The Paradoxes of Transference : 15th February 2014 : Miquel Bassols

by Julia Evans on February 15, 2014

Published : LACANIAN COMPASS EXPRESS (LCEXPRESS) : Volume 2 Issue 8, 14th March 2014

Circulated on NLS-Messager (details here) as [nls-messager] 998.en/ LACANIAN COMPASS EXPRESS: “The Paradoxes of Transference” by Miquel Bassols : on 29th March 2014 17:56

Available here

or  /authors by date or authors a-z

This was originally presented during the 7th Annual Clinical Study Days held February 15-16 2014 in New York City.

Linked text : Sigmund Freud & Hilda Doolittle : a transference contextualised by Julia Evans on April 28, 2014 or here

From the Editor of LCEXPRESS’s Summary :

Over the next four issues, the LC Express will present key works from the 7th Annual Clinical Study Days held February 15-16 2014 in New York City. The essay in this issue is entitled “The Paradoxes of Transference” which was also the title of the conference. The essay’s author, Miguel Bassols, is the incoming President of the World association of Psychoanalysis. His essay here, demystifies our taken-for-granted assumptions about transference and then unpacks Lacan’s thinking on the topic over time. Bassols then provides us a way of working with the transference in an era of “The Other without Other.” Gary Marshall, Co-Editor

Access to references:

A Tribute to Freud, Writing on the Wall (1944) : Advent (1933 to 1934) : Hilda Doolittle : Available here

A. Freud detected very soon as a “negative therapeutic reaction.” : When Freud first discussed the negative therapeutic reaction in The Ego and the Id he gave both a clinical description of it and a psychological explanation : ‘Das Ich und das Es’: ‘The ego and the id’: 1923: Sigmund Freud : Chapter V – The Ego’s Dependent Relations : [p3113] p390 of pfl Vol 11 – On Metapsychology [Also published in bilingual form at ] : But the derivation of the super-ego from the first object-cathexes of the id, from the Oedipus complex, signifies even more for it. This derivation, as we have already shown, brings it into relation with the phylogenetic acquisitions of the id and makes it a reincarnation of former ego- structures which have left their precipitates behind in the id. Thus the super-ego is always close to the id and can act as its representative vis-à-vis the ego. It reaches deep down into the id and for that reason is farther from consciousness than the ego is.1(Footnote 1 It may be said that the psycho-analytic or metapsychological ego stands on its head no less than the anatomical ego – the ‘cortical homunculus’.) We shall best appreciate these relations by turning to certain clinical facts, which have long since lost their novelty but which still await theoretical discussion.

There are certain people who behave in a quite peculiar fashion during the work of analysis. When one speaks hopefully to them or expresses satisfaction with the progress of the treatment, they show signs of discontent and their condition invariably becomes worse. One begins by regarding this as defiance and as an attempt to prove their superiority to the physician, but later one comes to take a deeper and juster view. One becomes convinced, not only that such people cannot endure any praise or appreciation, but that they react inversely to the progress of the treatment. Every partial solution that ought to result, and in other people does result, in an improvement or a temporary suspension of symptoms produces in them for the time being an exacerbation of their illness; they get worse during the treatment instead of getting better. They exhibit what is known as a ‘negative therapeutic reaction’.

There is no doubt that there is something in these people that sets itself against their recovery, and its approach is dreaded as though it were a danger. We are accustomed to say that the need for illness has got the upper hand in them over the desire for recovery. If we analyse this resistance in the usual way then, even after allowance has been made for an attitude of defiance towards the physician and for fixation to the various forms of gain from illness, the greater part of it is still left over; and this reveals itself as the most powerful of all obstacles to recovery, more powerful than the familiar ones of narcissistic inaccessibility, a negative attitude towards the physician and clinging to the gain from illness.

