Reading the Recommendations

by Greg Hynds on April 1, 2017

The following is a written version of a short presentation I gave at the Earl’s Court Clinical Group’s discussion meeting in April 2017 alongside Julia Evans, Bruno de Florence, and Owen Hewitson.  Greg Hynds

To briefly introduce my interest here… what so often holds my attention, both in my engagements with this group and in the study of psychoanalysis in general, is the question of approaching Lacan’s work by turning back to the Freudian text.

For this discussion, I have been reading three key papers that form a series in a collection that is usually referred to as the ‘Papers on Technique’. Freud wrote these papers between 1913 and 1915 and grouped them under the subtitle of ‘Further Recommendations on the Technique of Psycho-analysis’. It is curious to note that there was never an original ‘Recommendations on the Technique of Psycho-analysis’, but only a ‘Recommendations to Physicians Practising Psycho-analysis’, and the ‘Further Recommendations’ are, in fact, far longer than the original paper to which they effectively serve as an appendix. The papers are titled, respectively, ‘On Beginning the Treatment’ (OBT), ‘Remembering, Repeating and Working-Through’ (RRWT), and ‘Observations on Transference-Love’ (OTL). Today, I’d like simply to outline a few steps we can take when looking at Freud’s commentary on (and, indeed, his agency in) the changes that the psychoanalytic clinic undergoes during this period.

Knowledge • Transference

Working through the series of papers, it becomes clear enough that the notion of transference takes a leading role, and it is through this notion that we can find Freud’s first situating of the analytic clinic. This is perhaps best demonstrated in the third paper, the ‘Observations on Transference-Love’, where Freud addresses the analyst who is just starting out and advises them that while it may appear that their first obstacle will be the daunting task of interpreting the patient’s associations, the real challenge of analytic work lies elsewhere. Rather than the demands of interpretation, Freud writes that “the only really serious difficulties [one] has to meet lie in the management of the transference” (OTL, 159).

As we read further, we can see that this brief exchange between the experienced analyst and his student forms the backdrop for a profound shift in Freud’s position on clinical technique. In the second paper, ‘Remembering, Repeating and Working-Through’, Freud recounts the developments that analysis has gone through in the years since he saw the first patients at his clinic. In the beginning, what was central to the treatment was the task of “bringing directly into focus the moment at which the symptom was formed” (RRWT, 147) and of ‘abreacting’, through a targeted process of associative remembering, the mental processes that originally formed the symptom. This is a technique in which the analyst adopts what Freud calls an “intellectualist view of the situation”. The analyst is content, for instance, to include in the treatment the testimonies of the patient’s family and close friends because, at this moment, the cure for a particular symptom lies in the patient’s knowledge of its construction.

But, by the time we reach the ‘Recommendations’, (and it is worth pointing out that by the end of 1914, the five major case studies had already been written), Freud has begun to reassess what he refers to as the “meaning of knowledge and the mechanism of cure in analysis” (OBT, 141) as it becomes clear that the old technique does not hold fast against the breaking waves of the new clinic. He is forced to raise the question:

“How could it be that the patient, who now knew about his traumatic experience, nevertheless still behaved as if he knew no more about it than before?” (OBT, 141)

Here, Freud challenges not simply the priority of interpretation but the function of its operation. He challenges a clinic in which the emphasis rests on the bringing of knowledge and truth into coincidence. With this challenge, we see the first major shift in Freud’s technique whereby the analyst must move away from the clinical instrument of knowledge and instead place the treatment in the hands of the transference. And it is precisely via the transference that Freud invokes a division between psychoanalysis and other therapeutic practises, which he locates in the bracket of ‘treatment by suggestion’ – that is, treatments in which the doctor knows.

Transference • Speech

In this first reworking of technique, with the privileging of transference over knowledge, instead of immediately trying to bring into focus the moment at which a particular symptom appears, the analyst must wait for the transference to develop. Freud tells us that the analyst should make his first communication:

“…not until an effective transference has been established in the patient, a proper rapport with him. It remains the first aim of the treatment to attach him to it and to the person of the doctor.” (OBT, 139)

Here, we can turn our attention to the language that Freud uses in these papers. By looking at a few details in the text, which already indicate a certain direction, we can get a better sense of what this rapport means, without committing ourselves to a long theoretical exposition on the transference. In the second paper, Freud describes the passage into the transference as a movement away from ‘acting out’ and towards remembering. This opposition is premised on the old Freudian distinction between discharges of stimuli, such that Freud can say that the analyst’s struggle with the transference is to try to “keep in the psychical sphere” what would otherwise be directed “into the motor sphere” (RRWT, 153). This struggle, Freud reminds us, is a necessary prerequisite for the patient’s battle with his or her neurosis because “one cannot overcome an enemy who is absent or not within range” (RRWT, 152). In another passage, referring to patients who discuss their analysis at length outside of the clinic, Freud speaks of how the treatment has suffered a “leak” (OBT, 136), and how there are some cases of repetitive actions, of acting out, that go unchecked, before the analyst can put the “reins of the transference” (RRWT, 154) on them. Freud even speaks of the transference as a “playground” (RRWT, 154).

