Thursday, June 21, 2007

for the love of

transference-love. Reading Freud's essay, "Observations on Transference-love" made me wonder if there is love other than transference love, or if, in fact, all love is transference love (and, what would this would mean!?). This distinction in the essay is so strained--rescinded and then reinvoked again--that the insistence is notable. In order to deal with the clinical problem of transference love, he must also detail what it is that "real" love is. One of the things it seems that Freud would like to say is that we should be able to rid ourselves of at least most of our childhood inclinations towards love, that the definition of love as transference-love depends upon the degree to which the love feelings can be adequately attributed to the present object of desire rather than than they would remain fixated in the past. Certainly this is how the relationship comes to stand for transference, but it also seems that one of the implicit consequences of this lies in the distinction between infantile and mature sexuality, or between sexual perversion and sexual satisfaction. This distinction is one that Freud also describes in terms of the type of pleasure that can be attained. Forepleasure, in Freud's discussion of infantile sexuality, is contrasted to the end-pleasure of mature sexuality, which relates pleasure to the release of tension. It seems, though, that to draw out the consequences for forepleasure, that the release of tension would not be the measure of pleasure, since the possibility of release is here something difference. Forepleasure is something that, for Freud, is always "dependent" (like passive forces) upon the pleasure of tension release. Forepleasure, in other words, seems to count only insofar as it augments the pleasure of the end--this is Freud's description in all his uses of forepleasure--in jokes, in art, in psychopathic characters on stage, in sex. But as I am thinking about in other contexts, especially for poetry, this "dependence" seems to rely on a pathos-oriented, dramatic, identificatory model of art in relation to reality.

The question of transference-love brings the issue of resistence to bear on this "dependence." It seems that the issue of transference allows us to talk about resistances as things that are meant to be overcome, unconditionally, almost, as similarly, passive forces could also be seen (like suffering) to be something only to get over. And the unquestionable "good" of this is always there for us to read in the cure, in the love. And the question of what this priority on overcoming means for transference (as the relationship between the analyst and analysand) and for love is probed far less often. Freud writes: “But above all, one gets an impression that the resistance is acting as an agent provocateur; it heightens the patient’s state of being in love and exaggerates her readiness for sexual surrender in order to justify the workings of repression all the more emphatically, by pointing to the dangers of such licentiousness.” And thus the logic of "dependent" passions, guided by the priority of overcoming or of love, runs: resistance, as agent provacateur, is only greater resistance; this goes for forepleasure as well: pleasure, as incentive bonus, is only pleasure. As resistance, the transference-love must be registered without being renounced, but must nonetheless not be acted upon. The course of action for the analyst involves making a distinction between real love and unreal love: "He must keep firm hold of the transference-love, but treat it as something unreal, as a situation which has to be gone through in the treatment and traced back to its unconscious origins...." The status of the "unreal" nature of this love is put on hold briefly as Freud discusses an exceptional case, "women of elemental passionateness who tolerate no surrogates." He writes, "They are children of nature who refuse to accept the psychical in place of the material, who, in the poet's words, are accessible only to 'the logic of soup, with dumplings for arguments'." The transference-love in this case refuses to be unreal, and this presents an impossibility for the analytic scene: "With such people one has the choice between returning their love or else bringing down upon oneself the full enmity of a woman scorned. In neither case can one safeguard the interests of the treatment. One has to withdraw, unsucessful; and all one can do is to turn the problem over in one's mind of how it is that a capacity for neurosis is joined with such an intractable need for love." The extreme ambivalence here between love and resistance for the loving subject and the loved object (if we can say this) is worth noting, for it is this that presents the "danger" and the seeming impossibility of working-through.

I don't know exactly what to make of Freud's dismissal, or the case of the woman scorned (but he did abandon fantasy), but it leads him to attributing the quality of submissiveness to real love: "Genuine love, we say, would make her docile and intensify her readiness to solve the problems of her case, simply because the man she was in love with expected it of her." Real love should, as it would, contain no resistance, a distinction that Freud dismantles in the next step: "can we truly say that the state of being in love which becomes manifest in analytic treatment is not a real one?" The nature of love, Freud continues, is one that is characterized by its departures from the norm; each of the differences he had tried to outline he now retracts, which is explained "by the fact that being in love in ordinary life, outside analysis, is also more similar to abnormal than to normal mental phenomena." Case closed, perhaps, was my sneaking suspicion--love is transference-love, which necessarily implies that it is also not, in its "real" (i.e. requited) form, only this. And this logic, if it is coming through at all, presents the dependence of passive forces. The problem provoked by this logic is perhaps revealed when we are forced to think about the object common to resistance and love. In Freud's essay, the object of resistance is never fully articulated--it is to treatment, generally, as can be assumed also by the dynamic of transference, but this has a more explicit description as Freud makes clear when he attempts to speak more directly to the analyst (and with an awareness of a public weary of psychoanalysis). The issue of transference-love compels a dynamic within analysis that the analyst is forced to fight against; this analysand is the scorned woman, those "who first behave like opponents but later on reveal the overvaluation of sexual life which dominates them...." Here, the initial resistance seems to be to the idea of "overvaluation of sexual life," but the resistance of transference-love seems to be of a different sort, and not easily assimilable within the logic of passive forces, since it takes the form itself of this overvaluation. At this point, the resistance-as-love-as-transference-love phenomena seems to overtake the transvaluation of infantile sexuality as mature sexuality.

image: Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Finch, midwest perfume action (2006)

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