In the end we come to see that we are dealing with what may be called a ‘moral’ factor, a sense of guilt, which is finding its satisfaction in the illness and refuses to give up the punishment of suffering. We shall be right in regarding this disheartening explanation as final. But as far as the patient is concerned this sense of guilt is dumb; it does not tell him he is guilty; he does not feel guilty, he feels ill. This sense of guilt expresses itself only as a resistance to recovery which it is extremely difficult to overcome. It is also particularly difficult to convince the patient that this motive lies behind his continuing to be ill; he holds fast to the more obvious explanation that treatment by analysis is not the right remedy for his case.

B. (transference) acts and works in the clinic like that intriguing object described in Edgar Allan Poe’s tale “The Purloined Letter”, commented on by Jacques Lacan in one of his first seminars. : Seminar on “The Purloined Letter” : 26th April 1955 – Written up mid-May to mid-August 1956 – Published 1957 : Jacques Lacan


Presentation given 26th April 1955

Written up mid-May to mid-August 1956

Published in La Psychanalyse II : 1957 : p1-44

Published in Écrits : Availability given here Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here or Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter’ : 26th April 1955 : Jacques Lacan see here 

English translation:

1) Seminar on “The Purloined Letter” : translated by Jeffrey Mehlman : Yale French Studies : 1962 [1956] : Vol 48 : p 38 – 72. See or Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter’ : 26th April 1955 : Jacques Lacan or here 

2) Reprinted as ‘Jacques Lacan, Seminar on “The Purloined Letter”’ : in John P. Muller and William J. Richardson (eds) : 1988 : The Purloined Poe : Lacan, Derrida and Psychoanalytic Reading : Baltimore MD and Lonfon : The Johns Hopkins University Press : p28-54

3) Also reprinted on Morris Philipson and Paul J. Goodall (eds) : 1980 : Aesthetics Today : Readings selected, edited and introduced by Morris Philipson and Paul J. Goodall, New York NY : New American Library, p383-412

4) Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schleifer (eds) : 1989 : Contemporary Literary Criticism, Literary and Cultural Studies : 2nd edition : New York NY : Longman : p300-320

5) Emanuel E. Berman (ed) : 1993 : Essential Papers on Literature and Psychoanalysis : New York NY : New York University Press : p270-299

This translation does not include Lacan’s three appendices to the text.

‘Le séminaire sur “La Lettre volée”’, Écrits, Paris : du Seuil : 1966 : p11-61

C) “Psychotherapy of Hysteria”, Freud  : The Psychotherapy of Hysteria : 1895: Sigmund Freud : Part IV of Studies on Hysteria : 1893 – 1895 : Sigmund Freud & Joseph Breuer : Volume 3 of Penguin Freud Library : p337-398 [See  #14 of ]

[p223] p389 of pfl : I have already indicated the important part played by the figure of the physician in creating motives to defeat the psychical force of resistance. In not a few cases, especially with women and where it is a question of elucidating erotic trains of thought, the patient’s co-operation becomes a personal sacrifice, which must be compensated by some substitute for love. The trouble taken by the physician and his friendliness have to suffice for such a substitute. If, now, this relation of the patient to the physician is disturbed, her co-operativeness fails, too; when the physician tries to investigate the next pathological idea, the patient is held up by an intervening consciousness of the complaints against the physician that have been accumulating in her. In my experience this obstacle arises in three principal cases.


