4 months ago

Sigmund Freud

destroyed. Transference,

destroyed. Transference, which seems ordained to be the greatest obstacle to psychoanalysis, becomes its most powerful ally, if its presence can be detected each time and explained to the patient’ (Freud 1905a: 159). In fact, without transference, analysis cannot properly happen. Counter-transference was a related development of Freud’s theory, pointing out that analysts also had unconscious feelings towards patients, of which they were not entirely in control. Patients might also remind analysts of people from their past, such as their mothers or fathers. Transference and counter-transference are theories of emotional substitution. Behind every initial erotic attachment stands a whole history of previous erotic attachments – each new love (or hate) acts out, rewrites, revises and replays a person’s old loves (or hates). Again we can see the importance of the intervention of reading into this unconscious play-acting. If the patient and analyst were to be permanently caught up in the transference, they would be acting like lovers, or child and parent, rather then two people working together to solve a problem. They would be living out emotional dramas, rather than standing back and analysing where those emotional dramas emerged from. One of the most important contributions of psychoanalysis to a theory of reading is the discovery of this inevitable excess of emotion that accompanies any attempted act of analysis. Sometimes it is very difficult indeed to know if one is through the transference and out the other side. Sometimes it seems that this may be an impossible goal – that every act of interpretation involves the person who is making that interpretation bringing their own emotional baggage into the equation. Psychoanalysis, for all Freud’s occasional attempts to insist upon its scientificity as a set of objective theories and methods, in fact calls into question the possibility of anyone standing somewhere totally objective. Transference implies that the content of the analysis – the uncovering of early sexual fantasies – may not be as central to the cure as the process of analysis – the uncovering, interpretation and working through of these crucial emotional substitutions. SUMMARY Freud developed his psychoanalytic method of reading his patients’ dreams, speech, emotional reactions and bodily symptoms by interpreting the free associations of his patients. He listened closely to the significance of their silences as well as their talk, their repressions as well as their expressions. For the detective-like Freud, everything about a person was interpretable – everything signified something, every thought that the patient expressed or found himself unable to express was grist to the psychoanalytic mill. The substitution theory of transference indicates that these acts of interpretation always work in two directions, back and forth, between the patient and the doctor. In the transferential situation the analytic session begins to look like a theatre, consisting of many people substituting for various parts at different times. The interpretations of patients’ thoughts were connected with the patient’s mental state at the moment, but Freud found they were also always related to childhood desires and emotions – the complicated realm of sexuality, to which I will now turn.

3 SEXUALITY Few of the findings of psychoanalysis have met with such universal contradiction or have aroused such an outburst of indignation as the assertion that the sexual function starts at the beginning of life and reveals its presence by important signs even in childhood. And yet no other findings of analysis can be demonstrated so easily and so completely. (Freud 1925a: 216–17) Of all his controversial theories, Freud believed, the one which most outraged society was his insistence upon the sexual nature of the child. The writers of the late eighteenth-century Romantic period helped forge the notion of the child as innocent, a blank slate waiting to be written on by experience. In contrast, Freud proposed that childhood fantasies formed a continuum with sexual desires, and that all children had an innate curiosity about sex and about their own origins. In the last chapter we looked at how Freud interpreted neurotic and hysterical symptoms as acting out repressed desires, and how he saw dreaming as a way of fulfilling these desires through the unconscious imagination. But what is the content of these desires? What is it about sexual desires that makes it necessary for them to be repressed? In this chapter we will explore the centrality of that dangerous topic, sexuality, to psychoanalysis and chart the ways in which Freud imagines that the spontaneous and far-reaching desires of infancy become the neurotic and repressed desires of adulthood.

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