Skip to main content

The Unanalyzable Transference: A Portrait of Roustang’s Critique of Classical Technique

The stance of the analyst during treatment, involving as it does “maintaining the same ‘evenly-suspended attention’ … in the face of all that one hears” (Freud, 1912a, pp. 111-112), the surgeon-like attitude of putting aside personal prejudice and desire, and the bending of the analyst’s unconscious “like a receptive organ towards the transmitting unconscious of the patient” (p. 115) has been summarized by Roustang (1980) as portraying availability but impenetrability. By virtue of this availability, the patient becomes all-powerful, that is, able to dream and desire without limit. By virtue of impenetrability, the patient is reduced to total powerlessness, since these limitless desires accomplish nothing as regards the aim of reaching, knowing, or moving the seemingly available analyst. Paradoxically, the patient’s regression toward excessive infantile libidinal images, facilitated by the analyst’s stance, is rarely able to be resolved in the transference because the stance itself thwarts resolution. What Freud in his genius brings to light he is eventually unable to treat, a stalemate referred to by Roustang as “the game of the other” (1980, Chapter 5). To the extent that this game can be successfully resolved, it requires a revised stance for the analyst, possibly putting the analyst’s own psyche at risk.

To elaborate this paradox is to question anew the relationships between transference, resistance, and free association, questions pursued extensively, relentlessly, and innovatively by Roustang. Recent English translations by Ned Lukacher of Roustang’s books, Dire Mastery (1976) and Psychoanalysis Never Lets Go (1980) present to an American readership an unconventional approach to Freud’s texts that includes reading them backwards (in order to trace the relationship between a conclusion and its premises) and as manifest dreamlike material yielding latent thoughts and questions not apparent in Freud’s formal logic. Roustang (1980, Chapter 1, “Freud’s Style”) considers this noncanonical approach essential for grasping psychoanalytic principles. Since Freud was creating psychoanalytic theory, not explicating from the template of a preexisting theory, the associative structure of his texts embodies the same complex format encountered in an analytic session in which themes emerge partially, then disappear only to reemerge in an altered (clarified or disguised) form. In this paper, I will attempt to explicate one theme in Roustang’s discussion, Freud’s misperception of the problem of dissolving transference. I will present clinical illustrations and considerations for technique. Freud, of course, provided the germ plasm for all such inquiries and seems to have glimpsed, without lingering upon, the possibility that the issues addressed here would require further attention.

Aspects of the contributions of such diverse writers as Theodor Reik (1956), Melanie Klein (1952), Otto Rank (1968), D. W. Win-nicott (1971), Jacques Lacan (1978), Margaret Mahler (1968), Heinz Kohut (1971), and Harold Searles (1979) will be evident in this discussion; yet it will be obvious that Roustang’s contribution is distinctive. When psychoanalytic theory is approached, not as immutable truth, but as indispensable myth, that is, a fundamental attempt to render in language the elusive nature of experience, then one reaps its rewards only by naive immersion into inquiry that, for patient and analyst alike, reinvents the myth in understandings that are personally alive. Without this reinventing, psychoanalytic treatment reverts back to indoctrination and suggestion which, curiously enough, repeats the same dead end that led Freud to abandon hypnosis and embark instead upon his exploration of transference. Here it is Freud’s theory of transference that is not unquestioningly accepted as dogma or as his hypnotic suggestion to his followers, but rather reviewed and expanded, with implications for treatment technique.

Freud’s Theory of Transference
A brief but adequate and still current sketch of the classical theory of transference can be found between 1900, in Freud’s Postscript to the Dora case (1901), and 1912, in his essay, “The Dynamics of the Transference” (1912b). The salient features of his position may be outlined as follows (cf. Roustang, 1980, pp. 66-79): Freud has recognized displacements—that is, thoughts, feelings, or images attached to the analyst but susceptible to interpretation (replacement of the original imago with its proper object). The analyst’s stance permits the analyst to be used as a projective screen, which in turn can be detected by the analyst and explained to the patient. There is always some possibility of error or arbitrariness here, but the principle of detecting, explaining, and summing up these displacements is quite straightforward. Indeed, every analyst can confirm the significant contribution of these displacements, detections, and replacements culled from even a few moments with the patient. An example: Ten minutes into his first hour of treatment a man reporting episodes of depression stops his story. “First tell me what you think it’s about, then I’ll tell you what I think.” Here the analyst already has a glimpse of the child who, perhaps as a matter of wooing or competing, cannot speak too long without feeling drawn to check out a parent’s agenda, probably to modify himself in accord with the parent he must prepare either to attack or conform to. The analyst inwardly predicts that this will become a main treatment theme.

These displacements lead to efficacious treatment as long as the patient cooperates in producing them and responding favorably to the analyst’s interventions, otherwise connoted by the positive transference. Freud differentiated this process from hypnosis or suggestion by drawing upon the concept of conscious anticipatory ideas. The analyst’s receptive unconscious generates conscious interventions which are not exactly doctrines to be accepted by the patient but which are then used by the patient in varying degrees to discover relevant similarities to the patient’s unconscious. In this way, the repositioning of displacements within the positive transference remains distinct from suggestion by the analyst or compliance by the patient.