[p224] p390 of pfl : (3) If the patient is frightened at finding that she is transferring on to the figure of the physician the distressing ideas which arise from the content of the analysis. This is a frequent, and indeed in some analyses a regular, occurrence. Transference [James Strachey notes : This is the first appearance of ‘transference’ in the psychoanalytic sense, though it is being used much more narrowly here than in Freud’s later writings.] on to the physician takes place through a false connection. [James Strachey notes : A long account of ‘false connections’ and the ‘compulsion to associate’ will be found above in a footnote on p124 pfl. (See endnote  [i])] I must give an example of this. In one of my patients the origin of a particular hysterical symptom lay in a wish, which she had had many years earlier and had at once relegated to the unconscious, that the man she was talking to at the time might boldly take the initiative and give her a kiss. On one occasion, at the end of a session, a similar wish came up in her about me. She was horrified at it, spent a sleepless night, and at the next session, though she did not refuse to be treated, was quite useless for work. After I had discovered the obstacle and removed it, the work proceeded further; and lo and behold: the wish that had so much frightened the patient made its appearance as the next of her pathogenic recollections and the one which was demanded by the immediate logical context. What had happened therefore was this. The content of the wish had appeared first of all in the patient’s consciousness without any memories of the surrounding circumstances which would have assigned it to a past time. The wish which was present was then, owing to the compulsion to associate which was dominant in her consciousness, linked to my person, with which the patient was legitimately concerned; and as the result of this mésalliance – which I describe as a ‘false connection’ – the same affect was provoked which had forced the patient long before to repudiate this forbidden wish. Since I have discovered this, I have been able, whenever I have been similarly involved personally, to presume that a transference and a false connection have once more taken place. Strangely enough, the patient is deceived afresh every time this is repeated.

D) Lacan’s 1958 text “The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of Its Power” : Availability given The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of its Power:10th-13th July 1958 : Jacques Lacanor here

E) novelist H. D., Hilda Doolittle. The text is entitled “A Tribute to Freud : 1956”.  H.D. A Tribute to Freud: Writing on the Wall-Advent, New Directions Books, New York 1984, page 16 : A Tribute to Freud, Writing on the Wall (1944) : Advent (1933 to 1934) : Hilda Doolittle or here.

F) Seminar XV, (29/11/1967). Also in Lacan, Jacques, Autres Ecrits, Paris, Seuil, 2001, page 325 (Availability given Autres Écrits: 2001 : Jacques Lacan or here): “il n’y a pas de transfert du transfert” :

Jacques Lacan’s session of 29th November 1967 : from Seminar XV : The Psychoanalytic Act : begins on 15th November 1967 : is translated by Cormac Gallagher: published www.LacaninIreland : Available here : See See Seminar XV : The Psychoanalytic Act : 1967-1968 : begins 15th November 1967 : Jacques Lacan or here

I have searched this text and this is the nearest I can find to the quote as given : Session of 29th November 1967 : III p5 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : Thank God, I put up a barrier to this aspect also, ahead of time, by writing I believe somewhere – I do not know if it has appeared yet – in connection with a recalling, it was a matter of a little account that I gave of my seminar last year, of a reminder of these two formulae that there is not in my language an Other of the Other. The Other in this case being written with a capital O [A]. There is no, to respond to an old murmuring at my seminar at Sainte-Anne, alas, I am very sorry to have to tell you, true about the true. In the same way there is no reason to consider the dimension of the transference of transference. This means of any possible transferential reduction, of any analytic taking up of the status of transference itself.

The Logic of the Phantasy: Jacques Lacan’s Summary of the Seminar of 1966-1967 : July 1968 : Jacques Lacan : Seminar XIV : Availability given here : P4 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation :

The examination of the group, in effect, does not show up to now in its three operations that we are – alienation, truth and transference – anything that allows a return to zero by reduplicating them: Klein’s law positing that negation is cancelled out by reduplication.

Far from it, when there are opposed to it three formulae. The first of these, long ago minted by me, states: there is no Other of the Other, in other words no metalanguage. The second dispatches to its inanity the question whose enthusiasm already denounced who was going to split away from my propositions: why does he not say the true about the true? The third gives the continuation that is announced by it: there is no transference of transference.

G)or even of your agalma, Lacan’s term in his Seminar on “Transference”: Also see Seminar VIII : Transference : 1960-1961 : Begins 16th November 1960 : Jacques Lacan or here

Seminar VIII : 1960 to 1961 : Session of 25th January 1961 : p118 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : published at : available here : p118 : or see Seminar VIII : Transference : 1960-1961 : Begins 16th November 1960 : Jacques Lacan or here  : What is behind it as the object which introduces into the subject himself this vacillation? It is here, it is at the function of the object in so far as it is properly indicated in the whole of this text that I will leave you today in order to introduce you to it the next time, it is around a word which is in the text.
I think I have rediscovered the history and the function of this object in what we can glimpse about its usage in Greek around a word: agalma, which we are here told is what Socrates, this type of hirsute Silenus, conceals. It is around this word agalma, whose closed-off enigma in the discourse itself I will leave you with today, that I will make revolve what I have to say to you the next time.

