Rectification and Transference by Thomas Svolos


I got interested in the notion of rectification, which Lacan uses in “The Direction of the Treatment,” where he describes rectification as the first stage in analysis: a rectification of the subject’s relations with le réel, reality, followed by the development of transference and then interpretation (Écrits, p. 500).  The reason this attracted my attention early in my practice was my interest in understanding how people get engaged in working in an analytic way, particularly in a community like Omaha where it is not part of the culture.  It was a question about how to begin a treatment and build transference.  I want to develop a couple points about this.  One relates to the direction of the treatment.  In discussing rectification, Lacan talks about it in terms of establishing certain ego and object representations, some of the imaginary coordinates for how a subject situates his life, a mapping of the relationship with the reality but also, noting the ambiguity in the French le réel, a precipitation of the symptom itself, the way in which a subject experiences the real.

Is this direction of rectification and transference different now?  Let me start with one observation.  In Miller and Laurent’s joint seminar, “The Other Who Doesn’t Exist,” they talk about vertical versus horizontal societies.  We should note that the United States is very much a horizontal society and not organized in the hierarchical way, say, of Europe, and I think in general, we see less verticality in our era of postmodernity.  This sets up a shift in the possibilities of rectification and transference because in more hierarchically organized societies, the place of knowledge as being attributed to the master is more clear and may be a more fertile ground for the development of transference.  We might also note that knowledge now is no longer embodied, but it is out there, everywhere.  It is on the internet.  Knowledge is in a different place today than it was, and this has an effect on transference.

Another point that we might make is that we are in, for better or worse politically, a post-truth society.  The category of truth now has a different status than it did before.  I think in the past, this search for truth was a driving force for analysis—for patients to discover the truth of their suffering or their symptoms.  Note in Freud’s era, analysis was driven by truth, even if at the end of analysis, one might end up encountering a certain irreducible Real to deal with.  Today, however, the Real no longer appears at the end of an analysis, but it shows up in the first sessions (esp., say, with addiction).  With so many people today, we start with this kernel of the real, and we then have to somehow engage a subject to develop a curiosity about it, to see what truth could be made out of that.

An Excerpt from “Psychoanalysis and the Psychoanalytic School in the United States: An Interview with Thomas Svolos”