Counter Transference, “The First Name of the Real”, by Pamela King


When can an analysis be said to have begun? It is when there is a “shake-up”1 of the routine that the subject has been maintaining of his everyday reality. “There is an encounter with the real”, Jacques-Alain Miller says, an encounter with a “non-sense”.2 This moment of opening, of rupture, of a split is accompanied with the question, what does it mean? This question is already a call to the subject supposed to know3 because the very posing of this question implies that a meaning is supposed to exist. This supposition exists even before the demand for analysis. It is “the consequence of a transference already underway, beforehand”, what Miller calls the subject’s “pre-interpretation of his symptoms”.4 It is for this reason that Lacan says, “at the beginning of psychoanalysis is transference”5, not the demand for analysis.

What is implied here? That the analyst will restore the lost meaning. The demand addressed to the analyst, supported by the symptom, has the effect of restoring the symptom’s symbolic status, or “its status of an articulated message from the Other”6. This means that the subject is open to the desire of the Other, what Miller calls a “hystericisation”7 of the subject. And so it is precisely at this point, at the beginning of an analysis, that “resistance” can arise – one of the names of negative or counter transference.

This point of resistance fascinated Freud’s followers in particular. They were continually surprised by their experience of transference taking on a negative, even hostile form. They noticed an initial inertia, an obstacle to free association. So they set out to analyze these “defense mechanisms” later made famous by Anna Freud, who had been influenced by Wilhelm Reich. Reich was fascinated by an inevitable and inaugural “latent” negative transference”: “Every case, without exception, begins the analysis with a more or less pronounced attitude of distrust and skepticism”8. Miller calls this “a division of the desire” (there is the desire to heal, and the desire not to heal) or even, “a division of transference”: the desire to get better is positive transference, while the desire not to get better is negative transference.9

Transference is thus originally understood as the establishment of an initial relation of defiance. This is why Miller calls negative transference, as experienced by Reich and Freud’s followers, this inaugural resistance, “the first name of the real”.10 “The analysts in the twenties had, in their own way, an orientation towards the real. But they did it in the wrong way”,11 says Miller. They neglected interpretation, preferring to deal directly with the drive.

From their mistakes, let’s mark our own path12”, said Lacan, who, at the start of his seminars, attributed the post-Freudians’ real experience of inertia to the imaginary register, while promoting the supremacy of the symbolic register. At the end of his teaching, Lacan will come back to the real experience of the drive but in a different way: as Miller explains, transference will take a backseat to urgency. “There is a deeper causality than transference on the level of what Lacan calls satisfaction-as-urgency, and analysis is the way of this urgent satisfaction.”13

Miller, Jacques-Alain, “Clinic Under Transference”, Psychoanalytical Notebooks 17, Transference, London, 2007, p. 8.

Ibid., p. 9.

3 Lysy, Anne, “Transference and Psychosis”, Psychoanalytical Notebooks 17, p. 22.

4 Miller, Jacques-Alain, “Clinic Under Transference”, Psychoanalytical Notebooks 17, op. cit., p. 9.

5 Lacan, Jacques, “Proposition du 9 octobre 1967 sur le psychanlyste de l’École”, Autres écrits, Seuil, Paris, 2001, p. 247.

Miller, Jacques-Alain, “Clinic Under Transference”, Psychoanalytical Notebooks 17, op. cit., p. 10.

7 Miller, Jacques-Alain, « Orientation lacanienne. Choses de finesse » 2008-2009, enseignement prononcé dans le cadre du Département de psychanalyse de l’université Paris 8, leçon du 21 janvier 2009, inédit.

8 Reich, Wilhelm, Character Analysis, Character Analysis, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York, 1990, p. 32.

Miller, Jacques-Alain, “L’orientation lacanienne. L’expérience du réel dans la cure analytique”, op. cit., class of 16 December 1998.

10 Miller, Jacques-Alain, “L’orientation lacanienne. L’expérience du réel dans la cure analytique”, op. cit., class of 9 December 1998.

11 Ibid., class of 2 December 1998.

12 Lacan, J., “The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of Its Power”, Écrits, Norton, New York/London, 2006, p. 492 (translation modified by the author).

13 Miller, J.-A., “La passe du parlêtre”, La psychanalyse vite, la Cause freudienne 74, p. 119.