Seminar VIII : 1st February 1961 : p119 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : or see Seminar VIII : Transference : 1960-1961 : Begins 16th November 1960 : Jacques Lacan or here  : as above : I left you the last time, as a kind of staging-post in our account, on the word to which I also told you I would leave until the next occasion all its enigmatic value, the word agalma.

I did not think that what I said would turn out to be so true.
For a great number, the enigma was so total
asking: “What was that? What did he say?
Do you know?” Well, for those who manifested this unease,
one of my own family was able at least to give this response – which proves at least that in my house secondary education has its uses – that means: “ornament, adornment”. In any case, this response was only in effect a first level response about something that everyone should know: agalma, from agallo, “to adorn, to ornament”, signifies in effect – at first sight – “ornament, adornment”. First of all the notion of ornament, of adornment is not that simple; it can be seen immediately that this may take us very far. Why, and with what does one adorn oneself? Or why does one adorn oneself and with what?

It is quite clear that, if we are here at a central point, many
avenues should lead us to it.
But I finally retained, in order to make of it the pivot of my
explanation, this word agalma. You should not see in it any taste for rarity but rather the fact that in a text which we suppose to be extremely rigorous, that of the Symposium, something leads us to this crucial point which is formally indicated at the moment at which I told you the stage revolves completely and, after these games of praising regulated
as they had been up to then by this subject of love, there enters this actor, Alcibiades, who is going to change everything. As proof I only need the following: he himself changes the rules of the game by making himself the presiding authority. From that moment on he tells us, it is no longer a question of praising
love but the other person and specifically each one is to praise his neighbour on the right. You will see that this is important for what follows, that it is already a lot to say about it, that, if it is a question of love, it is in act in the relationship of one to the other that it is here going to have to manifest itself (213e, 214d)

There are mentions, on a further 23 pages, to agalma until the session of 22nd March 1961.

G) In his inaugural text entitled “The Proposition of the 9th of October 1967 on the Psychoanalyst of the School” :  Availability given ‘Proposal of 9th October 1967 
on the psychoanalyst of the School’: Jacques Lacan or here

[i] Case 2 : Frau Emmy von N., Age 40, from Livonia : from Studies on Hysteria : as above p124 :  [p48-51] The sequence of events had accordingly been as follows: when she woke up in the morning she found herself in an anxious mood, and to account for it she grasped at the first anxious idea that came to mind. On the previous afternoon she had had a conversation about the lift at the Pension. Over-careful of her children as usual, she had asked their governess whether her elder daughter, who could not walk much on account of ovarian neuralgia on the right side and pains in the right leg, used the lift for going down as well as up. A paramnesia then enabled her to link the anxiety she was conscious of with the idea of the lift. Her consciousness did not present her with the real cause of her anxiety; that only emerged – but now it did so without any hesitation – when I questioned her about it in hypnosis. The process was the same as that studied by Bernheim and others after him in persons who carry out in a post-hypnotic condition instructions given them during hypnosis. For instance, Bernheim (1886, 29) suggested to a patient that after he woke up he should put both his thumbs in his mouth. He did so, and excused his action by saying that his tongue had been giving him pain since the previous day when he had bitten it in an epileptiform attack. Again, in obedience to a suggestion, a girl made an attempt to murder a law-court officer who was totally unknown to her. When she was seized [p48] and questioned as to the motives of her act, she invented a story of a wrong done to her which called for revenge. There seems to be a necessity for bringing psychical phenomena of which one becomes conscious into causal connection with other conscious material. In cases in which the true causation evades conscious perception one does not hesitate to attempt to make another connection, which one believes, although it is false. It is clear that a split in the content of consciousness must greatly facilitate the occurrence of ‘false connections’ of this kind.

