London & New York, Norton, 1998, p. 98.
 Freud, S., “A Fragment of a
Case of Hysteria”, op. cit. p. 118.
 Ibid., 119.
 Lacan, J., “Presentation on
Transference”, Écrits, op. cit., p. 178.
 Lacan, J., “The Direction of
the Treatment and the Principles of Its Power”, ibid., p. 500.
 Lacan, J.,
“Presentation on Transference”, ibid.,
 Ibid., pp. 183-4.
 Lacan, J., Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of
Psychoanalysis, trans. A. Sheridan, London, Penguin, 1977, p. 124.
S., “The Dynamics of Transference”, SE XII, p. 101.
Lacan, J., “The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of Its
op cit., p. 493.
 Lacan, J., Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, op. cit., p. 131.
 Lacan, J., Seminar VIII: Transference, trans. B.
Fink, Cambridge, Polity, 2015, p. 329.
Lacan, J., “The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of Its
op. cit., p. 493.
 Lacan, J.,
“Proposition of the 9th October 1967 on the Psychoanalyst
of the School”, Analysis 6, 1995.
 Freud, S., “Wild
Analysis”, SE XI, pp. 219-27.
 Ibid., p.
 Lacan. J., Seminar X: Anxiety, trans. A. Price,
Cambridge, Polity, 2014, p. 125.
 [TN: which could be translated
either as Psychoanalysis Inside
Out, Upside Down, Backwards or the Wrong Way Around.]
 Lacan, J., Seminar XVII: The Other Side of
Psychoanalysis, London, Norton, 2007, p. 31.
 Lacan, J., “The Direction
of the Treatment and the Principles
of Its Power”, Écrits, op. cit., p. 499.
 Lacan. J., Seminar XVII: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis,
op. cit., p. 35.
 Ibid., p. 38.
 Lacan, J., Seminar XIV: The Logic of Fantasy,
session of 10 May 1967, unpublished.
 Miller, J.-A., from his course, Orientation lacanienne, III, 4, 15 May 2002, unpublished.
 Lacan J., “The
Place, Origin and End of My Teaching”, trans. D. Macey, My Teaching, London, Verso, 2008, p. 49.
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