In 1954–55 Lacan devoted a substantial part of his Seminar II to a
theoretical analysis of Freud’s concept of the compulsion to repeat
(Wiederholungszwang). As he explained on at least two occasions
during this Seminar (1988c[1954–55]:118, 123), this was a logical
step to take after having dissected the phenomenology of transference,
taking account of the amalgamation of transference and repetition in
Freud’s works.28 It was also an occasion for Lacan to address a
Freudian dilemma Lagache had rehashed in his numerous
contributions to the topic of transference: does transference conform
to the repetition of a need, or to a need for repetition? (Lagache
1952:94–95; 1953[1951]:4–5; 1993[1954]:137).


In presenting this
dilemma, Lagache had opposed Freud’s description of transference
as the repetition of an unfulfilled need for love (Freud 1912b:100),
following the pleasure principle, to his subsequent account of
transference as a derivative of the compulsion to repeat, and thus of
what functions beyond the pleasure principle (Freud 1920g:20–21).
Hence, the apparently futile question raised by Lagache opened up
onto a cardinal issue: does transference operate in keeping with the
pleasure principle, or does it work against it?29


Lacan’s trajectory in Seminar II sparked a new interpretation of
‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ (Freud 1920g), in which Freud had
conceptualized the repetition compulsion as an infernal cycle compelling
people to re-experience unpleasurable events time and again. By analogy
with the notion of resistance, Lacan dubbed the repetition compulsion
an insistence, linking its compulsive nature to the continuous return of
the signifiers within the symbolic order.

拉康在第二研讨班的探讨引发对于“超越快乐原则”的新的铨释。在” 超越快乐原则“的文章,弗洛伊德曾经建构重复的强迫的观念,作为是内部的迴圈,强迫人们一再地重新经验令人不愉快的事件。拉康则是将它跟抗拒的观念类比,称重复的强迫是一种抗拒。拉康将重复强迫的特性,跟象征秩序内部,能指的继续回落联接一块。

Again minimizing the explanatory
value of the Zeigarnik effect, he attributed the repetition compulsion to
the incessant intrusion of the symbolic machinery which governs all
human life forms, similar to the ongoing exchange of messages within
an isolated, closed circuit (Lacan 1988c[1954–55]:87–90). Hence, if
transference follows the repetition compulsion and the latter equals the
insistence of the signifiers within the symbolic order, then transference
must be characterized by that same symbolic insistence and not, for that
matter, by the power of resistance.


This conclusion urged Lacan to decide
in favour of the analysand’s transference as an unconscious, symbolic
need for repetition functioning beyond the pleasure principle, and it
bolstered his critique of clinicians advocating the analysis of the
transference as a resistance.30 This is not to say that Lacan completely
rejected the resistance side of transference, but he considered it an
unproductive, deceitful departure from its bona fide repetition side—a
deterioration for whose emergence the analyst is as much responsible as
for that of the symbolic insistence.


Armed with this new distinction between transference insistence
(symbolic repetition) and transference resistance (imaginary projection),
Lacan returned to the case-studies of Dora and the young homosexual
woman, putting Freud’s technical errors into a different light. Following
a juxtaposition of the two cases in Seminar IV, he argued that whereas in
the Dora case Freud had radically ignored the imaginary element of deceit
within Dora’s transference, in the case of the young homosexual woman
he had made exactly the opposite mistake, concentrating exclusively on
the deceitfulness of her dream (to be a happily married woman) without
acknowledging its truthful symbolic articulation (Lacan 1994[1956–57]:


In his treatment of Dora Freud was led astray by his
unshakeable belief that his patient was unconsciously, yet honestly
reliving her love for Mr K in her relationship with her analyst, whilst in
his analysis of the young homosexual girl he was mistaken in excluding
the possibility that her dream of a happily married life transpired a deeply
felt, though unconscious wish.


At the end of the 1950s, with Seminar VII (1992[1959–60]), a radical
shift of perspective took place. Although the entire seminar was intended
as a revaluation of the aims and objectives of psychoanalytic treatment,
Lacan entered into a digression concerning the relation between the
pleasure and reality principles in Freud’s oeuvre to redefine the status of
the signifier.