The analyst in the vignette above, not willing to become the wooed or attacked object, responds to confront the displacement. “Already I come first.” The patient laughs, remarks that actually he had some more to say but just wanted to be sure he gave the analyst a turn (to interfere?). Eventually such scenarios will become interpretable.

The concept of transference must be radically expanded beyond this straightforward approach to include the ubiquitous negative transference. Negative transference, including alienation between patient and analyst during the course of treatment, represents the unsatisfied portion of infantile libidinal wishes or imagos directed toward the analyst in the form of a resistance. Rather than proceeding in the way the positive transference once allowed, the patient resists the attraction of infantile imagos by repeating them in the form of negative transference. Such transference “has penetrated into consciousness in front of any other possible associations because it satisfies the resistance” (Freud, 1912b, p. 103, italics in original). Such transference is to be analyzed by interpreting piece by piece the infantile imagos to which it corresponds, traced back to the “readiness of the libido, which has remained in possession of infantile imagos” (Freud, 1912b, p. 104).

Negative transference may thus be expanded to include the excessive erotic positive transference as its counterpart. Both serve as the agents of a resistance to remembering infantile wishes. Both reflect repetition misdirected toward the analyst rather than remembering which, during treatment, could be redirected toward the original and proper object.

The unconscious impulses do not want to be remembered in the way the treatment desires them to be, but endeavor to reproduce themselves in accordance with the timelessness of the unconscious and its capacity for hallucination. Just as happens in dreams, the patient regards the products of the awakening of his unconscious impulses as contemporaneous and real; he seeks to put his passions into action without taking any account of the real situation. (Freud, 1912b, p. 108)

Three years into treatment the patient who, it is revealed, had entered out of a fear of homosexuality, now marginally heterosexual but restrained in the energy available to him in this pursuit, becomes increasingly silent, critical, and angry that “after all this time (he’s) still depressed.” During this period of near stalemate he reports a dream in which he is lying on a couch and approached by a man who attempts to seduce him. A beautiful woman awaits him in the next room, but he cannot reach her without first placating the man. The patient immediately associates to the analyst and continues to berate the analyst for being useless, a quack, for not helping him get to the woman, and for serving as an obstacle after all. Months of painstaking work are required to eventually interpret this dream: A preemptive pseudocastration masks and reverses his wish to be joined by his father, approved and loved by him, as a prelude to heterosexuality without humiliation; a prelude which is itself experienced in the dream and in the transference as an eroticized humiliation to which he must submit without, it seems, hope of escape.

Presumably this brief three-tiered sketch of the traditional approach to transference rings familiar to students and practitioners of psychoanalysis. Equally familiar during analytic treatment is the so-called working through of the excessive infantile transference, the field, according to Freud, on which “every conflict has to be fought out” (1912b, p. 104). Freud is characteristically logical in concluding that transference, just as in dreams, puts passion ahead of the real situation. One sees immediately though that this logic can diminish his most important discovery: that the unconscious, just as in dreams, is precisely the real situation. Consequently, a summing up of repetitive transference manifestations with their corresponding interpretations may inadvertently convince the patient to subjugate unconscious wishes to the external (or analytic) situation, but this defeats psychoanalysis, in which the resolution of transference is expected to permit unconscious wishes to enter into the patient’s further self-invention.

In clinical practice one does not always find that competent interpretation dissolves the negative transference and promotes psychic autonomy. The patient in the case above entered briefly into associative flow for a few weeks, after which he fell once again silent and frustrated, a pattern that persisted for years without yielding anything like the autonomy psychoanalysis envisions. The frequency with which this happens cannot be attributed to clinical error and countertransference alone. Stalemate as frequently results from systematic incompatability between the expression of unconscious wishes and an analytic stance that, by interpreting them, neutralizes them (cf. Roustang, 1980, p. 93). The remainder of this discussion addresses stalemate within the negative transference. When not broken by dissolution of the transference, it is likely to hide within various ersatz maneuvers that allow both parties to call it quits gracefully.

Unresolved endings take several characteristic forms. Perhaps the patient becomes an analyst, either literally or metaphorically, and simply succumbs to the analyst’s language, style, mode of thinking, and even mode of being. Or perhaps the analyst finally reacts to the pressure of a stalemate with depression or aggravation, thereby allowing the patient to “get better” by shifting to an attitude that ameliorates these reactions. In order not to react idiosyncratically, the analyst may intensify the stance of nonintervention and inadvertently stop analyzing, thereby allowing the patient to terminate in the name of some contrived internal or external change. Or perhaps the patient learns to accept as inevitable both the nongratification of excessive transference demands and the analyst’s interpretations of these demands, thereby leaving nothing further for the analyst to say that will not be absorbed into this new implacability (cf. Roustang, 1980, p. 102). In this event, mutual understanding of the patient’s case substitutes for dissolution of the transference.

Such endings allow treatment to conclude without resolving the transference in favor of personal autonomy. They are not due to malfeasance. More important, they are not necessarily aberrations in analytic work but rather outcomes that are, according to Roustang, inevitable whenever the analyst accepts and follows the classical theory of transference. Freud, according to Roustang, accurately identified the phenomena of transference and resistance but misconstrued how they operate dynamically.

