We recall from above how Freud punctured a culturally optimistic narrative concerning nostalgia, namely, that the spatial estrangements which give rise to homesickness would be vanquished by the Gesellschaft conditions of technologically advanced societies. According to Freud, the technological innovations which facilitate our homeward journey, or connect us to home, are the very same ‘advances’ that agitate our feelings of absence. What is notionally a move towards increased satisfaction is, for Freud, at a cultural level, a neurotic repetition. Furthermore, from our discussion of the child’s Fort-Da game, we have seen that this same fantasy structure of repetition was already operative in the nursery. The lost object of the nostalgic’s fixation finds its primitive expression in child’s play where it is ultimately the self which is lost. If it is meaningful to locate the presence of nostalgia in the infant’s original conception of self, and analogously at the site of original sociability, then we are obliged to reconsider the temporal conventions of nostalgia’s narration. In doing so we will affirm psychoanalysis’ challenge to linear temporality of the kind suggested, but not necessarily endorsed, by Tonnies in the Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft script.
The paradoxical temporality where the longed-for past was never in a given present, can be further developed through an investigation of the clinical phenomenon of transference love. We remember that Freud’s complex account of narcissism could be read as a statement on the difficulties of love as a human problematic – a point important to underscore given that critics of Freud’s theory were wont to underplay the meaningful intersection of narcissism and love. When, in a letter to C. G. Jung, Freud famously pronounced that the psychoanalytic cure was essentially a cure ‘effected by love’, he points to the play of the transference as the means through which this is achieved: transference ‘provides the most cogent, indeed, the only unassailable proof that neuroses are determined by the individual’s love life’ (1991 , 50). With deceptive simplicity, we might put it as follows: the individual’s love life is located in the past, his transference is experienced in the present, and the ‘cure’ – with its necessary scare quotes – is, at best, promissory. The clinical phenomenon of the transference, however, confounds such neat temporal designations and makes manifest the principle that time, and its effacing effects, is not known to the unconscious. It is worth giving further thought, then, to the meaning of Freud’s cure by love, its temporal logic, and its source of authority. We know that one of the reasons so many forms of love can be described as narcissistic (e. g. familial, religious, romantic, compassionate) is because they re-enact an erotic self-investment. Drawing from the 1914 paper where we found the narcissistic-anaclitic distinction to dissolve according to the logic of refinding, we can suggest that transference love must also bend to this logic. This is to say, that if all love is love in transference (a psychoanalytic truism, perhaps), then all love must also be a repetition of self-love.
Within the context of the clinic, the transference poses a peculiar ‘technical challenge’ for the analyst; namely, that of impersonal intimacy. Describing transference love in the context of his recommendations on technique, Freud suggests that, more so than any of the problems of interpretation, ‘the management of the transference’ is the most pressing difficulty that the analyst has to meet (1915b, 159). When the transference looms, the patient has a stark choice – ‘either she must relinquish psycho-analytic treatment or she must accept falling in love with her doctor as an inescapable fate’ (161). Relatives and friends of the patient may well favour the first course of action, whereas the analyst holds out for the second. Here Freud is keen to remind the analyst that his patients’ attacks of love cannot be taken personally; they are not to his credit, so to speak. Critically, then, the model of the transference raises the prospect of an impersonal love, the vicissitudes of which constitute the path of the treatment. To give the lie to the transference too soon – as, for example Joseph Breuer unwittingly did in the birth – case of psychoanalysis – stalls the treatment because it breaks the spell of love. Although we all know spells must be broken, timing is key – as we have seen to be the case in the commonplace spell that exists between parent and child. If parental love models a first encounter with these difficult dynamics, then transference love sees them rebound on the couch. Hence, the reason the transference is the principal driver of the treatment is because it stands in vital contrast to the broader disenchanting thrust of psychoanalysis. Against all odds, transference enacts a re-enchantment, the uneven puncturing of which will be instrumental to the cure.