With all of these terms – ‘range’, ‘sphere’, ‘reins’, the prevention of ‘leaks’ – we are led to the notion of a certain limit or boundary. In a peculiar way, the analyst must try to direct the treatment into a closed space, albeit with the opposite intention of opening things up. Keeping with vocabulary for a moment, if we look to the original German we find that Freud’s own terms are a little more vibrant and a little more precise than what Strachey offers us, as perhaps we have come to expect. Freud will speak of the treatment as operating within a Gebiete, an area or domain; a Horizont, which Strachey translates as ‘field’, but literally means ‘horizon’; and Wirkungsbereich, a compound noun of Bereich (‘area’, ‘field’, ‘territory’, ‘sphere’, ‘realm’) and Wirkung (‘effect’ or ‘impact’), which contains the wonderful duality of meaning both ‘the area in which something is effective’, and the ‘area that one affects’. The Wirkungsbereich is both the constraint or condition for effectiveness, as well as the substance of what is affected.

We can bring these key terms of the ‘Recommendations’ together by turning to a quote from Lacan’s seminar on the transference, in which he comments:

“…it seems to me impossible to eliminate from the phenomenon of transference the fact that it manifests itself in a relationship with someone to whom one speaks. This fact is constitutive. It constitutes a border…” (Sem. VIII, 175, my emphasis).

Now we may ask: is it not the case that when Freud refers to the horizon of the psychical sphere, he refers precisely to this border, to the border of the speaking relation? If this can be granted, we would be able to say, only by drawing out the implication of Freud’s language here, that the transference can be rephrased as the capture of the neurosis within the limit of a relationship with another speaking being. The ‘act’ of the patient’s ‘acting out’ is an act outside of this limit, or, perhaps, the act of a first shaping, of a first capture in speech.

Meaning • Signification

So, where first the movement was from knowledge to transference, we now arrive at a collapsing of transference into a relation of speech. But it is not speech alone that distinguishes the new technique, or analysis would have no means to separate itself from the other talking therapies. The next step would be to look to Freud’s insistence that the analyst, this speaking being that one engages with in analysis, must occupy a very particular position. In the third paper, ‘Observations on Transference-Love’, Freud discusses the apparent dilemma an analyst is faced with when a patient appears to fall in love with him during the treatment. Language is, again, important here. He speaks of the patient’s attempts to “destroy the doctor’s authority by bringing him down to the level of a lover” (OTL, 163) and, later, to drag him “down from the analytic level” (OTL, 170). The analyst must avoid at all costs falling into the anticipated figures the patient attempts to cast him into – the one who accepts or rejects the patient’s love, the one who half-commits to it – and preserve the transference by placing himself somewhere else. We might say that he must refuse not what lies behind the transference but the meanings within which the transference attempts to envelop him. Reflecting on these ideas, it should not surprise us, when reading the ‘Recommendations’, that Lacan’s first seminar, which takes as its theme the ‘Papers on Technique’, is concerned with the positioning of the analyst, with the embodying of a symbolic, rather than an imaginary, figure. This is what Schema L communicates.

When reading the ‘Recommendations’, and in tracing the line of the text, it becomes possible to say, with only a little help from Lacan, that the technique Freud arrives at is a technique in which the emphasis shifts away from meaning and instead onto signification. To put this another way, what Freud says in these papers is that the analyst cannot fight meaning with meaning. The only way to direct the patient towards a new relationship to his or her desire is to operate at a level outside of meaning, just as the unconscious operates. This level, not simply the locus of speech, would be the real Wirkungsbereich of analysis: the area in which the treatment is effective, and the area that the treatment affects.

Greg Hynds


Jacques Lacan, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Transference (Book VIII), ed. by Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. by Bruce Fink (Cambridge: Polity, 2015).

Sigmund Freud, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud: Case History of Schreber, Papers on Technique and Other Works (SE XII), trans. by James Strachey (London: Vintage, 2001).

Availability of references

Seminar VIII p175 of Bruce Fink’s translation, OR

Seminar VIII : 1st March 1961 : p150 (Seminar 12) in Cormac Gallagher’s translation.  Available Seminar VIII : Transference : 1960-1961 : Begins 16th November 1960 : Jacques Lacan or here

Seminar I : Available Seminar I: Freud’s papers on technique: 1953-1954 : begins on 18th November 1953 : Jacques Lacan or here

Further texts

Of the clinic : here

From other LW working groups : here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud : here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

Jacques Lacan in English or here

Translation Working Group here

Texts written by other members of the Earl’s Court Clinical Group

Bruno de Florence (See here or )

Owen Hewitson (See here or )

Greg Hynds See here

Julia Evans (See here or )

Texts presented to Clinical Group meetings

Greg Hynds : Reading the Recommendations : London, 1st April 2017 (Open Meeting) : Information here

Julia Evans  : What makes the initial interventions by an analyst work? : 1st April 2017 (Open Meeting) : Information here

Commentary on Maurice Bouvet’s case of Obsessional Neurosis (Seminar IV) : a reconstruction of the case by Julia Evans  on 15th June 2017 or here

Commentary on Maurice Bouvet’s description of Object Relations Theory (Seminar IV) by Julia Evans  on 27th July 2017 or here

A preliminary engagement with ‘Psychoanalytic Violence: An Essay in Indifference in Ethical Matters’ by Dany Nobus by Julia Evans on 30th July 2017 or here