Questioning the Theory
Freud’s theory of transference contains four questionable claims which, if accepted, lead patient and analyst toward stalemate:

1. Transference is viewed as a matter of plural displacements that are mediated between patient and analyst by means of words, dreams, fantasies, memories, parapraxes, and the like. As long as transference is defined in such limited terms, the patient’s increasing sense of the quality and limits of psychic connectedness may, with Freud’s blessing so to speak, be misconstrued as simply made up of more and more complex displacements to be interpreted by the analyst (cf. Roustang, 1980, pp. 66-68).

2. Transference is viewed as a resistance. It appears in treatment as a repetition aimed at forestalling remembering. This theoretical assertion prevents transference (and the limits of psychic connectedness) from becoming the subject of treatment in its own right and conceals the clinical possibility that transference employs resistances (silence, repetition, etc.) in order to maintain itself and last longer (Roustang, 1980, p. 74). Memories may not, in fact, be the only toxic subject denied access to consciousness by means of transference. Rupture, failure, and emptiness within the transference may be a more dangerous subject that the patient “resists” pressing to the limits of awareness.

3. The theory insists that the subject of transference is sex, the unsatisfied portion of infantile libidinal dispositions. If, however, the patient’s struggle toward psychic aliveness by means of a nondis-rupted connectedness to another being (the analyst) is a valid subject of transference, then the issue of unsatisfied libidinal longings would be only a vehicle for expressing in displaced form this question of the “limits of existence, which are life and death” (Roustang, 1980, p. 93). Interpretations of sexual longing could actually distract patients from their quests for psychic birth even in the face of the terror of annihilation, an annihilation reinacted each time the analyst turns the patient back into an object of knowledge.

4. The analyst is permitted by the theory to make the patient an object of knowledge insofar as the analyst is only receiving and translating the patient’s own unconscious. The act of interpreting is distinguished from indoctrination or suggestion by virtue of the absence of resistance in the analyst to the patient’s unconscious. Thus, the ideal of the “completely analyzed analyst” turns into the cornerstone of technique, without which the enterprise of interpretation becomes a house of cards. This ideal, however, simply cannot function clinically as a cornerstone precisely because it is absurdly Utopian (Roustang, 1980, p. 76). There is no completely analyzed analyst devoid of resistance to a patient’s unconscious, and so there is always a chance that an analyst’s most competent interpretations in the midst of the patient’s transference demands will serve an annihilating, not healing function.

All this may be summarized by saying that an analyst who purports to interpret the excesses of the negative transference according to the patient’s infantile libidinal displacements retains the position of “the one who really knows.” This position, in which the one who knows is privileged to objectify the other, constitutes the unanalyzable transference. It is unanalyzable because the analyst following classical theory and technique cannot acknowledge the position. It is unanalyzable because incompletely analyzed analysts must resist exposure of personal unconscious wishes to retain, enjoy, and exploit the position. It is unanalyzable because to do so would be to unmask the analytical process, to render the analyst without tools or bearings, to wreck—or so it seems—treatment itself. In this regard one may say, as Roustang (1976) has implied, that the unanalyzable transference is also the analyst’s transference to Freud, who, as the one who really knows, gave birth to the analyst and provides the rules for survival as an analyst. It is unnecessary for the patient to know any of this in order to experience the effect, unconsciously, of becoming after all the object of another’s impenetrable, prearranged professional curriculum.

One might add that some unmasking of the unanalyzable transference is likely to occur when working with psychotics, who are likely to tell the analyst in thinly veiled forms, not only what the analyst’s needs are, but precisely what treatment techniques the analyst is using to fulfill them. It is understandable that analysis is not usually considered the treatment of choice for psychotic patients. This does not imply lack of fortitude on the analyst’s part, but simply attests to the fact that a patient who will not or cannot enter the unanalyzable transference position inadvertently voids the very treatment mechanisms that the analyst relies upon for professional stability and guidance. Consequently, the analyst can never know what to do, nor what has been done, nor to whom (cf. Roustang, 1976, Chapter 7: “Toward a Theory of Psychosis”).

An analysis may founder within the stalemate of the unanalyzable transference, though analysts frequently find ways to resolve the position with or without theorizing about the dynamics involved and their contribution to an ongoing analysis. In attempting to systematically explain these dynamics, Roustang has suggested a revised theoretical understanding of the relationships between transference, resistance, and free association, explicated as follows.

Revising the Theory
Freud’s understanding of the positive transference made up of mediated plural displacements remains mostly intact. “I’m thinking,” she says, “that I want to go ahead and sleep with N, and I think that will upset you.” “Which,” says the analyst, “is an exciting proposition, that your sexuality will upset me just like your memory of coming home late to find your mother upset and arguing with your father.” Here the analyst can work with a message mediated by means of words, of a fantasy, a memory, and a projection. Also, there are discrete displacements, from parent to analyst, from past to present, from inner excitement to external displeasure. Detecting and responding to such displacements does, indeed, move treatment forward and constitutes, in Roustang’s word, the “easy” transference. Freud, however, thought that as long as the patient was associating and the analyst’s interventions facilitated further associations—each allowing a mostly silent stance, according to Freud’s recommendations—then the work of analysis could be considered to be generally moving forward, that is, regressing to those intolerable images that would soon be revealed in a resistance. To Freud’s understanding must be added the realization that this associating and responding patient is also developing what Roustang called “the positive transference of erotic origins,” of which “there is no possible representation” (1980, p. 77). He means that this patient is falling into a nonhistorical, nonverbal relation to the analyst in which her increasingly rich, chaotic, primitive fantasies are at last reaching another being and are being absorbed by the other, notably in the other’s silence. Since Freud defined the negative transference as a repetition of historical libidinal images that are not remembered, then this positive transference of erotic origins, this nonhistorical connection in which one unconscious grasps another, falls outside Freud’s theory. Roustang calls this relation the immediate transference, which is not “about” anything but itself. The immediate transference refers to the connection that allows one person to dream and yet be grasped by another. “It’s the part I felt but never had the words for, an excitement,” she says. In Freud’s theory she may be said to be experiencing the lifting of a repression. Also intensifying is the immediate transference (the unrepresentable positive transference of erotic origins) precisely because an interchange between fantasizing and grasping is occurring. The desire for this interchange, this connection, does not necessarily function as a resistance or a component of the negative transference; so the analyst must guard against becoming (theoretically or clinically) arbitrary about this point, one that Freud did not seem to fully notice or pursue. This patient’s repressed homosexual conflict with her mother is a separate topic, possibly of lesser importance.

