What makes the initial interventions by an analyst work?

by Julia Evans on April 1, 2017

This paper was given to the Earl’s Court Clinical Group at their open meeting in the Royal Oak, Borough, London  on 1st April 2017 and was followed by a lively discussion. 

The beginnings:

In 2010, I offered a paper on the beginnings of my own analysis to the Paris-English seminar in Paris.  I thought the pain free option was just a bit of updating and I would be there. Less than 24 hour to go and something else is hopefully coming in place.

After the first few sessions of my analysis, I noticed changes: I felt completely different afterwards and the immediacy to read the latest romantic episode published weekly, ceased. I thought this was very funny and not at all an expected result. My academic training is that of psychology and by the time of entering analysis, I had been working as a psychologist for 15 years.

The question that arose is: what was going on? How did this work?

Here is Lacan’s version of this question: Seminar VII : 18th November 1959[i] :

Lacan’s first question:

Are we analysts simply something that welcomes the suppliant then, something that gives him a place of refuge?

So a sort of first aid post, for putting back in the correct order.

The 2nd part

Are we simply, but it is already a lot, something that must respond to a demand, to the demand not to suffer, at least without understanding why? – in the hope that through understanding the subject will be freed not only from his ignorance, but also from suffering itself.

A bit different

It interests me that I came across this reference when tracing ‘Wo es war, soll Ich werden’ by Lacan. This roughly translated (there is a stream on the Google group The Letter[ii], which discusses this)

‘Where it was, I must come to be’ from Freud’s Lecture XXXI: Dissection of the personality: 1932

So part of understanding why, is linking what has come to be, back to where it was.

Lacan states Seminar XI : 12th February 1964[iii] : p53 – No praxis is more orientated towards that which, at the heart of experience, is the kernel of the real than psycho-analysis. For what we have in the discovery of psychoanalysis is an encounter, an essential encounter – an appointment to which we are always called – with a real that eludes us.

This for me is what ‘Where it was’, is all about & it always eludes us. It is unknowable, both Freud and Lacan are clear about that. So in the beginning of the treatment, one is orientating towards connecting possibly in a different position with that which eludes us.

Making sense of the beginning of my analysis, began with Lacan’s October 1951 paper ‘Intervention on the transference’[iv] This is actually a summary of a year long, 1950 to 1951, series examining Sigmund Freud’s 1901 case study of ‘Dora’: p64 of Jacqueline Rose’s translation gives:

‘Here is an examination of Dora which Freud sets out in the form of a series of dialectical reversals. This is not a mere contrivance for presenting material whose emergence Freud clearly states here is left to the will of the patient. What is involved is a scansion of structures in which truth is transmuted for the subject affecting not only her comprehension of things but her very position as subject of which her ‘objects’ are a function. This means that the conception of the case-history is identical to the progress of the subject, that is, to the reality of the treatment.’

Three points:

– The presenting of the material is the analysand’s selection.

On beginning the treatment, you are invited to speak and that is all. The choice of what material to speak is the analysand’s.

– truth is transmuted for the subject. She thinks she has a grasp on the world, but is actually very stuck. Let us take Mrs (Auntie) May as an example. Her world is one where she can tell remoaners it is ok because she will ensure our needs are met, she tells Scotland not to be naughty and leave the Union and she tells Brussels to do as she says because you know it makes sense. She has in my opinion no idea that she is actually isolated in a little bubble. Where the Other is does not occur to her. This is probably driven from her childhood, as a Vicar’s daughter in affluent Surrey, where keeping the flower arrangers happy is the biggest challenge.

– So the progress of the subject is identical to the reality of the treatment. In Dora’s case, from Lacan p65 ibid, ‘Progress is from this first development where truth asserts itself (in a vacuum) to the statement: This is all perfectly correct and true isn’t it? What do you want to change in it? Freud replies, with what looks like a cut which operates as a first dialectical reversal : Look at your own involvement in the disorder which you bemoan?’

& at this, some of Dora’s symptoms disappeared, just as my insistent reading of romantic stories disappeared. The treatment has not yet begun for Dora, and for me did not begin until the question: What is working – how are these changes put in place?, emerged.

A further quote from Seminar II : 8th December 1954 [v] : P43 of Sylvana Tomaselli’s translation : Speech is mother to the misrecognised [méconnue] part of the subject and that is the level peculiar to the analytic symptom – a level decentred in relation to individual experience, since it is that of the historical text which integrates it. From then on, what is certain is that the symptom will only give in to an intervention interceding at this decentred level. What will fail is any intervention inspired by a prefabricated reconstruction, one forged out of our notion of the normal development of the individual, and aiming at his normalisation – here is what he was lacking, here is what he must learn to submit to by way of frustration, for instance. What is at issue is knowing if the symptom is resolved in one register or in the other, there is no middle way.


– I recommend Muller & Richardson’s notes on The Purloined Letter[vi]….

– Lacan puts in two contrasts here

1) What is driving the misrecognition by the subject?

2) The failure of prefabricated interventions, in particular, any use of normal development.


& I repeat : What is at issue is knowing if the symptom is resolved in one register or in the other, there is no middle way.



[i] p7 of Alan Sheridan’s translation of Seminar VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis: 1959-1960: Jacques Lacan : See here

[ii] The Letter Google Groups : https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/the-letter

[iii] From p53 of Alan Sheridan’s translation : See Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts: 1963-1964 : beginning 15th January 1964 : Jacques Lacan or here

[iv] Intervention on the Transference (Paris): Seminar on ‘Dora’ – 1950-1951: October 16th 1951: Jacques Lacan : See here

[v] Seminar II: The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis: 1954-1955: begins 17th November 1954 : Jacques Lacan (See here for details). In fact, the whole seminar was a year-long commentary on Sigmund Freud’s ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’: 1920.

[vi] See Lacan’s Seminar on “The Purloined Letter” : Notes to the Text : 1988 : John P. Muller and William J. Richardson or here

Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Earl’s Court, London

Further texts

Of the clinic : here

From other LW working groups : here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud : here

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

Bruno de Florence (See here or http://www.deflorence.com )

Owen Hewitson (See here or http://www.lacanonline.com)

Greg Hynds See here

Julia Evans (See here or www.LacanianWorks.net )

Texts presented to Earl’s Court Clinical Group 

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

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

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

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