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Number 12: Summer 2016

Transference Anxiety and the Failure of Our Fathers

Paul Verhaeghe

Both case studies are exceptions, the typical Freudian analysis ran in two stages. The first stage was usually successful. The interpretation and the deconstruction of the neurotic symptoms brought relief. As a result, the questions underneath, to which those symptoms had given an answer, became conscious. What does it mean to be a woman? How can we think and live a sexual relationship? What does it mean to be a father? During the second stage, the one that is obvious in the case study of Little Hans and Dora, Freud presented himself as the one who knows. He gave answers to those questions, based on the patriarchal society of his time. That is: based on the social order that had caused those symptoms in the first place. Freud even elaborated an anthropological guarantee for this social order. According to him, the paternal authority harks back to an underlying historical reality. Once upon a time, there was a primal horde, dominated by an almighty primal father who forbade his sons access to the females. The sons revolted, and one day they killed the father. After the murder, they fell prey to feelings of remorse and guilt. The memory of the original deed and the feelings of guilt were stored in the collective memory of mankind and provided the foundation of our patriarchal moral system. (Freud, 1978 [1912-13]), and 1978 [1939a).

Freud took the transferential position of the reassuring father who guaranteed that everything would turn out for the best. A number of his patients were not convinced, meaning that their analysis became interminable. Even Freud himself was not convinced. His doubt appears in a casual humorous remark about the three impossible professions, Educating, Healing and Governing (Freud, 1925f). Each of them is impossible if one expects an infallible father. Any educator, politician or analyst who believes himself to be an infallible master, will do a disservice to his pupils, his constituency or his patients.