Freud’s understanding that the subject of transference is sex, the unsatisfied portion of libidinal dispositions, remains mostly intact. One must remember, nevertheless, that the range within which libidinal dispositions fall, the range within which psychoanalysis operates, includes at one extreme the reverie of masturbatory autism and at the other extreme the desire for the other as truly other. “I don’t want to talk about my fantasies about you now,” she says. “It’s not a secret, I have these urges to be more a part of your life, and yes, I get turned on. But I don’t want to talk about it. Whatever you say, you won’t mean it the way I do, and I just don’t want to put myself through that now.” Through what does she realize that she does not want to “put” herself? The failure of desire for the other, the experience of encountering instead only “the one who really knows,” the experience of inevitable submission to the knowing analyst who, regardless of tact, sensitivity, empathy, and timing, will not “mean it the way” she does? According to the classical approach her resistance can be clarified: “You want us to be the same more than you want to speak yourself.” But now the failure of desire is confirmed, the un-reachableness of the other confirmed, the powerlessness of her speaking confirmed. “I know,” she says, “I get into these moods, it’s my resisting.” Her further associations will now reflect participation in her own annihilation as she submits to the position of the patient who must speak although “no one” will grasp or respond. The analyst as blank screen, as no one in particular, no true other, does not thereby prompt only expansion of the patient’s interior. Such impenetrability also prompts the spectre of masturbatory autism as the patient’s only recourse in the face of the continual failure of desire. The analyst may know something “about” the reverie of her further associations (perhaps about this patient’s masochism or depression) but these libidinal dispositions will be experienced only by her, which is to say, autistically.

She might resist the lure of the autistic position in the face of the analyst’s unreachability. “That is exactly why I didn’t want to talk about it now: you don’t mean it the way I do.” The analyst is now faced with two choices. The first choice, following the classical paradigm, is to retain the position of interpreter, which may include remaining silent as well, so that every attempt by the patient to draw the analyst into a genuine response “resembles the struggles of a gnat against an elephant” (Roustang, 1980, p. 98). Similarly, the seasoned analyst, less clumsy than an elephant, always able to remain invulnerable without actually harming or insulting the patient, can, through clinical adeptness, forestall or neutralize such confrontation, which also forestalls the interchange between fantasizing and grasping. This first choice and its variations are predicted to lead to stalemate. The analyst’s second choice is to risk being “effectively caught” (Roustang, 1980, p. 97) by the patient and thereby to risk the analyst’s own psychically authentic response. How this is possible within a continuing analysis is the subject of the remainder of this discussion.

By considering transference a form of resistance, Freud precluded the possibility of the “meant” response to the patient, since any such response revealing the psyche of the other (the analyst) would fall in the category of untoward countertransference or contamination. At issue here is the alternate possibility that transference makes use of resistance in order to protect itself from a dreaded unmasking in which “no one” will be there. What the patient, confronted with the rule to free associate, resists is not necessarily toxic memories. An equally toxic threat is the disappearance of the self in the face of the nongrasping, nonresponding, and ultimately nonex-isting other. So the patient enacts transferences, one after another, in order to have “someone” to talk to and in order to preclude the possibility of inexorable psychic aloneness or awareness of an unbridgeable gap between the psyche and the other, which is death. The potential toxicity of memory is secondary to the possibility that memory and desire cannot reach or touch another being, a possibility worth resisting because the spectre of autism is also the spectre of annihilation (as nonexistence of the other implies nonexistence of the self). The analyst who remains “no one” at this juncture requires the patient to enact transference as the alternative to an autistic destiny in which the patient succumbs to the full effect of the analyst’s resistance. That the analyst had and must have resistance to complete grasping—which would become total absorption in the patient’s unconscious—need not be problematic unless the analyst retains the idealized position of “the one who really knows” and who is simultaneously “no one.” Faced with this dangerous situation, it is somewhat misleading to suppose that the patient, through transference, recreates a mother, father, siblings, and so forth. What the patient endeavors to create is someone quite different, namely an analyst, the reachable, grasping, and responding other, who will take the place of “no one.” If, indeed, the analyst is willing to be created and does not retreat to an idealized, ineffable, vacuous stance, then there begins what Roustang has termed “the game of the other” (1980, Chapter 5), which is for him the essence of analysis itself.