Contrary to what he had proffered in previous seminars, he
now located the signifier, or what Freud had called Vorstellung
(representation), firmly within the realm of the pleasure principle (ibid.:
134). Relying on Freud’s ‘Project for a Scientific Psychology’
(1950a[1895]), Lacan intimated that the pleasure principle, the primary
unconscious process regulating the distribution of libidinal energy
between representations, cannot operate without these representations.
Rather than being an agency functioning beyond the pleasure principle,
the signifier thus became part and parcel of the primary process.


This new conception of the signifier evidently challenged the
connection between transference and repetition. Initially, Lacan had
correlated transference with the repetition compulsion and the latter with
the insistence of the signifier beyond the pleasure principle. Now, with
the new alliance between the signifier and the pleasure principle,
transference could no longer be associated with the repetition compulsion,
unless the symbolic mechanism of transference itself was entirely revised.
In addition, the proposed congruence of transference, the signifier and
the pleasure principle seemed to topple Lacan’s original take on Lagache’s
polarization (need for repetition vs. repetition of need) into the opposite
direction, transference appearing quite conspicuously as the repetition
of a need.


Avoiding this inconsistency in Seminar VII, Lacan devoted his next
seminar entirely to the topic of transference, which incited him to ponder
the two sides of Lagache’s opposition again and to offer the following
provisional solution:


[I]t seems impossible to me to eliminate from the phenomenon of
transference the fact that it manifests itself in relation to somebody
spoken to. This is a constitutive fact. It constitutes a frontier and it
simultaneously indicates to us that we should not drown the
phenomenon of transference in the general possibility of repetition
constituted by the existence of the unconscious. In analysis, there
are of course repetitions linked to the constancy of the signifying
chain in the subject. These repetitions need to be distinguished
strictly from what we call transference, even when in some cases
they may have homologous effects.
(Lacan 1991b[1960–61]:208)


It would be erroneous to infer from this passage that Lacan took issue
with his own previous equivalence of transference and the need for
repetition, now realigning the occurrence of transference with the
repetition of a need. As a matter of fact, he was making a rudimentary
case for the radical separation of transference and repetition on the basis
of an evaluation of the inherently creative dimension in the transference


On the one hand, Freud’s definition of transference as the
analysand’s reproduction in acts of a repressed historical event within
the presence of the analytic situation (Freud 1914g:150) encouraged
Lacan to loosen the knot between transference and the compulsion to


The element of acting and the incessant implication of the present
within the transference prompted him to approach transference as
something more than the emergence of the compulsion to repeat. On the
other hand, he questioned the view of transference as the repetition of an
ancient unfulfilled need from the vantage point that the analysand never
simply succumbs to this need, but always recreates it within the novel
context of the analytic experience (Lacan 1991b[1960–61]:206–207).


The vexed issue of the relationship between transference and repetition
was reopened in 1962–63, when Lacan spent a whole year investigating
the topic of anxiety. Broaching yet again the conjunction of transference
and the compulsion to repeat, he underscored that transference cannot
be reduced to the reproduction of an anterior, unresolved conflict. If the
analysand’s transference is marked by love, this affect is always already
related to an object in the present, which Lacan (1991b[1960–61]: 179–
195) illustrated with Socrates’ interpretation of Alcibiades’ love in Plato’s
Symposium (Plato 1951).31


Concurrently, he insisted that the reduction
of transference to repetition obfuscates the importance of the analyst’s
own part in the entire affair. For if the transference always integrates an
object in the present, analysts cannot escape their being made into the
object of their analy sands’ transference, through which they not only
elicit but also crucially shape their patients’ reactions. Down-playing
the repetitive component of transference and upgrading the analyst’s
creative part in it, Lacan also replaced his previous definition of
countertransference as the sum of the analyst’s prejudices, insufficient
information, passions and difficulties, by the analyst’s essential
implication in the analysand’s transference, whose cautious management
must proceed from the purified desire of the analyst (Lacan 1991b[1960–
61]: 221; 1962–63: session of 27 February 1963).32


