What thus emerges as essential for Freud is the ‘actual experience’ of doing psychoanalysis, and it is only the scaffolding of this experience which must be retained, as it is this that is responsible for providing the unique conditions under which the data furnishing the concepts psychoanalysis is generated. It is not, therefore, at all surprising that what would gradually assume central importance to Freudian therapeutic work is the notion of transference, and indeed this is what Freud ultimately regarded as the kernel of the ‘actual experience’ of psychoanalysis. 

In fact, elucidating the importance of methodological rationalism for the genesis of psychoanalytic theory-praxis helps clarify why, for so many clinicians after Freud, transference is the psychoanalytic notion to grapple with, more important even than the manner in which the unconscious is understood: because it is precisely how one understands transference that establishes how one conceives of the methodological rationalism of the clinic, and from there how one elaborates the rest of psychoanalysis. We shall return to this issue but, as we have already hinted, ultimately this is a spurious debate between what should receive more emphasis: the universal (of theory) or the singular (of praxis). 

Now, Freud first introduced the notion of transference as a specifically clinical topic as early as his and Breuer’s 1895 Studies on Hysteria,1((That said however, the notion of transference has a significant part in the evolution of Freud’s thought, already being employed by him in 1889 in his pre-psychoanalytic engagements with hypnotism, for instance in his Review of August Forel’s Hypnotism, (S.E 1), as well as in the Project where he speculated about ‘transference between neurons’.)) where he describes ‘transference onto the physician’ as being initiated when there is a ‘false connection’ (S.E. 2: 302) made by the ego. In a long but important footnote much earlier in that work (S.E. 2: 67), Freud describes false connections as appearing when there are gaps or missing links in the structure with which the ego orders and coheres its apperception and understanding of itself and the world; gaps which render causally inexplicable certain feelings, thoughts, or sequences of events. These missing links, according to Freud, are intolerable to the ego, and so in ‘cases in which the true causation evades conscious perception one does not hesitate to attempt to make another connection, which one believes, although it is false’. 

This early formulation is an already clear gesture towards the classic conceptualisation of transference as the patient’s transposition of their feelings and thoughts onto the analyst as an attempt to fill in painful gaps in their perception of the doctor-patient relationship—a conceptualisation echoing Nietzsche’s aphorism. What must not be missed here is that transference arises when the ego, alerted to inconsistencies in its structure of palliative coherence, is thereby confronted with its non-coincidence with itself. This non-coincidence jars, causing pain and anxiety; the ego does not just miss itself inasmuch as it fails to coincide with itself, it misses itself insofar as it pines for itself as self-complete: in a bid for amelioration, the ego annuls any inconsistent gaps by disowning them, thereby ensuring the illusion of completeness-unto-self is preserved. This is why one formulation of transference might be that it is a species of a(void)ance: in and through transference the ego attempts, paradoxically, to void the void that it is, to a(void) the void by expelling itself from itself, discharging its nothingness onto the figure of the analyst or the analytic scenario, thereby sustaining the illusion of itself as a non-lacking unity.