The Game of the Other
The game of the other is composed of vacillations between an upheaval of the patient’s unconscious wishes and a transference situation in which the analyst’s response (or nonresponse) dictates the limits of the authenticity and survivability of those wishes. Authentic desire is consummately expressed through language (free speaking and hearing) and fully vested sexual relations. Failing this achievement, the conflicted psyche enters into the game of the other, composed of various maneuvers in the realm of projection and introjection, which Roustang has referred to as the mythical, ahistorical “passion of the one” (1980, p. 100). The passion of the one may be considered a synonym for transference insofar as it aims to eradicate the anxiety of separateness through interminable efforts to submit to or destroy the distinctiveness of the object. Though the patient appears to have conflicted relations (to others, to the world, to the analyst), the regressive transference that emerges during analysis routinely reveals the psyche’s underlying pursuit of “the one.” If originally, in the symbiotic fusion or psychotic myth, there was only one, then again eventually there must be only one (Roustang, 1980, p. 95). This may be considered a rough translation of the death wish, psychically depicted in the wish to preclude the capacity for interactions. “I create you as the one to whom I am subservient,” or equally, “I love and serve you with an unlimited power that causes you to cease to exist.” Such paradigms must not be seen as paradoxical but as statements of a nonrelation in which there is neither “I” nor “you” but only “the one.”

As regression continues, as the negative transference develops, and as the patient is seized by increasingly chaotic fantasies, the most powerfully latent theme involves this game, desire for empty space (a vacuum) between patient and analyst. This regressive pull may be experienced by both parties as utter confusion in meanings and motives, as unbridgeable distance across which neither voice can be heard, or as chaotic vacillation between these two conditions. These are not distinctive developments, not at all opposite, but merely variations of the nonrelation. The game of the other is the motive force behind the negative transference; it is at best sterile, at worst dangerous in its destructive properties (Roustang, 1980, p. 97).

The game of the other is not winable: The upheaval of unconscious wishes without taking account of the other ends in psychosis; the introjection of the other’s voice to replace the upheaval of unconscious wishes ends in annihilation. The game is not logical: It is played out on the edge of the unknowable unconscious as “the identity of contraries” (Roustang, 1980, p. 102) where “the unity of the two and their separation” are equally intolerable (p. 95). The other must exist in order for the self to exist; and yet the other must only exist to be assimilated by the self and reduced to nonexistence. Or again, the other must exist in order to be so reduced and must continue to exist for this purpose. For the hysteric, the other has been reduced in advance to an intolerable disappointment (Roustang, 1980, p. 103). For the obsessive, the other demands the contrary of whatever the self is able to be and is reduced in advance by self-inhibition (discussed differently by Roustang, 1980, p. 102). This is not to say that the game transpires within oedipal or neurotic conflicts, for it is much more primitive: “This initial myth is more or less at work in all relations between men and women, parents and children, those who govern and those who are governed, domestic or political tyrants being only the visible excrescence of an obscure multitude” (Roustang, 1980, p. 96). The game is not, then, limited to the analytic situation, but it is within this situation that some possibility of resolution is sought.

The clinical difficulties encountered by the classical analyst in resolving this game may now be explained two ways. First, the classical stance perpetuates the game. The analyst who abandons personal objectives, memories, and emotions in order to become a pure receiver of the patient’s unconscious transmissions becomes, perhaps inadvertently, the “dreamed-of other who therefore can be anything, can know anything, and to whom one can safely submit and alienate oneself (Roustang, 1980, p. 87). This dreamed-of submission is alienation because any distinctiveness that emerges from the patient’s unconscious wishes, any uniqueness on the patient’s part, is experienced as rebellion against this all-sustaining analyst, as numerous myths of a Fall attest. In more promising analyses, the alteration between need of the other and need of the other’s reduction may become fully acknowledged, discussed, and even practiced. This would not yet constitute resolution of the transference, however, since the possibility of free speaking, grasping, and responding between both parties would still remain suspended between the two poles of the game.

Second, the analyst, who is of necessity incompletely analyzed but who tries to follow the classical recommendations and evenly sustain all that emerges, must eventually evade, attack, or succumb to any successful “rebellion” from within the patient’s distinctive desires. All three contribute to and do not mitigate the pull toward the nonrelation. Competent interpretations from “the one who really knows” are nevertheless attacks on the patient’s distinctive desire, leading to idealization of the analyst and annihilation of the patient: a nonrelation. Nonparticipation, including silence and retreat to a theoretical understanding of the situation, constitutes evasion of the desire, which will end in autism for both parties: a nonrelation. The force of the patient’s desire will eventually touch some incompletely analyzed aspect of the analyst, at which point the analyst will succumb to aggravation or depression and a disruption of the analyst’s ability to hear or speak: a nonrelation. Resolution of the transference finally requires a modified analytical stance.

