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Repetition

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French: répétition
Sigmund Freud
"Compulsion to Repeat"

For Freud, the "compulsion to repeat" -- also referred to as the "repetition compulsion" (Wiederholungszwang) -- is related to the death drive and the desire to return to an inorganic state.

The "compulsion to repeat" refers to the tendency of the patient to expose himself again and again to a distressing or painful situation, although he has forgotten of origins of the compulsion.

Psychoanalytic treatment involves an effort to break the cycle of repetition by helping the patient remember.

Jacques Lacan

Lacan expands upon Freud's concept of the "compulsion to repeat" in various ways.

He borrows the term "automatisme de répétition" ("repetition automatism") from French psychiatry[1] to refer to the compulsive repetition or reproduction of an internalized social structure which the subject repeatedly and compulsively re-enacts..


While Lacan never completely abandons the term automatisme de répétition, in the 1950s he increasingly uses the term "insistence" (French: instance) to refer to the repetition compulsion.

Lacan also defines repetition as the "insistence of the letter" (l'instance de la lettre), that is, as the compulsive repetition of certain signifiers or letters despite the subject's conscious attempts to repress them.

"Repetition is fundamentally the insistence of speech."[2]
Resistance

Certain signifiers insist on returning in the life of the subject, despite the resistances which block them.

In schema L, repetition / insistence is represented by the axis A-S, while the axis a-a' represents the resistance (or "inertia") which opposes repetition.

Jouissance

In the 1960s, repetition is redefined as the return of jouissance, an excess of enjoyment which returns again and again to transgress the limits of the pleasure principle and seek death.[3]

Transference

The compulsion to repeat is often acted out, the repetition compulsion manifests itself, in the transference, whereby the analysand repeats in his relationship to the analyst certain attitudes which characterised his earlier relationships with his parents and others.

Freud establishes an important distinciton between the compulsive repetition of material that has not been mastered or understood, and the recollection, verbalization and working-through characteristic of the talking cure.

Lacan lays great emphasis on this symbolic aspect of transference, distinguishing it from the imaginary dimension of transference (the affects of love and hate).[4]

However, Lacan points out that although the repetition compulsion manifests itself perhaps most clearly in the transference, it is not in itself limited to the transference; in itself, "the concept of repetition has nothing to do with the concept of transference."[5]

Repetition is the general characteristic of the signifying chain, the manifestation of the unconscious in every subject, and transference is only a very special form of repetition (i.e. it is repetition within psychoanalytic treatment), which cannot simply be equated with the repetition compulsion itself. [6]

It is quite common, for example, to hear it said that the transference is a form of repetition. I am not saying that this is untre, or that there is not an element of repetition in the transference. I am not saying that it is not on the basis of his experience of the transference that Freud approached repetition. What I am saying is that the concept of repetition has nothing to do with the concept of transference. Because of this confusion, I am obliged to go through this explanation at the outset, to lay down the necessary logical steps. For to follow chronology would be to encourage the ambiguities of the concept of repetition that derive from the fact that its discovery took place in the course of the first hesistant steps necessitated by the experience of the transference."[7]

See Also

References

  1. Lacan's tendency to use "automatisme de répétition" as a translation of Freud's Wiederholungszwang is a reminder of how much he owes to the French school of psychiatry in which he was first trained.
  2. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book III. The Psychoses, 1955-56. Trans. Russell Grigg. London: Routledge, 1993. p. 242
  3. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XVII. L'envers de la psychanalyse, 19669-70. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 51
  4. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p.204
  5. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 33
  6. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p. 208
  7. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book XI. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. 33