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love (amour)

Love and Analysis

What the analysand does in psychoanalytic treatment is speak about love.

"The only thing that we do in the analytic discourse is speak about love."[1]


Love arises in analytic treatment] as an effect of transference.

Love and Aggressivity

Lacan lays empahsis on the conneciton between love and aggressivity.

The presence of one implies the presence of the other.

This phenomenon, which Freud calls 'ambivalence', is considered by Lacan as one of the great discoveries of psychoanalysis.

Love and Imaginary

Love is an imaginary phenomenon which belongs to the field of the ego. Love is autoerotic, and has a fundamentally [narcissistic]] structure.

<blockqutoe>"It's one own's ego that one loves in love, one's own ego made real on the imaginary level."[2]

An imaginary reciprocity between "loving" and "beinbg loved", which constitutes the illusion of love.

"To love is, essentially, to wish to be loved."[3]

Love and Deception

Love is an illusory fantasy of fusion with the beloved which makes up for the absence of any sexual relationship.[4]

Love is deceptive because it involves giving what one does not have (i.e. the phallus) To love is "to give what one does not have."[5] Love is directed at what the love-object lacks, at the nothing beyond it. The object is valued insofar as it comes in the palce of that lack.

Love and Desire

Desire is inscribed in the symbolic order. Love is a metaphor, whereas desire is a metonymy.[6] Love kills desire. Love is based on a fantasy of oneness with the beloeved and this abolishes the difference which gives rise to desire.[7]

First, they are both similar in that neither can be satisfied. Second, in the dialectic of need/demand/desire, desire is born precisely from the unsatisfied part of demand, which is the demand for love.


From a psychoanalytic point of view, love is the investment in, and ability to be loved by, another without experiencing this love as a subjective threat, such as that represented by the Thing (das Ding) which Freud described in the Project of 1895.

For psychoanalysis the genesis of the love investment must be taken into consideration and the very different modalities through which it manifests itself must be identified.

It is important to differentiate love from infatuation or being in love (Verliebtheit), which is associated with a pathological feeling (Leidenschaft):

"That the state of being in love (Verliebtheit) manifests itself abnormally can be explained by the fact that other amorous states outside the analytic cure resemble abnormal rather than normal psychic phenomena."[8]

Being in love is essentially marked by an overestimation of the love object and a devaluation of the self that resembles the condition of melancholia (1921c).

The genesis of love begins with the oral relation of the infant's mouth and the mother's breast:

"The picture of the child at the mother's breast has become the model of all sexual relations."[9]

Also, in choosing an object later in life, the child will attempt "to reestablish this lost happiness."[10]

But this happiness, even if it is marked by this choice of a primary infantile object, must later reunite and conjoin two libidinal currents, the tender current arising from infantile cathexis and the sensual current that appears during puberty:

"The man will leave his mother and father—as the Bible indicates—and will follow his wife—tenderness and sensuality are therefore reunited."[11]

This can only occur through the loss of the infantile object choice: "The individual human must devote himself to the difficult task of separating from his parents," as Freud indicated in the twenty-first of the Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis.[12]

Yet, in "On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love,"[13] Freud recalls the difficulty of loving and the numerous splits that remain: "When they love, they do not desire, and when they desire, they cannot love."

In "Instincts and their Vicissitudes" (1915c), he examines the different splits and oppositions in which love plays a role; these are: loving/hating, loving/being loved, and loving and hating together in opposition to the state of indifference.

The pair loving/hating is related to the pleasure/unpleasure polarity; the ego interjects pleasure and expels unpleasure, which is transformed into the opposition ego-pleasure/exterior world-unpleasure.

Thus, hatred and the rejection of the exterior world emanate from the narcissistic ego.

The pair loving/being loved originates in the reversal of an impulse into its opposite, of activity into passivity, and corresponds to the narcissism of self-love.

The pair love/indifference is associated with the polarity ego/exterior world.

We love the "object that dispenses pleasure" and we repeat "the original flight before the exterior world" (1926d) in the face of an object that does not dispense pleasure.

In this way the intellectual economy of love is profoundly affected by these different forms of ambivalence.


Love in the sense Žižek understands it was first developed by Lucan in his Seminar XX.

It is thus from the beginning associated with a certain 'feminine' logic of the not-all and implies a way of thinking beyond the master-signifier and its universality guaranteed by exception:

"Lacan's extensive discussion of love in Seminar XX is thus to be read in the Paulinian sense, as opposed to the dialectic of the Law and its transgression. This latter dialectic is clearly "masculine" or phallic ... Love, on the other hand, is "feminine": it involves the paradoxes of the not-All."[14]

Žižek associates love with St Paul, and it is a way for him to think the difference between Judaism, whose libidinal economy is still fundamentally that of the law and its transgression, and Christianity, which through forgiveness and the possibility of being born again seeks to overcome this dialectic:

"It is here that one should insist on how Lacan accomplishes the passage from Law to Love, in short, from Judaism to Christianity."[15]

In other words, this love might be seen to testify - as we also find with drive and enunciation - to a moment that precedes and makes possible the symbolic order and its social mediation, the way in which things are never directly what they are but only stand in for something else:

'Love bears witness to the abyss of a self-relating gesture by means of which, due to the lack of an independent guarantee of the social pact. the ruler himself has to guarantee the Truth of his word"[16]

Lacan conceives of love as a narcissistic misrecognition which obscures the truth of desire.


"Love means giving something you don't have to someone who doesn't want it."[17]

See Also



  1. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p.77
  2. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar. Book I. Freud's Papers on Technique, 1953-54. Trans. John Forrester. New York: Nortion; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. p.142
  3. 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.253
  4. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p.44
  5. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p.147
  6. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre VIII. Le transfert, 1960-61. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1991. p.53
  7. Lacan, Jacques. Le Séminaire. Livre XX. Encore, 1972-73. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. Paris: Seuil, 1975. p.46
  8. 1915a
  9. 1905d
  10. 1905d
  11. 1912d
  12. 1916-1917a [1915-16]
  13. 1912d
  14. p. 335
  15. p.345
  16. p. 267 n. 5
  17. Lacan, Jacques.
  1. Freud, Sigmund. (1905d). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. SE, 7: 123-243.
  2. ——. (1912d). On the universal tendency to debasement in the sphere of love. SE, 11: 177-190.
  3. ——. (1915a). Observations on transference-love: technique of psycho-analysis. SE, 12: 157-171.
  4. ——. (1921c). Group psychology and the analysis of the ego. SE, 18: 65-143.
  5. ——. (1926d). Inhibitions, symptoms and anxiety. SE, 20: 75-172.