Analyzing The Game: The Four Terms
The symbiotic or psychotic myth of “the one” is the subject matter to be analyzed if, indeed, the negative transference is to be resolved. Specifically, this myth is incorrect in its promise that out of one can two be born. “Let us say it at once without a lengthy overture: there can be two only if following the one there have first been four” (Roustang, 1980, p. 109). Clinically speaking, the fountainhead from which two psyches are born, the patient’s and the analyst’s, are the images of the good-mother and the bad-mother (referring not to the quality of mothering but to the object in whom one’s first identity is found) plus the states of gratification and frustration. The game of the other is devoted to a struggle to become (eradicate) each in order to erase (bring about) the others. Psychoanalysis is devoted to a “first act of remembering” such that these four terms “could begin to exist together and to endure one another” (Roustang, 1980, p. 109). Clearly, analysis of the game has nothing to do with “pointing out” this situation, for that returns the analyst to the position of the “one who really knows” and continues the nonrelation. Just as transference is necessary in analysis, since “the patient’s hidden and forgot-ton erotic impulses cannot be resolved in absentia or in effigie” (Freud, 1912b, p. 108), so too must these four terms become actual and manifest in the interactions between patient and analyst in order for the negative transference to be resolved. The analyst’s psyche is no less at risk in this process than the patient’s.

The most important tool of the analyst who undertakes to resolve the negative transference is countertransference, understood in its broadest terms as (1) the analyst’s motivations to undertake a particular analysis, (that is, unanalyzed motivations to encounter the unknown, unconscious desires of a specific patient); and (2) the analyst’s resistance unanalyzed (also unanalyzed) to complete absorption in this encounter once the patient’s unconscious desires begin to be revealed and begin to have an effect. This has little to do with various feelings or attitudes on the analyst’s part but everything to do with the analyst’s wish to accept a confrontation “of devouring energies and hate” while refusing to play the game of the other (Roustang, 1980, p. 111). Countertransference, viewed as the limit of all possible regions of the unknown within the analyst’s psyche, provides the patient’s avenue for reaching the analyst and also the analyst’s avenue for resisting absorption in order to speak.

Considered in this light, Freud’s technical recommendations retain a partial validity which must yet be expanded. The seemingly impenetrable, unresponsive demeanor serves the function of “imitating the unconscious as an unknowable and nonexistent limit in order to create the appearance of a figure of a pure alterity that hears, understands, and sustains everything” (Roustang, 1980, p. 114). By virtue of this appearance the patient must find a position from which to speak other than pseudo-communication and social convention, that is, the patient must venture a connection with the unconscious and attempt to make something happen. This is not all, however, for the analyst must avoid disappearing into the demeanor and ceasing to exist, thus permitting the patient to continue the game of the other indefinitely. Through countertransference, then, the analyst becomes willing and able to enter the confusion of the patient’s desires, which is to say, willing and able to be affected by encounters with the patient’s unconscious. This unknown represents everything the patient can cause to happen to, for, and within the analyst through the interaction of the patient’s unconscious with the analyst’s own incompletely analyzed unconscious. It further includes, however, the analyst’s resistance and thereby makes possible moments of detachment during which language (not always as interpretation but as awareness of what has occurred) can enter the nonrelation and intrude on the deadly game.

Countertransference is essential for the four terms of analysis to materialize. The “completely analyzed analyst,” or one who permits only this demeanor, isolates the images of good- and bad-mother within the analyst and the states of gratification and frustration within the patient. Since, however, the incompletely analyzed analyst is vulnerable to unconscious desires for “the one” as well as resistant to this fusion, it becomes possible for this analyst now to be seized by states of frustration or gratification, now resistant to those states as an alternate voice. Likewise, the patient becomes now frustrated or gratified, now the good- or bad-mother who can affect the analyst. The four terms reemerge as seizure or detachment and as occurring here or elsewhere (Roustang, 1980, p. 110). They are alternatives to fusion in that they represent temporal events or sequences. The analyst may be seized or detached in relation to the patient or to the analyst’s own interior; the patient may be seized or detached in relation to the analyst or the patient’s own interior.

The analyst cannot, through training or technique, cause an interaction of the four terms to occur. The patient must begin the interaction by attempting to communicate something within the unknown limits of desire. The analyst willing to be caught up in this unknown and yet resistant to complete absorption in the psyche of the patient alternates between seizure (participation in the patient’s desire and/or the analyst’s own incompletely analyzed desire) and detachment, when the moment of seizure can be put into words (Roustang, 1980, p. 111). A relation exists or is born from the interaction of the four, from which birth the further details concerning significant historical events can be disentangled in their plurality. It is not, however, to the dangerous “no one” who also “really knows” that the patient transfers these pluralistic details, but to an analyst who is affected and resistant, gratified and frustrated by the patient’s material, taught by and interpreter of this material.

Implications for Technique
The implications of this view for psychoanalytic technique can never be totally settled, though some operational understandings can be found. Clearly, the centrality of the concept of interaction among the four terms precludes the one-dimensional demeanor of the idealized “one who really knows,” also “good-mothering”—because it begins to enact the nonrelation—provoking or seducing the patient, and refuses to gratify (frustrate) or be gratified (frustrated) by the patient. Revelation of the analyst’s life would be suspicious, not so much because it contaminates, but because it suggests a shallow attempt to interact within the domain of the unknown. Moreover, psychoanalytic technique would not rest on any ideal timing or distance, but, ironically, just the opposite. The analyst’s errors would become indispensable to the eradication of the myth of fusion: They create sequences of events in the realm of knowing and not knowing, love and hate, gratification and frustration (Roustang, 1980, p. 99). Further modifications have been alluded to earlier by such phrases as the analyst’s willingness to be “caught up” in the unconscious of the patient and the analyst’s “psychically authentic response.” These modifications are not mere ideals but have their own psychodynamic structure.

