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Rossi, P.L. (2011). Urgency in the Countertransference: The Present and the Past. Ital. Psychoanal. Annu., 5:7-22.

(2011). The Italian Psychoanalytic Annual, 5:7-22

Urgency in the Countertransference: The Present and the Past Language Translation

Pier Luigi Rossi

Translated by:
Isabella Negri

«Things that have been heard are now understood», is the clearest definition of what would later become Freud's concept of Nachträglichkeit. «Hysterical phantasies, which regularly […] go back to things heard by children at an early age and only understood nachträglich (Freud, 1950, 244, modified transl.). This idea appears surprisingly early in Freud's work, and it is witnessed in three letters to Fliess, between the 6th April and the 16th May 1897 (letters 59, 61, Minute L and M), where hysterical phantasy is the focus of his attention and sets the stage for discarding (letter 69), in September of that same year, his first too simplistic theory of seduction (Freud, 1950).

From the beginning, Nachträglichkeit does not indicate a technique, the application of a theory, but a discovery. Infantile experiences always unfold at two different times: the second time implies the «return», through phantasy, to the early impression one has experienced.

Thus, prior to applying a technique, Freud adopts a method in which listening sides with the work that the patient is doing with his early experiences. His project, as analyst, would become to try to look for an ally in the patient's ego which operates as follows: the ego of the 24-year-old «Wolf Man», who is in analysis with him, is the same that, nachträglich, has already had the dream of the primal scene, through which — since he was a child — he would return to things that he had «understood» as an infant.

The ego working in this way is also, for that matter, a result of analysis itself, and it can develop fully only at a fairly advanced stage of the treatment and after several years of analytic work. The analyst, therefore, can only tend towards this state, as an ideal aim, in anticipation of what will be, appreciating every moment in which, since the very beginning, this tendency emerges in the patient. In each of these moments, the analyst's availability paves the way for the initial capacities of the patient, whose request conforms to the offer, as is always the case (Aulagnier, 1991, 163).

It seems to me that knowing about this state of things has become even more important today, as we increasingly meet patients whose request for analysis is not as clearly formalized as it appeared to be in the past.

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