.......is a state in which the location of one particle is closely correlated with that of another. In other words, it is the nearest practical thing to having a said particle in two places at once

Evolving  Science 2020

The term entanglement is not intended to re-introduce scientism into psychoanalysis; it is a metaphor to help me -and hopefully others- to explore the great complexities surrounding concepts of transference in both theory and practice.

Though popular psychoanalytic theory discourses endlessly about "the subject", human beings are immersed in "otherhood" from conception onwards. Otherhood certainly includes human societies, culture, bodies, raw physicality of the environment. It is not just language.

Entanglement is a necessity for human animals and their destiny: for their well or woe. Separation and Loss are often passages to other entanglements because No Subject can be an island 

entire of itself; every man 
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; 
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe 
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as 
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine 
own were; any man's death diminishes me, 
because I am involved in mankind. 

John Donne : modern  version of No Man is An Island
Transference Entanglement.

This is an eventful situation where one person (or maybe a group)  makes some other (usually an expert) responsible for ones symptoms- especially their eradication or -at very least- their amelioration.

There are always at least two. Often it is the joys, hurts, fears and hatreds of the suffering being, that largely determine the situation and alleged properties of the expert. This entanglement often occurs instantly. It is hoped that the experience and skills of the expert reduces entanglement on his/her/its side. Of course this does not always happens so that the expert imports a cache of personal entanglements. Some traditions of psychoanalysis talk of counter-transference -which seems to me a theoretical embodiment of entanglement.

As well as expertise, "love", "understanding", "sympathy",  a whole host of other traits are also demanded by sufferers. Often too an expert really believes these qualities can be given. So the whole problematic of giving and receiving intensifies entanglements.

One result of entanglement is comic. Lacan well indicated this in the first part of his seminars on transference. There are varieties of comedy in both modern and classical times; however it is my intention to include what classical Greeks called Satyr Drama as an essential ingredient of comedy. This sleazy, phallic, ribald public spectacle seems lost to much modern analysis -though often very present in contemporary porn sites, as well as in burlesque theatre. 

Lucian Freud was once asked whether he ever read his grandfather's writings. He said Yes, but only for the jokes. Sigmund collected jokes and wrote an entire book about jokes - which forms a trilogy alongside his dream book and another about slips of the tongue in everyday life. The trouble with Sigmund's joke book, is that one would need to have been born in a mid-european Shtekel in order to appreciate it. Most jokes come from a masculine jewish culture -but transferred from village life into bourgeois Vienna within just one generation. Blatant yiddish slang, blasphemies, and obscenities supplied Geist to this tradition that was nearly obliterated in Europe during the 1930's and 40's. This itself is a different and more costly sort of entanglement: cultural entanglement.

If transference is a sort of entanglement, then maybe the aim of a therapeutic process is a disentanglement. This will be considered amongst the tragic effects of transference. But is this possible without entering into a different entanglement ?

Comedy, sleaze, and tragedies are to be found in all transference situations: though one may preoccupy main stage more than the other two -for at least a time.

These discussions were hosted by the NWRPA https://www.nwrpa.org.uk during 2020/2021.


Mosaic of Orpheus and Eurydice from Lillebonne (public domain)

Welcome to this study group.


1. The Fly Scene from Orpheus In the Underworld by Offenbach.
Also the finale or CANCAN gallop is worth a watch.

2. Che far√≤ senza Euridice from Orfeo ed Euridice by Gluck
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1B85UQT4AY (This was the last public appearance of Janet Baker in an opera)

There are a few items worth reading:

1.Sections of Plato’s Symposium http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/symposium.html

  1. Discussion about two goddesses called Aphrodite by Pausanias
  2. Aristophanes Fable about the Other-half
  3. Socrate’s resume of the words of Diotima
  4. Alkiabides arrives drunk and sleazy
  5. Socrates “ecstasy” On his way to the symposium Socrates dropped behind in a fit of abstraction, and desired Aristodemus, who was waiting, to go on before him

2 An important case discussion and follow-up by Brian Thorne. Please borrow from inter-library loans. This is a must for all engaged in therapeutic relationships.