Lacan’s most distinguished view on the nature of transference
appeared in Seminar XI (1977b[1964]), in which he designated
transference and repetition as two distinct fundamental concepts of
psychoanalysis.33 Disregarding his own previous assertions and criticizing
Freud for presenting a confused account, Lacan proclaimed that repetition
has nothing in common with transference (ibid.: 33, 69).


repetition occurs when a missed, traumatic encounter (beyond the
pleasure principle) is integrated within the network of signifiers (following
the pleasure principle), transference ‘is the enactment of the reality of
the unconscious’ (ibid.: 146, 149).34 Gradually disclosing the meaning
of this new, highly aphoristic description of transference, Lacan specified
that the reality of the unconscious is always sexual and that this
unconscious sexual reality underpins all the analysand’s demands within
the transference.


For example, if an analysand demands that the analyst
say something because she has the impression that the latter does not
seem to be interested in her associations, this demand represents an avatar
of the analysand’s unconscious sexual reality, notably that she derives
excitement from awakening people’s interest and that she cannot tolerate
the idea that somebody might not be attracted to her.


If the analyst remains
mute, the analysand is bound to interpret his silence as an indication of
the analyst’s lack of interest or, more commonly, as evidence of his lack
of professionalism, and she is likely to employ this interpretation as an
explanation for her own lack of analytic progress. More specifically, she
will attribute the fact that the analyst is not giving her enough (nice
interpretations, kind words, love) to his being a bad practitioner, and she
will try to change his habits by intermittently threatening him with her
imminent departure.


Conversely, when an analysand requests that the
analyst remain silent so that he can devote himself fully to the exploration
of his thoughts, this demand too harbours an unconscious sexual reality,
inasmuch as the analysand might enjoy destroying whatever interest
people may show in him so that he can devote himself quietly to the
narcissistic enjoyment of his own isolated condition.


Substantiating earlier statements on the analyst’s responsibility,
Lacan added that this enactment of the sexual reality of the unconscious
should not be understood as a mere effect of the analysand’s psychic


The transference is a phenomenon in which subject and
psychoanalyst are both included. To divide it in terms of
transference and countertransference—however bold, however
confident what is said on this theme may be—is never more than a
way of avoiding the essence of the matter.
(ibid.: 231)


Apropos of the aforementioned examples, this means that the analysand
in the first case will not regard the analyst as a passive figure who lacks
all interest and commitment, expressly formulating the demand that he
start working and acting as a proper analyst, if the latter did not cultivate
an attitude of prolonged silence. Mutatis mutandis, the analysand in the
second case will not vilify the analyst for intervening, impressing on
him the idea that good analysts are supposed to listen and not talk, if the
analyst himself did not engage regularly in asking questions and launching


The analyst’s conduct in these two cases is crucial for
the emergence of the analysand’s transference as the enactment of the
sexual reality of the unconscious and it simultaneously gives form to it.


Needless to say that the analyst’s conduct in these matters reflects a
particular desire and rests upon an appreciation of the psychic structure of
the analysand before and during analytic sessions. In the first case, the
analyst’s sustained silence will normally proceed from a diagnosis of the
analysand as a hysteric, whereas in the second case the analyst’s nagging
interventions will be based on a diagnosis of obsessional neurosis. Since
hysteria revolves around an ardent desire to elicit the desire of the Other,
the analyst’s silence encompasses a refusal to enter the hysterical dynamics
and is well suited to trigger the hysteric’s fantasy within the transference.


In ‘Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectics of Desire’ Lacan wrote:
[A] calculated vacillation of the analyst’s ‘neutrality’ may be more
valuable for a hysteric than any amount of interpretation, despite
the frenzy which may result from it. That is to say, so that this
frenzy does not entail a rupture and the sequel convinces the subject
that the desire of the analyst was by no means involved.
(Lacan 1977k[1960]:321–322, translation modified)


Vice versa, since obsessional neurosis hinges on a desire to neutralize
the desire of the Other, the analyst’s interventions confront the analysand
with a living presence by which the analyst guards himself against the
tentacles of the obsessional apparatus and conjures up the obsessional
fantasy.35 In these two cases, the analyst’s attitude is complementary, yet
in each case it is based on what Lacan called the desire of the analyst, i.e.
a desire that analysands reach the point where they avow their own desire.
Strategies of transference 123



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