I shall dwell a little on this example I have given of a false connection, since in more than one respect it deserves to be described as typical. It is typical, in the first place, of the present patient’s behaviour; for in the further course of the treatment she afforded me many opportunities of resolving such false connections by explanations arrived at in hypnosis, and of removing their effects. I will give a detailed account of one of these instances, since it throws a strong light on the psychological phenomenon in question. I had recommended Frau Emmy to try replacing her usual luke-warm bath by a hip-bath of cool water, which I told her would be more refreshing. She used to obey medical instructions implicitly, but never ceased to view them with profound mistrust. I have already said that she had hardly ever derived any benefit from her medical treatment. My advice to her to take cool baths was not delivered in such an authoritative manner as to prevent her from having the courage to give open expression to her hesitations : ‘Whenever I have taken a cool bath,’ she said, ‘it has made me melancholy for the rest of the day. But I will try it again, if you like; you mustn’t think I won’t do whatever you tell me to.’ I pretended to give up my proposal, but in her next hypnosis I suggested to her that she should herself put forward the idea of cool baths – having thought it over, she would like to try the experiment after all, and so on. This in fact happened. Next day, she took up the idea of having cool hip- baths; she tried to convince me with all the arguments which I had previously used to her, and I agreed without much enthusiasm. But on the day after she had had the hip-bath I did in fact find her in a deep depression. ‘Why are you like this to-day?’ I asked. ‘I knew beforehand that it would happen,’ she answered, ‘it’s because of the cold bath; it always happens.’ ‘It was you yourself who asked for it,’ I said. ‘Now we know they don’t suit you. We’ll go back to the luke-warm ones.’ Afterwards I asked her in her hypnosis, ‘Was it really the cool bath that depressed you so much?’ ‘Oh,’ was her answer, ‘the cool bath had nothing to do with it. But I read in the paper this morning that a revolution had broken out in San Domingo. Whenever there is any unrest there the whites are always the sufferers; and I have a brother in San Domingo who has already caused us a lot of concern, and I am worried now in case something happens to him.’ This brought to a close the issue between us. Next morning she took her cool hip-bath as though it were a matter of course and continued doing so for several weeks without ever attributing any depression to that source. [p49]

It will be agreed that this instance is typical also of the behaviour of a large number of neuropaths in regard to the therapeutic procedures recommended by their physicians. The patient who develops a symptom on a particular day – whether owing to unrest in San Domingo or else where – is always inclined to attribute it to his doctor’s latest advice. Of the two conditions necessary for bringing about a false connection of this kind, one, mistrust, seems always to be present; while the other, the splitting of consciousness, is replaced by the fact that most neuropaths have in part no knowledge of the true causes (or at any rate the releasing causes) of their disorder, and in part deliberately avoid such knowledge, because they are unwilling to be reminded of that share of the causes for which they themselves are to blame.

It might be thought that these psychical conditions which we have laid down for neuropaths as distinct from hysterics – namely, ignorance or deliberate overlooking – would necessarily be more favourable for the production of a false connection than would be the presence of a split in consciousness, which, after all, withdraws material for causal connections from consciousness. The split, however, is rarely a clear cut one. As a rule, portions of the subconscious complex of ideas intrude into the subject’s ordinary consciousness, and it is precisely they that provoke this kind of disturbance. What is usually perceived consciously, as in the instances I have quoted above, is the general feeling attached to the complex – a mood of anxiety, it may be, or of grief; and it is this feeling that, by a kind of ‘compulsion to associate’, must have a connection found for it with some complex of ideas which is present in consciousness. (Compare, too, the mechanism of obsessional ideas, described in two papers, 1894a and 1895c.)

