Transference and Acting Out, by Bernard Seynhaeve


In chapter IX of the Seminar Anxiety, Lacan situates the place of the object cause of desire in the analytic treatment, relying on the clinic of acting out.
As Lilia Mahjoub underlined in her argument for the congress, Lacan comments on the case of Ernst Kris by putting the accent on the necessity of interpreting the acting out of the fresh brains man.
To remind us, the patient explains to his analyst that he is convinced that he is a plagiarist. The analyst reads his books and “shows him in the most irrefutable way that he is not a plagiarist (…). The subject cannot dispute this. Only he doesn’t give a damn. And when he leaves, what does he go and do? (…) he goes and gobbles down a plate of fresh brains. (…) I’m teaching you to recognize acting-out (…) namely, what I am designating for you as the a or the pound of flesh.
With the fresh brains, the patient simply gives a sign to Ernst Kris. Everything you say is true, only it leaves the question unscathed. There are still the fresh brains. To make a point of it, I’m going to eat some right afterwards so that I can tell you about it in the next session.” 1
This is the reason why acting-out must be interpreted. Acting-out is an appeal to interpretation. It is why “acting-out is an inroad into transference. It’s wild transference. There doesn’t have to be analysis for there to be transference, (…), but transference without analysis is acting-out. Acting-out without analysis is transference.”2
How must the analyst deal with acting-out?
“When you look closely, more often than not you notice that the subject knows very well what he’s doing in acting-out. It is to offer himself to interpretation. Only there you have it, it is not the meaning of what you interpret that counts, whatever it may be, it’s the remainder.”3

Translated by Natalie Wülfing

  1. Lacan, Jacques, Seminar X: Anxiety (1962-1963), text established by Jacques-Alain Miller, transl. A. Price, Polity, Cambridge, 2014, pp. 124-5.
  2. Ibid, p. 125.
  3. Ibid, p. 126.