Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

The Handling of the Transference in French Psychoanalysis

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

The Handling of the Transference in French Psychoanalysis

Article excerpt

French psychoanalysis today is very diverse, and it would be presumptuous to seek to give a faithful, and even less, an exhaustive panorama of it. I would just like to set out a few general reflections in regard to transference, which will help to situate the positions of certain French psychoanalysts who exert an important influence by their writings, their role in the training of young analysts, and their institutional position. The question of the transference, more than any other perhaps, is by its very nature apt to trigger passionate responses: as a pillar of both theory and practice, 1 transference remains one of the fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis. In response to Karin Obholzer's question: "Do you still believe in psychoanalysis today?" Serguei Constantinovitch Pankjeff replied in 1975 or thereabouts, "Today, I no longer believe in anything." "In nothing at all?" she inquired. And then the Wolf Man replied, "My goodness, yes, I do believe in the transference". In 1937, Freud referred to the successive relapses of his patient, whose treatment with him had lasted from 1910 to 1914, by saying, "some of these attacks were still concerned with residual portions of the transference" (1937, p. 218).When the situation is still, today as yesterday, one of interminable repetition, in an actuality outside time, just how is the transference to be handled?

In citing Freud spontaneously, I am illustrating one of the characteristics of French psychoanalysis of thinking with Freud! The splits which have marked psychoanalysis in France in the second half of the 20th century have favoured a great intellectual effervescence; and Jacques Lacan, who played a very important role in this movement, urged French analysts to read Freud often in German, with a view to following as closely as possible the elaboration of his thinking, since it is very true that thinking cannot be separated from its language of origin. This reading, in which the analysts of my generation were trained, enabled us to follow Freud's approach, the birth, the occultation and resurgence of concepts which are often caught up in the unconscious thing itself - that is to say, they suffer displacements, repressions and the return of the repressed. We thus learnt to 'make Freud work' [ faire travailler Freud ], as Jean Laplanche's expression and point of view, by reading and re-reading Freud in an attempt to identify with the approach that enabled its author to discover hitherto unknown phenomena whose nature is such that they still resist disclosure. There is undoubtedly a need to subject Freud's discoveries to a critical examination today in the light of contemporary scientific acquisitions, but this implies and requires a great knowledge of what is developed or outlined in the Freudian text.

To illustrate the perspective emphasized by Lacan and Laplanche, consider my choice of the phrase, Handling2 of the transference: the word is Freud's [Behandlung]. He employs it notably to refer to the art of practising dream-interpretation in the course of the analytic treatment (1911). The term handling designates a strategy in the service of a policy. By policy, I mean fundamental options concerning the very definition of transference, what is at stake, and its evolution within different psychoanalytic theories. The strategy refers to practice and technique, raising questions such as: should the transference be interpreted or not? what sort of transference is it? when and how should it be interpreted? Moreover, the handling of the transference cannot be reduced to the linguistic dimension of interpretation alone. It implies everything that happens outside the sphere of language, or beside it, or at the same time as linguistic expression, in an acted form, closer to the drive. In German (and in French), the word handling means literally what the hand does. The handling of the transference implies both the means of discovering meaning and the use of force mobilized by the activation of the impulses. …

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