Willingness to be caught up in the unknowable unconscious of the patient implies during the analysis of every patient a further analysis of the analyst. Encountered in the classical “bending” of the analyst’s unconscious is something not known before and not understood in advance. Therefore, the analyst who is created out of interactions with a regressing patient is one who, indeed, does not know at all what is going on, what has been touched, provoked, or stirred up within. This not-knowing is an indispensable signal that the analytic process has been engaged, without which one must always have reservations. Included in these signals are the analyst’s misunderstandings, peculiar feeling states or associations, slips, para-praxes, and dreams.

Two years into a seemingly appropriate yet unrewarding analysis of a middle-aged spinster, a male analyst recognized that he seemed incapable of viewing his patient as a sexual being. He dreamed that he was being criticized by one of her male teachers for his handling of the treatment, and that he then engaged in sexual relations with the patient, only to be banished to an island with lost sailors. On the basis of the manifest content of this dream, the analyst was no longer defended against being sexually aroused by the patient. More important was the emerging realization that this patient had found an unconscious homosexual pocket within him as her vehicle for stimulation. She had been content in the treatment to disguise her seductive capabilities as submission to the more powerful analyst, yet she could unconsciously threaten (and excite) him with a promiscuous sadomasochism (submission to and discarding of anyone), to which the analyst in his incompletely analyzed desire to own a virgin could at last respond. There followed then a live analysis involving the four terms: (1) The good-mother analyst, who in his role as benevolent (detached) interpreter actually frustrated the patient into (manifest) libidinal dormancy; (2) The bad-mother analyst, who in his (seized) desires to own actually gratified the patient; (3) The good-mother patient whose apparent frailty and repressed (detached) libido stimulated and gratified the analyst; and (4) The emerging bad-mother patient, pursuing her libidinal impulses elsewhere (seized), understanding the analyst’s contribution (detached), thereby frustating the (seized) bad-mother analyst but entering into a created relation with the good-mother analyst.

The terms “empathy” and “induced transference” could be misleading here insofar as they connote a generally receptive analyst who entertains temporary emotions that are more or less easily understood. In the vignette above, the analytical core of treatment began through the confluence of unknown desires (within and between both parties), experienced and resisted, bringing understanding of the situation only within the interaction of the four terms. The term countertransference retains the connotation of unconscious, limitless not-knowing and insures the veracity of interactions among the four. The analyst, no less than the patient, would be expected to fall in love and hate, experience splendid frustrations and gratifications, and eventually expand his own analysis to include the encounter with her unconscious.

Just as a patient can only make contact with the unconscious through manifest material that leads in an unexpected direction, so the analyst is most able to be “caught up” by the patient’s unconscious when absorbed in this material. To a certain extent, this follows Freud’s (1912a) injunctions against concentrated attention, formulating hypotheses, or “brooding over cases” (p. 114) in order to arrive at evenly hovering attention. Yet the impression endures that evenly hovering attention consists, not of equal absorption in all aspects of the patient’s manifest productions, but of a detached, meditational suspension of energies only perfunctorily related to the manifest level. There is no question that the analyst freely associates. The question is whether this is done from the position of suspension or absorption. The danger in suspension is that the analyst is prepared less to be caught than to resist by shaping associations that promote the “one who really knows.” Absorption, on the other hand, leaves no room for secondary revision, since whatever occurs to the analyst outside absorption in manifest material has to have arisen from the unconscious. As soon as the patient has ventured a connection with the unconscious and found a way to communicate, and as soon as the analyst experiences the intrusion of personal associations not comprehensible on the basis of manifest material, then the analyst has been caught, the analysis has begun, and the unknown realms within both parties may begin to struggle to find language.

The struggle for language contains the analyst’s quest for the psychically authentic response. This does not refer to the analyst’s empathy, transparency, or personableness. The psychically authentic response is the voice from the unknown, unanalyzed region of the analyst’s unconscious. When stimulated by the patient, it becomes the voice of an other partially fused with (seized) and partially resistant to (detached) the patient’s desire. Taken together, this partial fusion and partial resistance may be considered the voice of coun-tertransference. In the vignette above, the good-mother patient falls into (seized) confusion over fleeting desires for the analyst, then turns silent and resigned to the uselessness of further feelings or words, all of which is very stimulating to the (detached) bad-mother analyst, who is for the moment content with his formidable role. As her protest blossoms into a more embittered (detached) silence portending the bad-mother patient whose feelings belong only to her, the analyst is seized by an intrusive sense of loss which materializes into the words, “I’m afraid you’ll leave me.” The good-mother patient who would like to proclaim this notion ridiculous is, nevertheless, not able to disregard the evidence of impact, of being grasped and responded to, which places her in touch with the bad-mother patient who now has language. The idea that the analyst is being ridiculous is cut short in favor of the words, “I actually could, I can shut you out and sometimes not care.” She is now surprised and pleased at her noncollapse and at the survivability of the words that, in the moment of detachment, emerged from chaotic seizure. This in turn allows the analyst to become involved (through newly alternating seizure and detachment) in exploring with her the nature of her underlying power to seduce and/or reject that had formerly remained repressed.

