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Number 12: Summer 2016

Transference Anxiety and the Failure of Our Fathers

Paul Verhaeghe

Three Passions: Love, Hate and Wanting Not to Know 

This structure is well known; it comes down to what Lacan in his Seminar XI calls the becoming of the subject. The central element in this structure is the lack, better known as Lacan’s invention, the object a. It is positioned in-between the subject and the Other and causes the never ending interaction between those two. The subject identifies with the signifiers coming from the Other, with the aim of answering the desire of the Other. This alienating answer will never be enough, and the net result is separation. It is never enough firstly because the lack is such that there is no final answer to it (it is a lack in the Real, ‘for real’), and secondly, because an answer via a signifier is beside the point. Consequently, the process starts all over again, with another attempt, and yet another, thus continuing the back and forth movement between subject and Other, as demonstrated in this drawing (Verhaeghe, 2006: 226).

As a structure, it can receive many different contents, depending on the signifiers that go back and forth between a subject and his or her Others. These different contents explain why, whilst presenting the same structure, every subject and hence every analysis is different. In Lacanian theory, the particular form and content this structure takes for each subject constitutes the basic fantasy, in which both the subject and the Other dance in a particular way around the ever lacking object a. Transference then, is the actualisation in our everyday life of the particularities of this basic fantasy, based on our own history.

Because of the processes involved, meaning identification and separation, transference entails three passions. Love is the passion that drives the subject towards identification with the desire of the Other. Hate is the opposite, as it causes the separation from the Other. In both instances, the subject does not want to know, which is the third passion, either because it identifies far too easily with the signifiers coming from the Other, or because it refuses them.

A closer study of these passions reveals that two of them can be understood as a driving force, emanating from the two basic motives that according to Freud govern our lives: Eros and Thanatos. Eros drives us towards the union with the Other; Thanatos does the opposite. The third passion, our not wanting to know, is all-together on another level. I consider it a consequence of the two others: the more we identify with signifiers coming from the other, the more knowledge we acquire, and paradoxically enough, the better we can avoid our own truth.