How, then, might we start conceiving of the unconscious or singular-universal better and, in relation to this, how might we begin tallying such a conception with therapeutic strategies? Answering such questions adequately is beyond the scope of this paper.3((Footnote added 2014: Since writing this paper half a decade ago, as a trainee, I have developed a fuller account of some of the clinical and technical implications of this argument drawing, in order to do so, upon the Freudian metapsychology of drive theory in relation to the intellectual and historical development of psychoanalysis, see Watt, B., 2012 and 2013. )) All we can do here is propose that the analytic situation is one in which, given that the two parties involved always already fail to coincide with themselves, the possibility of mutual coincidence is ruled out in advance and any endeavour to try and establish a coincidence, for example by encouraging the patient’s ego to identify with the analyst’s ego, or aspects thereof, is misguided and ought to be resisted, as this would constitute the height of an egological treatment and the antithesis of the clinical spirit bequeathed by Freud. Analyst and patient will always, and by necessity, miss one another, remain as other to one another as to themselves. 

Perhaps many analyses can be comprehended as floundering in either interminability or early termination on just this problem of appropriate distance and identification. Often an analyst, in their well intentioned desire to engage the singularity and specificity of the patient, will inadvertently annul too much of the alterity that arises from their location as a placeholder for the universal in the treatment, s(mother)ing the patient. Contrariwise, the variation of this error is made by those analysts who, overvaluing the importance of their designation as placeholder of the universal, establish too much distance and remove in the work, thereby failing to adequately contain the patient’s singular sense of vanishing inaugurated by the dismantling of the transference during the treatment. It is the failure, or void, at the heart of the psychoanalytic enterprise, which we suggest can be grasped as the motor force of the therapeutic work, and the drive behind continuing analytic research. 

We can, finally then, see how these reflections permit a reorientation of the perennial debate between those who argue clinical work is an ‘art’ and those who maintain it is a ‘science’. Is it not now possible to grasp that this quarrel is a red herring? Rather than a debate over the ‘scientific status’ of psychoanalysis, is this not in fact a debate over whether one views psychoanalysis as primarily universal or singular? If one insists upon the singularity of the treatment, then one will be compelled to conclude that any attempt to make it a science is misplaced, given that no prescriptions can be given in advance for the unknown of an individual’s psyche. In this vein, we saw how Sharpe underscores that it is the craft of each clinician to be able to adapt their practice to respond to the specificity of every case. However, if one insists upon the universality of the treatment, then one will similarly be impelled to insist that psychoanalysis can be formalised and characterised as scientific. It should, however, be clear that both these positions are misnomers, having arisen because of the failure to realise that transference is neither universal nor singular, but rather universally-singular. Contemporary psychoanalytic approaches frequently elide what was Freud’s unique and radical innovation: the positioning of psychoanalysis on the dialectical pivot between universality and singularity, rationalism and empiricism, theory and praxis, in which all terms intersect one another as other, through a series of reversals and inversions. As such, they miss working with what we have here been calling the chiasmus of the clinic, the mirror fugue of analytic work, failing to situate psychoanalysis in the non-space opened up by the failure of (self)-coincidence.