'Beyond the Core Conditions', in Dryden W. (Ed.), 'Key Cases in Psychotherapy', Croom Helm, London. 1987

 'Body and Spirit' in Dryden, W. (Ed.), 'Questions and Answers on Counselling in Action', Sage, London. 1993


3. Articles on “transference” in reputable psychoanalytic dictionaries online such as  

  1. NoSubject https://nosubject.com/Main_Page
  2. International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis edited by de Mijolla. (there is a free or maybe pirate version on line)

4. Sigmund Freud & Josef Breuer Studies in Hysteria especially the recent translation by Luckhurst and introduction by Bowlby. Penguin Classics. Chapter 2: Anna O


Tristan Garcia Hate: A Romance
Julia Kristeva Teresa, My Love: An Imagined Life of the Saint of Avila
Elif Shafak : The Gaze 

Psychoanalytic Writings

R. Horacio Etchegoyen The Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique

John Kerr A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud and Sabina Spielrein Paperback 2012. Made into a movie by David Cronenberg available as DVD.

Julia Kristeva Tales of Love

J Lacan Transference: Seminar 8 ed Miller or free online ed. Gallagher: http://www.lacaninireland.com/web/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/THE-SEMINAR-OF-JACQUES-LACAN-VIII-Draft-21.pdf

J Lacan On Feminine Sexuality, the Limits of Love and Knowledge: Seminar 20 ed Miller

Ethel Spector Person On Freud's "Observations On Transference-Love” Karnak 2013

Notes for the first seminar/discussion group

1. Stories about Orpheus & Eurydice

I will mention these ancient stories regularly. Wikipedia is a good source to check. The stories are about love and loss. When Orpheus is about to regain his lost relationship, the Other dies again.

2. Aspects of Love/Transference

I find these three aspects or dimension helpful:

sleazy, sexy, seductive

3. What is Transference?

See Freud's postscript to Dora p 103 in the new Penguin Freud Edition entitledThe Psychology of Love. This is a very succinct statement of his notion of "transference".

Freud did not have technical or scientific words available to describe his "discoveries". He used ordinary words. Please note the dexterity of the word Uebertraegung in early twentieth century German.

transmission noun

transfer noun

transference noun

communication noun

transcription noun

broadcast noun

assignment noun

translation noun

devolution noun

copying / copy/ facsimile noun

conveyancing noun

passing on noun

screening noun

2. Some Questions I asked myself when preparing for this seminar

Do transferences occur elsewhere?

Are many transferences or just one?

Is transference fully formed, unitary or partial, piecemeal, evanescent?

Do transferences change over time?

Are transferences ever dangerous?

3. The Story of Anna O 

Anna O, or the young Bertha Pappenheim, was a patient of Breuer. Bertha & her family was well known to the future Frau Freud, as well as Freud himself. She became a politically active Feminist in Austria and Germany who was proud of being Jewish.

An anecdote attributed to Freud.

I was in a position to guess what really happened with Br’s patient long after we parted company when I recalled a communication from Br dating from the time before our joint work and relating to another context, and which he never repeated. That evening, after all her symptoms were overcome, he was again called to her, and found her confused and writhing with abdominal cramps. When asked what was the matter she responded, "Now the child I have from Dr. Br. is coming". At that moment he had in his hand the key which would open the way to the Mothers, but he dropped it. With all his intellectual talents he was devoid of anything Faustian. He took flight in conventional horror and passed on the patient to a colleague. She struggled for months in a sanatorium to regain her health./ I was so sure of my reconstruction that I published it somewhere. Br’s younger daughter (who was born shortly after the conclusion of that therapy, which is not irrelevant as to a meaningful connection) read my portrayal and asked her father about it (this was shortly before his death). He confirmed my analysis, which she later relayed to me

4. Other stories,  other words.

Studies in Hysteria: co-authored with Breuer, a famous medical generalist,  Freud is transitioning from hypnosis to what eventually became Freudian psychoanalysis. With Frau Emmy von N. Freud begins to realise that she, and other patients, attribute or project all sorts of feelings, hopes, fears and longings onto the "doctor".  These attributes Freud first called "false connections". He viewed them as ways of sabotaging his cure.


My first-person experience is of Freudian, Group, and Lacanian psychoanalysis. Late in life, I am no longer an orthodox anything as far as psychoanalytic theory is concerned.

I guess I am canvassing my own view that "transference" in psychoanalysis is best approached as a non-relationship.

To my way of thinking, once a practitioner begins to imagine s/he  is in a "relationship" with an analysand or client, however supposedly therapeutic, analysis ceases; something else takes place instead, often quite sinister.

Like Eurydice, an analysis may disappear leaving grief and  patched-up spaces behind. Maybe there is also some hope: but not in the original myth which recommends one to find solace in music and nature.


For Discussion:

To what extent is Transference a non-relationship?

Can the same be said of your Object or Objects of love?

How about pets and transferences?


public domain TATE
Lucian Freud; NARCISSUS
not on display


Popular posts from this blog