From the interaction of the four terms come sequences of impinging and being impinged upon, gratification and frustration, seizure and detachment for both parties. From the analyst’s perspective, the patient has stimulated a formerly unknown desire that became recognizable in tandem with the analyst’s resistance, the fear. Neither the desire nor the fear is eradicated, but in the detached moment of putting into words each becomes part of a created relation that permits an analysis to proceed. The analyst’s intervention originated in participation and culminated in language, in effect entering into the game of the other while dismantling its rules (Rous-tang, 1980, p. 99). From the patient’s perspective, the emerging voice of personal desire was met by the response of a reachable, grasping other who neither disappeared through absorption nor retreated into an impassable authority. The distinctiveness of the other’s response stimulated a formerly unconscious aspect of herself which, in the transition to detachment, could be put into words. Neither her seductiveness nor her sadomasochism is eradicated, for none of the four terms is required to capitulate to the others. Rather, they become part of a created relation that permits an analysis to proceed.

The analyst’s intervention in this vignette avoids stalemate but is not reported as an example of ideal technique. There can be no such thing as ideal technique, ideal sequences, or ideal resolution of the transference if one accepts Roustang’s (1980) observation that the unsettling secret revealed during the regression of treatment is precisely “the unstable character of individuation” (p. 129). The capacity of the unconscious for limitless desire is partially expressed and partially distorted by the self’s cathexes of the object world. Cathexes within the object world contain partial gratification and partial misappropriation of desire. More simply stated, individuation is unstable because cathexis of the other changes it. The danger of absorption into the other, capitulation to manifest reality and adaptation on alien terms, is mitigated by indefatigable unconscious desire and its pull toward individuation. Thus it would be futile to expect that in the resolution of transference the patient’s displaced longings will be fully grasped or completely repositioned, that the analyst will fully understand the patient, or that the patient will fully understand self or analyst. These occur only in their partialities. The subject of transference is the wish to circumvent this partiality by locating some definitive other through whom psychic experience can be validated and stabilized. Clinically speaking, dissolution of this underlying wish is brought about through analytic interactions that permit the patient first to tolerate and eventually to prefer awareness of what is occurring.

Specifically, what is occurring and has always occurred is that (1) the analyst is only partially reachable by the patient and responds to the patient out of partial misunderstanding; (2) some of this misunderstanding pertains to dimensions of the patient’s interior that can never be successfully given over to the analyst or the analysis; (3) the patient does not grasp everything there is to be said from within and can never be sure that the definitively personal self has been encountered; (4) the analyst’s words are not exactly the analyst’s thoughts, both of which remain partially misconstrued by the patient; (5) patient and analyst experience the analysis differently; and (6) the words spoken between patient and analyst, understood and misunderstood, are distinct from the words of either alone and cannot be replicated. To prefer and pursue such interaction in contradistinction to submissiveness or privatism is to have resolved within the transference primary masochism and depression.

Presented here is one illustration of the transition from potential stalemate within the negative transference to continuing analytic work. It derives from complex theoretical considerations provided by Roustang, wherein the transference is understood less as a resistance or as a repetition of unremembered historical dispositions than as a quest to forestall the anxiety of distinctiveness between self and other through increasingly primitive or interminable efforts to submit to or destroy the other. The analyst operating within the classical stance may uncover and understand this position without contributing to its resolution, since the analyst’s availability (to be absorbed and destroyed) is accompanied by impenetrability (to which the patient must submit). Indefinite alteration between these conditions does not constitute resolution of the transference and can lead to stalemate. A modified stance, in which countertransference provides an (unconscious) inroad for the patient to reach the analyst as well as the analyst’s means of resisting full absorption, creates distinctive sequences of seizure (during which each party can affect the other as the gratifying or frustrating good or bad mother) and detachment (during which each party can know what has happened). The relation created from such sequences disrupts the sterile quest for fusion, disrupts the motive force behind the negative transference and makes its dissolution possible.

I wish to thank Vivienne Joyce, Gerald Gargiulo, and Richard Mulliken for their critical comments.

References
Freud, S. (1901) Postscript. Fragments of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. Standard Edition, 7: 112-122. [→]

Freud, S. (1912a) Recommendations for Physicians on the Psychoanalytic Method of Treatment. Standard Edition, 12: 109-120. [→]

Freud, S. (1912b) The Dynamics of the Transference. Standard Edition, 12: 97-108. [→]

Klein, M. (1952) The Origins of Transference. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 33: 433-438. [→]

Kohut H. (1971) The Analysis of the Self. New York: International Universities Press.

Lagan, J. (1978) The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (Jacques-Alain Miller, Ed.; Alan Sheridan, Trans.). New York: Norton.

Mahler M. (1968) On Human Symbiosis and the Vicissitudes of Individuation: Vol. I, Infantile Psychosis. New York: International Universities Press.

Rank, O. (1968) Will Therapy & Truth and Reality. New York: Knopf.

Reik, T. (1956) The Search Within: The Inner Experiences of a Psychoanalyst. New York: Farrar, Straus.

Roustang, F. (1976) Dire Mastery (Ned Lukacher, Trans.). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Roustang, F. (1980) Psychoanalysis Never Lets Go (Ned Lukacher, Trans.). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Searles, H. (1979) Counter-transference and Related Subjects. New York: International Universities Press.

Winnicott, D. (1971) Playing and Reality. New York: Basic Books.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone