Classical Bases of Transference Love
This article seeks to examine the characteristics of the psychoanalytic transference. It asks the question: “What are some key links between the transference and love?” The first section traces Freud’s developing ideas on the topic of the transference love. This is in order to seek evidence as to how the transference love might be grounded. Since transference love is a known characteristic of the transference, the second section examines the character of the mythical character of the demi-god Love.
It conducts this examination through an analysis of relevant parts of Plato’s Symposium, and in particular, the speech of Diotima. This is because the Symposium is a series of encomium speeches about the nature of the mythical character of Love, an encomium being a rhetorical speech in the form of a song of praise. It is arguable that the Symposium discourse is nested within the discourse of transference. The paper will suggest that transference love has many of the characteristics of the mythical Love, except that it lacks the certainty of public recognition. Transference love is less adaptable, less concerned about consequences and more blind in its over-valuation of the beloved.
Development of Transference
Freud wrote of the psychoanalytic idea of the transference. This section traces his developing thought on the transference, in chronological order. It asks how Freud grounded his concept of the transference love. In S. Freud and J. Breuer Studies on Hysteria New York, Avon Books, 1966, writing in 1893 to 1895, Freud and Breuer noted that there appeared to be a compulsion for bringing newly conscious psychic material into a causal connection with other conscious material. They found that when the nature of the causation was unconscious, the patient was compelled to invent a new cause, which he/she believed .
For example, a new symptom might be attributed to the analyst’s advice, because of the patient’s mistrust for the analyst and an unwillingness of the analysand to bear any blame . At this point, as Laplanche and Pontalis noted in J. Laplanche and J. –B. Pontalis, The Language of Psycho-analysis, Donald Nicholson-Smith trans., Karnac Books, London, Freud regarded transference as just a particular instance of displacement of affect from one idea to another. From this is the inference that transference was an aspect of the primary process of displacement and condensation. He wrote that it was triggered off just at the point where important repressed material was about to be revealed .
In S. Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, James Strachey trans & ed., Avon Books, New York, 1998, (Die Traumdeutung) Freud’s seminal work on dreams, he developed a nascent context for the term “transference”, which, although not unrelated to the term as it is now used, arguably provided an important understanding of the entire transference process. He concluded that the freshness of an impression imbued it with psychical value equivalent to the value of emotionally coloured memories, for the purposes of dream construction . He explained further that the very earliest childhood experiences were no longer obtainable from memory, having been replaced by what he then called transferences, and dreams .
Consider a mnemic event as one which has at least one independently necessary condition which is separated from it by a finite gap in time. Freud noted that all thought activity emerging from the form of mnemic image towards the finality of reality testing was a path to wish-fulfilment, and was a substitute for an hallucinatory wish . This process of transference of a wish onto more recent material was subject to the distortion of the censorship . Freud identified an innate demand to make a dream intelligible, and he characterised this demand as a perceptual event . Thus, a train of thought might arise in the preconscious, without a preconscious cathexis, propelled instead by an unconscious wish . Freud consequently developed the proposition that “a normal train of thought is only submitted to abnormal psychical treatment . . . if an unconscious wish derived from infancy, and in a state of repression, has been transferred on to it” .
Laplanche and Pontalis stated in their 2004 work that it would be mistaken to treat this process, as described in Die Traumdeutung, as distinct from the mechanism of transference that Freud catalogued as occurring during treatment . They stated further that Freud had defined the hysterical symptom as a mnemic symbol of the pathogenic trauma or of the conflict, occurring either in the form of an unresolvable motor innervation or as a constantly recurring hallucinatory sensation .
Freud characterised transference in these elements: replacing persons; sublimation; resistance to constructions; and, a context he called a stereotype plate. In the postscript to Freud’s case exposition of Dora, in S. Freud, Dora – An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria, Touchstone, New York, 1997, Freud stated that during analysis the formation of new symptoms stopped, with the productive power of the neurosis engaged in creating a special class of mental structures. He gave these structures the name of “transference”. He designated them for the most part as unconscious, allowing for the possibility of a conscious transference. Freud separated transferences into the two classes of new impressions or reprints, or revised editions. He explained these classes in his detailed description of transferences.
What are transferences? They are new editions or facsimiles of the tendencies and phantasies, which are aroused and made conscious during the progress of the analysis; but they have this peculiarity, which is characteristic for their species, that they replace some earlier person by the person of the physician. To put it another way: a whole series of psychological experiences are revived, not as belonging to the past, but as applying to the person of the physician at the present moment. Some of these transferences have a content which differs from that of their model in no respect whatever except for the substitution. These, then—to keep to the same metaphor—are merely new impressions or reprints. Others are more ingeniously constructed; their content has been subjected to a moderating influence—to sublimation, as I call it— and they may even become conscious, by cleverly taking advantage of some real peculiarity in the physician’s person or circumstances and attaching themselves to that. These, then, will no longer be new impressions, but revised editions .
Apparently linking transference to love, Freud designated transferences as inevitable necessities. They were unavoidable. He considered that they were something to be resolved in analysis, so that the patient could appreciate consciously the validity of connections constructed during the course of analysis . The patient called up affectionate transferences to aid recovery, and if this could not be done, the patient broke away. Within analysis, the patient used all his/her tendencies, including hostile ones. Those made conscious acted to destroy the transference. Freud said that the analyst must detect the transference and explain it to the patient . This inferred a difficult task for the analyst of detecting the transference at the point of its emergence and before possible its destruction.
In his 1912 paper The Dynamics of Transference, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud Volume XII, The Hogarth Press, London, 2001, Freud noted the subject’s specific method in the way he/she conducted an erotic life. This method comprised repeatable and repeated preconditions for falling in love, which Freud called a stereotype plate for satisfying instincts and setting aims . These impulses divided into those of reality, which became conscious and formed part of the personality, and those held up in development, which could only expand within phantasy and thus remain unconscious. The word “phantasy” is used with the “ph” to indicate an unconscious form of fantasy. Both of these streams of impulses shared in forming an anticipatory attitude based on libidinal ideas. In the result, the libidinal cathexis of a partly satisfied person would be directed onto the figure of the analyst, no doubt as a form of love. In this way the analyst was imputed into the analysand’s stereotype plate, which had already been formed. The transference might arise on the lines of the father, mother, or brother, imago .
Freud said that the questions arose as to why transference was so much more intense within analysis, and why it was the most powerful resistance to treatment. For example: if the analysand’s free associations failed, the stoppage could be removed by explaining to the patient that it was due to an association connected with the analyst. Thus, the first question was resolved by noting that transference also occurred with great intensity outside analysis, and that it was attributed to neurosis itself . This suggests a common occurrence of neurotic hallucination. In answer to the second question, Freud stated that when analysis came upon libido which had withdrawn into hiding, the regressive forces maintaining the hiding arose as resistances, so that the next association took account of it, and manifested as the carrying out of transference onto the analyst. This was because it was a compromise between the demands of the regressionary force and that of the analyst’s investigation. Freud inferred from this that the transference idea penetrated into consciousness because it satisfied the resistance .
Freud noted that positive transference must be distinguished from negative transference, that is, the transference of affectionate or hostile feelings respectively. Positive transference was divided into that of friendly feelings admitted into consciousness, and, transference of continuations of such feelings into consciousness. He suggested that this prolonged form of transference was grounded in erotic sources. Negative transference and positive transference of repressed erotic impulses formed the basis of resistance, and when removed, left the transference of affectionate feelings admissible to consciousness, driving the success of the analysis . This suggests a treatment requirement to resolve conflicts surrounding repressed erotic impulses.
In his 1915 paper Observations on Transference Love, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud Volume XII, The Hogarth Press, London, 2001, Freud noted what he called the distressing and comical aspects of the patient falling in love with the analyst. Freud also noted that this falling in love was unavoidable . He implied that analysis of this love could contribute to the patient’s recovery . Freud characterised this love as a sudden irruption of reality, giving the appearance of the end of the treatment, but undoubtedly being an expression of resistance. It regularly occurred at the point when the analysand was being pushed to admit or remember a heavily repressed piece of life history . This love was used to hinder the treatment and to put the analyst into an uncomfortable position . Freud recommended that this be dealt with by the analyst not giving up acquired neutrality, and by consciously regulating the counter-transference , of the analyst vis-a-vis the analysand.
Freud stated the fundamental principle that “the patient’s need and longing should be allowed to persist in her, in order that they may serve as forces impelling her to do work and to make changes, and that we must be aware of appeasing those forces by means of surrogates” . He added that this love was new editions of old traits, repeating infantile reactions, just as did all love. However, transference love was less adaptable, less concerned about consequences and more blind in its over-valuation of the beloved .
In his 1917 Introductory Lecture Number 27 on the Transference, in S. Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, (James Strachey trans.) Penguin Books, London, 1976, Freud remarked that transference was present right from the outset of treatment, as the most powerful motive to advance the treatment . However, there came a time when the patient was no longer interested in treatment, ignored the agreement made with the analyst, and transferred feelings of love onto the analyst. In the case of a female patient, usually she would fall in love with the analyst . Some women succeeded in sublimating the transference to make it viable. Male patients sublimated the transference more often, and in which case their emotional ambivalence produced a hostile or negative transference .
In Freud’s 1925 work entitled An Autobiographical Study, in Peter Gay (ed.), The Freud Reader, Vintage, London, 1995, he dealt with the element of suggestion in the transference. He characterised the transference as an intense emotional relationship, which replaced the patient’s desire to be cured. He said that transference was not created by the analysis, but merely uncovered and isolated by analysis, as a universal phenomenon of the mind. It was the same factor which hypnotists had called suggestibility. He said it was not allowed to play the decisive role in the treatment, but instead, it was used solely to induce the patient to overcome transference resistances .
Freud decided that the transference was grounded in erotic sources, and that it was both inevitable and productive of love. He suggested a strong relationship between transference love and the intra-psychcic conflict mediation of sublimation. Transference love was less adaptable, less concerned about consequences and more blind in its over-valuation of the beloved. The next section examines Plato’s treatment of love, in his Symposium.
Love & Eros
Plato’s Symposium, read from Plato, Symposium, Robin Waterfield trans., Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994, was structured as a series of encomia  to love, a countering speech by the priestess Diotima, spoken by Socrates, and finishing with the dramatic entrance and the speech of Alcibiades. Lacan had stated that the Symposium revolved around the relationship between the nature of love and the transference, with Alcibiades’ entrance and speech explaining the first onset of the transference. . To set the context, after several initial encomia, Socrates delivered the speech of the priestess Diotima, posing as Diotima. Diotima’s speech immediately preceded the chaotic entrance of Alcibiades.
Eros inferred slavish love. Cornford stated, in F. M. Cornford, Thucydides Mythistricus, Routledge, London, 1965, that Diotima’s argument was that desire must lack that which it desired. In mythical terms, Eros was neither god nor mortal, but rather, was the intermediate Daimon infused with elements of both god and mortal , thus lacking full godliness. Rosen noted, in S. Rosen, Plato’s Symposium, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1987, that Diotima’s speech began with Eros as a daimon who inspired men to love the beautiful. After Diotima linked beauty with goodness, and made “good” primary, she suggested beauty was an instrument to the achievement of the good. According to Rosen, she suggested that Eros was no longer a daimon, but had its source in the corporeal, as a fundamental aspect of genesis . This suggested somatic sources of love and beauty. At this point, her discourse inferred the personage of Alcibiades, arguably a person who, it was said, repetitively succumbed to the corporeal. In this light, she referred to political piety as slavish love, and developed this idea into the dictum that philosophy was the process of generating speeches as a locus of genesis . She proposed that Eros was an assistant in the attempt to grasp immortality via the perception of beauty .
Diotima’s speech was arguably a balanced counter-response to the Symposium’s prior speeches of Phaedrus, Pausanias, Eryximachus, Aristophanes and Agathon, culminating in the entrance of Alcibiades. Lacan had proposed in his Seminar VIII that Alcibiades’ entrance at this point in the Symposium discourse was emblematic of the first onset of the transference . Although it is beyond the scope of this paper to look into the meaning of the word “emblematic”, it suggests transference is a Platonic form, or genus of more specific events.
Socrates’ speech deliberately confused, or some might say condensed, love and Love (Eros). Why would Socrates deliver a speech in the name of another person? Lacan argued that since the Socratic method was characterized by episteme, then Socrates preferred the alternate character of Diotima to present a speech with the character of myth . This suggests a mythical structure of agency, or the character of a daimon. Socrates introduced this rhetorical ornament by telling of the speech of Love that he once heard from Diotima, who he said had taught him the art of love. He proposed to go through her speech on the basis of what he had agreed with Agathon . Arguably, this generated a lovers’ threesome of Agathon, Socrates and Alcibiades, suggesting a nascent explanatory form of transference love as a rhetorical ornament, resolvable by rhetorical analysis.
Love inferred paradox. Diotima told Socrates that judging things correctly without being able to give a reason was in between understanding and ignorance . She also asked about the apparent pardox as to why everyone at the Symposium had agreed in their encomia that Love was a great god when they also said that he was not a god at all . She deduced from this that love was a great spirit in between god and mortal, whose function was as a messenger between gods and men . She characterized those who were wise in the ways of the priestly arts as men of the spirit, but characterised those wise in a profession as mere mechanics,  inferring that professional discourse represented a form of relative enslavement, compared to the discourse of those adept in the priestly arts. Love is transmitted through the generations by desire. Spontaneously, Socrates asked who were the mother and father of Love .
At this apparent gap point of Plato’s discourse, and arguably as a response to the speech of Phaedrus as a tradesman mythologist, Plato caused Diotima to make Penia (poverty) the mother of Eros . This was in contradistinction to the fact that poverty and wealth were personified specifically in other ways in Hesiod’s Theogony, as read in Richard Caldwell transl., Hesiod’s Theogony, Focus Classical Library, Newburyport, 1987, and played no role in myth of Eros . The father of Eros, according to Diotima, was Poros whose name meant ‘resource’ in English . Thus, according to Diotima, Eros was never bereft of resources. Nor was he rich . The consequential fact that Eros was in between wisdom and ignorance was presented as proof that he was not a god, because gods did not desire wisdom . In this way, Love loved wisdom because he fell between the two extremes, and which descended from his parentage .
Diotima explained that Eros was a lover, rather than evincing that kind of beauty, which was characteristic of a beloved . In this respect, Eros was arguably like Socrates, and that might explain why Plato caused Socrates to use Diotima, instead of Socrates, to make the speech. Thus, she explained that it was common to all people to desire good things, the possession of which apparently promised to bring happiness . However, it was only when people were engaged exclusively in one special kind of love that we named them lovers. We designated them as “in love” . And so, the object of love was the desire to possess the good forever . This acted to exclude hybristic love from recognised lovers. The inference was that love must desire immortality . This appeared to be because knowledge was constantly leaving us, and in consequence, we studied to replace lost knowledge in order to share in immortality . The extension of this was arguably that love of immortality would spur people to do anything for glorious fame and immortal virtue, including acts of giving . It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine the nature of knowledge, but the reader might benefit from Plato’s explanation of knowledge in Letters VII.
Diotima set out an inevitable rising progression in the development of love. If Love led its subject correctly, inferring cause of desire, then this subject loved one body in his youth and through acts of giving begat beautiful ideas in that place (soma). Then the subject progressed to love of all beautiful bodies and despised the love of just one beautiful body . At the next level, the subject gazed at the beauty of activities, laws and customs. Lastly, the subject graduated to the level of the great sea of beauty, where the subject begat beautiful ideas and theories . Ultimately, the subject gave birth to true virtue, self-conferring immortality .
From Diotima’s speech in the Symposium, it could be argued that Love was an intermediate and slavish form, neither god nor human, but containing the paradox of both poverty and resources, and having the characterisitic structure of myth. Nevertheless, Love was capable of leading people to true virtue through knowledge, suggesting a way of exiting slavery. Arguably, this would take place when people engaged in a lover-beloved dialectic, rising as priests above a mere technician’s view of laws and customs, and being recognized publicly in the community as lovers.
This article asked the question: “What are the key links between the transference and love?” The scope of the research was limited by Lacan’s linking of the Transference and Plato’s Symposium.
Transference is grounded in erotic sources, suggesting a source in the mythic Eros. Transference is both inevitable and productive of love. This transference love is less adaptable, less concerned about consequences and more blind in its over-valuation of the beloved. Love expressed as the mythical Love (Eros) is an intermediate and slavish form, neither god nor human, but containing the paradox of both poverty and resources. It is capable of leading people toward true virtue, through the exiting of slavery through knowledge, and by being recognized publicly in the community as lovers. Transference love appeared to lack the ability to take this public quality to completion. Freud characterised transference in these elements: replacing persons; sublimation; resistance to constructions; and, a context he called a stereotype plate.
Further research could include analyses of the Symposium speeches including an analysis of the personage of Alcibiades, the meaning of the word “emblematic”, Plato’s instruction on knowledge and truth, and an analysis of sublimation and construction.