In one of his applied psychoanalytic excursions, Freud makes an explicit statement on the centrality of love to the theoretical and technical dimensions of psychoanalysis. His analysis of Wilhelm Jensen’s literary work Gradiva describes the affinity between psychoanalytic method and the course through which the novelist plots his literary development. In the case of the novel Freud identifies the erotic charge located in the figure of the love-object (Gradiva) who enables the protagonist’s ‘disorder’ to vanish ‘while being traced back to its origins’ (1907b, 89). Likewise in psychoanalysis:
The process of cure is accomplished in a relapse into love, if we combine all the many components of the sexual instinct under the term ‘love’; and such a relapse is indispensable, for the symptoms on account of which the treatment has been undertaken are nothing other than precipitates of earlier struggles connected with repression or the return of the repressed, and they can only be resolved and washed away by a fresh high tide of the same passions. Every psychoanalytic treatment is an attempt at liberating repressed love which has found a meagre outlet in the compromise of a symptom. (90)
There are three points to note here. First, and very simply, that Freud gives love a formative status in as much as it is the state into which one relapses as a necessary condition of cure. Second, under the rubric of the return of the repressed, Freud’s model of treatment posits an ‘origin’ to the disorder that can be accessed via the process of ‘tracing back’, seeming to suggest an archaeological model of the curative process. However, in comparing the psychoanalytic treatment with the practice of literary construction we are given a hint that Freud’s conception of the temporal order by which the symptom and its alleviation are governed would become more complex (i. e. ‘tracing back’ would become ‘working – through’ [Durcharbeiten], indicating a revised temporality). Third, Freud goes on to explain that in psychoanalytic treatment, unlike the literary narrative of Jensen’s Gradiva, the analyst cannot ‘return the love which was making its way [for the analysand] from the unconscious into consciousness’: ‘The doctor has been a stranger, and must endeavour to become a stranger once more after the cure; he is often at a loss what advice to give the patients he has cured as to how in real life they can use their recovered capacity to love’ (90). This is an instructive sentence for the analyst in training, as Freud no doubt intended it to be but also for our understanding of the psychoanalytic frame. That the doctor must ‘endeavour to become a stranger’ – indicating a subversion of standard temporality – puts stark limits on the type of intimacy that is available through the analytic relation. The analyst as ‘intimate stranger’ is afforded a different authority than the love of the patient’s family, say, because his potency is only produced by the play of the patient’s unconscious. Hence, as Freud indicates, beyond the spell of the transference the analyst will struggle to give ‘advice’ to his patient.
Written in the same year as ‘On Narcissism’, Freud’s paper ‘Remembering, Repeating, and Working-Through’ foregrounds the psychoanalytic principle of ‘retroactive causality’ (Nachtraglichkeit or ‘afterwardness’) which insists that the ‘origin’ is created through the ‘repetition’.2 Freud begins this paper with a recapitulation of his own regarding the development of psychoanalytic technique. In the Gradiva analysis, Freud was invested in ‘tracing back’ the disorder to its origins: we can situate this approach in line with what Freud identifies as the second major development of technique where hypnosis had been abandoned and ‘the task became one of discovering from the patient’s free associations what he failed to remember’ and focussing, via the patient’s ‘criticism of his free associations’, on ‘the situations which lay behind the moment at which the illness broke out’ (1914d, 147). In this mode, the analyst is still trying to locate and isolate the situation in the past which caused the formation of the symptom. Freud goes on to explain that the ‘technique used today’ abandons this effort to ‘bring a particular moment or problem into focus’ and the analyst instead ‘contents himself with studying whatever is present for the time being on the surface of the patient’s mind’ (147). Freud insists that the different evolutions of technique were all deployed in the same service – namely to ‘fill in gaps in memory’ and ‘to overcome resistances due to repression’ (148). However, in facilitating the work of memory, the earlier techniques (most especially hypnosis) betray a ‘delightfully smooth course of events’ which suggest that the unconscious and conscious material can be ordered in simple temporal terms (149). The process of remembering in this model bears too close a resemblance to the work of ‘an experiment carried out in the laboratory’ (152). Freud’s more radical theoretical conception – supported by the therapeutic commitment to the ‘surface’ – states that the past is reproduced as an action insofar as it is repeated rather than remembered; or more precisely, repetition is the patient’s ‘way of remembering’ (150). That repetition becomes a substitute for remembering makes itself felt from the outset in the clinical relation because ‘the patient will begin his treatment with a repetition’ (150).
There is obvious scope here for thinking about the account of transference love that Freud puts forward with this theory of memory in relation to Jean Baudrillard’s simulacrum as the copy without the original, or indeed through the lens of Jacques Derrida’s permanent disruption of the order of the ‘original’ and the ‘representation’. Accordingly, we can see how it troubles the nostalgic’s libidinal investments in a simple past. When Freud questions ‘whether we have any memories at all from our childhood’, suggesting instead that ‘memories related to our childhood may be all that we possess’, he gives the principle of repetition a foundational status (1899a, 322). Of course, Freud’s violence to childhood memory enacts another and perhaps more devastating blow to man’s omnipotence: take away my egoic self-mastery if you must, but not the ‘facticity’ of my childhood! This emphasis carries its way into the treatment, suggesting that the authority of psychoanalysis comes in part from its commitment to recognising the force of the re-presentations as the means of creating an originary account.