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Bergmann, M.S. (1982). Platonic Love, Transference Love, and Love in Real Life. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 30:87-111.

(1982). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 30:87-111

Platonic Love, Transference Love, and Love in Real Life

Martin S. Bergmann


Plato and Freud transformed our way of looking at love. In Plato's Dialogues one can trace the transition and transformation of the mythical view on love into philosophical conceptualizations. The waning of the mythical point of view created the demand for man to know himself, and love became a puzzle. Plato was the first to propose that erotic impulses can undergo sublimation to higher and desexualized aims. Freud was not a Platonist, but if we trace the history of certain ideas it becomes evident that Plato's influence on Freud went further and deeper

than was assumed by previous psychoanalytic writers. Freud's conceptualization of the libido can be seen as a Latinized version of Plato's Eros. Some of the difficulties associated with the psychoanalytic use of the term sublimation go back to the Platonic origin of the term. Freud's conviction that tender and aiminhibited love was a later transformation of sexual impulses also went back to Plato, as did his belief that aim-inhibited love endures longer than sexual love. Because erotic love impulses can be sublimated, transference love can be harnessed in the service of cure based on insight. Erotized transference is not based on the refinding of an early love object and therefore is less capable of yielding the therapeutic climate required for psychoanalytic treatment. Freud's treatment procedure confirms Plato's belief in the plasticity of Eros.

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