I would like to acknowledge the patient supervision and kind guidance of the original research for this paper by Associate Professor Russell Grigg of Deakin University, Australia.
Dr Gary I. Lilienthal holds a Diploma in Journalism, a Sydney University law degree, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law in Sydney Australia, a Certificate in Criminal Intelligence Analysis from UK Police, a Graduate Certificate in Psychoanalytic Studies, a Graduate Diploma in Psychoanalytic Studies, a Masters Degree in Psychoanalytic Studies from Deakin University in Melbourne Australia. He holds a doctor of philosophy dgree from Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. He also holds a United Nations Certificate in International Dispute Resolution.
His legal interests lie in the practical application of administrative law to corporate compliance and he is an authority on the public policy currents underlying the intellectual property tort of passing-off. His psychoanalytic interests lie in the closely related fields of family therapy, and of organizational behavior, including organizational change leadership through Action Research. He is a leading thinker on the application of psychoanalytic concepts and techniques, as well as the principles of intelligence analysis, to forensic analysis and forensic psychotherapy.
Dr. Lilienthal spent several years as a legal writer for Butterworths, interpreting High Court of Australia and Federal Court of Australia key judicial decisions. He has written and interpreted two large published Federal Court of Australia decisions on Australian Native Title. Dr. Lilienthal has presided over some 7,500 commercial cross-border mediation procedures worldwide, and some 1,400 family mediation procedures. He chaired mediation panels in Long Island, New York for several years, specializing in both family matters such as marriage & divorce, and commercial matters including commercial arbitration.
-  S. Freud and J. Breuer Studies on Hysteria New York, Avon Books, 1966, p. 103.
-  Ibid, p. 104.
-  J. Laplanche and J. –B. Pontalis, The Language of Psycho-analysis, Donald Nicholson-Smith trans., Karnac Books, London, 2004, pp. 457-458.
-  S. Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, James Strachey trans & ed., Avon Books, New York, 1998, p. 214.
-  Ibid, p. 217.
-  Ibid, p. 606.
-  Ibid, p. 612.
-  Ibid, p. 615.
-  Ibid, pp. 633-4.
-  Ibid, p. 637.
-  Laplanche and Pontalis, p. 457.
-  Laplanche and Pontalis, p. 253.
-  S. Freud, Dora – An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria, Touchstone, New York, 1997, pp. 106-107.
-  Ibid, p. 107.
-  Ibid, p. 108.
-  The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud Volume XII, The Hogarth Press, London, 2001, p. 99.
-  Ibid, p. 100.
-  Ibid, p. 101.
-  Ibid, p. 103.
-  Ibid, p. 105.
-  Ibid, p. 159.
-  Ibid, p. 161.
-  Ibid, p. 162.
-  Ibid, p. 163.
-  Ibid, p. 164.
-  Ibid, p. 165.
-  Ibid, pp 168, 169.
-  S. Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, (James Strachey trans.) p. 495 Penguin Books, London, 1976.
-  Ibid, p. 492.
-  Ibid, pp. 494-495.
-  Peter Gay (ed.), The Freud Reader, Vintage, London, 1995, p. 26.
-  Rhetorical speeches or songs of praise.
-  Lacan Seminar VIII, p. II-7.
-  F. M. Cornford, Thucydides Mythistricus, Routledge, London, 1965, p. 122.
-  S. Rosen, Plato’s Symposium, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1987, pp 263, 264.
-  Ibid, pp 267, 268.
-  Ibid, p. 276.
-  Lacan Seminar VIII, p. II-7.
-  Lacan Seminar VIII, p. IX-1
-  Symposium, 201D.
-  Ibid, 202A.
-  Ibid, 202B.
-  Ibid, 202E, 203A.
-  Ibid, 203A.
-  Ibid, 203B.
-  Ibid, 203C.
-  Richard Caldwell transl., Hesiod’s Theogony, Focus Classical Library, Newburyport, 1987, p. 63.
-  Plato, Symposium, Robin Waterfield trans., Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994, p. 48n.
-  Symposium, 203E.
-  Ibid, 204A.
-  Ibid, 204B.
-  Ibid, 204C.
-  Ibid, 205A.
-  Ibid, 205D.
-  Ibid, 206A.
-  Ibid, 207A.
-  Ibid, 208B.
-  Ibid, 208E.
-  Ibid, 210B.
-  Ibid, 210C-210D.
-  Ibid, 212B.