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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Transferring to Transference

The repetition compulsion is expressed in the transference, where the client repeats behavior patterns with his therapist that occur in other areas of his life, usually resulting from his parental relationships. The transference is the cornerstone of psychoanalytic theory, which is also the “alpha and omega of its praxis” (Chapelle, 1993, p. 102). Chapelle points out that the repetition compulsion comes into the transference through the mechanism of projection. So, now we have a big clue why analysis became interminable; Nietzsche’s concretely based eternal return is at the bottom of it, like an anchor weighing one down, or Sisyphus endlessly rolling his boulder. Freud calls the compulsion to repeat the “compulsion of destiny” and connects this compulsion with psychological fate. Freud speaks of internal necessity and refers explicitly to Ananke, the Greek Goddess of Necessity.

Etymology provides images of the ways in which the experience of necessity has been described: narrow, throat, surround, embrace, strangle, ring, constrict, to wind around the neck as the neckband of a slave, chain, suffocation, chain-formed necklace, fetters lid around the neck of prisoners, necklace, cord binding yoked oxen. Repetition compulsions, then by virtue of their relation to psychological necessity, are the ways in which man is bound, enslaved, yoked, chained, fettered and fixated to personal destiny. In light of what we said earlier about the metaphoric nature of the compulsion to repeat, we can now say that the repetition compulsion fixates man into a personalized metaphor that must be enacted again and again. (Chapelle, 1993, pp. 116- 117)

This is where the notion of becoming comes in. We fulfill our destiny by the paradoxical process of becoming who we are through the process of "convalescence," which means "to remember," which Heidegger traced to mean "returning home." In psychoanalytic theory, we repress or forget what we find intolerable and this makes us neurotic and sick. Thus the work of therapy is to convalesce, to remember or recollect ourselves:

Thus convalescence is related to nostalgia, the longing to return home, to where one belongs. Taken broadly, to convalesce refers to the return to one’s origin, to the heart and core of one’s identity. It means, in the end, to return to who one was and is and will be. Convalescence has to do with the fulfillment of personal destiny. (Chapelle, 1993, pp. 163-164)

Becoming who you already are, doesn't that strike you as a bit uncanny? Well it did Freud. Indeed, uncanny repetition makes transference possible, where seemingly novel events represent the occurrence of an old and familiar but forgotten events.


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