Not long ago I was able to convince myself of the strength of a compulsion of this kind towards association from some observations made in a different field. For several weeks I found myself obliged to exchange my usual bed for a harder one, in which I had more numerous or more vivid dreams, or in which, it may be, I was unable to reach the normal depth of sleep. In the first quarter of an hour after waking I remembered all the dreams I had had during the night, and I took the trouble to write them down and try to solve them. I succeeded in tracing all these dreams back to two factors: (1) to the necessity for working out any ideas which I had only dwelt upon cursorily during the day – which had only been touched upon and not finally dealt with; and (2) to the compulsion to link together any ideas that might be present in the same state of consciousness. The senseless and contradictory character of the dreams could be traced back to the uncontrolled ascendancy of this latter factor.

It is a quite regular thing for the mood attaching to an experience and the subject-matter of that experience to come into different relations to the primary consciousness. This was shown in the case of another patient, Frau Cäcilie M., whom I got to know far more thoroughly than any of the [p50] other patients mentioned in these studies. I collected from her very numerous and convincing proofs of the existence of a psychical mechanism of hysterical phenomena such as I have put forward above. Personal considerations unfortunately make it impossible for me to give a detailed case history of this patient, though I shall have occasion to refer to it from time to time. Frau Cäcilie had latterly been in a peculiar hysterical state. This state was certainly not a unique one, though I do not know if it has hitherto been recognized. It might be called a ‘hysterical psychosis for the payment of old debts’. The patient had experienced numerous psychical traumas and had spent many years in a chronic hysteria which was attended by a great variety of manifestations. The causes of all these states of hers were unknown to her and everyone else. Her remarkably well-stocked memory showed the most striking gaps. She herself complained that it was as though her life was chopped in pieces. One day an old memory suddenly broke in upon her clear and tangible and with all the freshness of a new sensation. For nearly three years after this she once again lived through all the traumas of her life – long- forgotten, as they seemed to her, and some, indeed, never remembered at all – accompanied by the acutest suffering and by the return of all the symptoms she had ever had. The ‘old debts’ which were thus paid covered a period of thirty-three years and made it possible to discover the origins, often very complicated, of all her abnormal states. The only way of relieving her was to give her an opportunity of talking off under hypnosis the particular reminiscence which was tormenting her at the moment, together with all its accompanying load of feelings and their physical expression. When I was prevented from doing so, so that she was obliged to say these things to a person in whose presence she felt embarrassed, it sometimes happened that she would tell him her story quite calmly and would subsequently, in hypnosis, produce for me all the tears, all the expressions of despair, with which she would have wished to accompany her recital. For a few hours after a purgation of this kind during hypnosis she used to be quite well and on the spot. After a short interval the next reminiscence of the series would break its way in. But this reminiscence would be preceded some hours earlier by the mood which was proper to it. She would become anxious or irritable or despairing without ever suspecting that this mood did not belong to the present moment but to the state to which she would next be subject. During this transition period she would habitually make a false connection to which she would obstinately cling until her next hypnosis. For instance, she once greeted me with the question : ‘Am I not a worthless person? Is it not a sign of worthlessness that I said to you what I did yesterday?’ What she had actually said to me the day before did not in fact seem to me to justify this damning verdict. After a short discussion, she clearly recognized this; but her next hypnosis brought to light a recollection of an occasion, twelve years earlier, which had aroused severe self-reproaches in her – though, incidentally, she no longer subscribed to them in the least.

[James Strachey notes: The last paragraph but one of this footnote gives us the earliest published report of a tentative approach by Freud to the problem of the interpretation of dreams. Both the two factors which he brings forward here were given a place in his ultimate analysis, though only a secondary one. See Chapters I (G), VII (D) and V (A) of The Interpretation of Dreams: 1st November 1899 (published as 1900): Sigmund Freud  : availability given here]


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Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst


Further posts:

By Miquel Bassols here or  /authors a-z (Bassols)

By Hilda Doolittle here

Some Lacanian history here

Lacanian Transmission here

Of the clinic here

Dreams   here

Translation Working Group here

From LW working groups here

Topology   here

Use of power here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud  here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

By Julia Evans here