What did Lacan mean in saying that automatic repetition was no longer related to transference?

In his seminar on transference, Lacan elaborated that the automatic repetition was no longer related to transference. What did Lacan mean?

Lacan is not saying that automatic repetition is no longer related to transference.  He is saying that while repetition is a general characteristic of human being, our understanding of it should be uncoupled from our understanding of transference in the way it is taken up by the discourse of the analyst. This uncoupling enables us to better distinguish the different ways in which identifications come to be transferred and therefore what different ways there are of working with them. Quoting from Fink’s translation (pages 172 and 175):

“I have always reminded you that we must begin with the fact that transference, in the final analysis, is repetition compulsion [automatisme].


Stated differently, it seems to me impossible to eliminate from the phenomenon of transference the fact that it manifests itself in a relationship with someone to whom one speaks. This fact is constitutive. It constitutes a border, and enjoins us at the same time not to drown the phenomenon of transference in the general possibility of repetition constituted by the very existence of the unconscious. Outside of analysis, there are of course repetitions that are linked to the constancy of the signifying chain in the subject.  These repetitions must be strictly distinguished from what we call transference, even if they can, in certain cases, have analogous effects.”

To speak of repetition is to speak of the relation to the structure of the drive itself, repetition being a consequence of the way signifying chains in the unconscious ‘unthought known’ circle around a structural lack in relation to the radically unconscious – what in Lacan’s work will later be referred to as the relation to a necessary-Real of the drive, in order to distinguish it from a Real-impossible beyond any possibility of knowing.  This being-in-relation-to-lack is the characteristic of human being. Whether we come to question the way we take it up is initiated by an identification of the third kind, ‘initiated’ because it is not enough to recognise a ‘something missing’ as a symptom of desire – we all do this all the time.  What must be questioned is why this ‘something missing’ matters to the individual, i.e. what kind of clue is it presenting as to where her or his desire is leading.  To pursue this questioning is to make a ‘work’ of pursuing what remains missing, of ‘minding the gap’.  It is here that it becomes valuable to distinguish between a transference to a person and a transference to a ‘work’, for the end of analysis lies in sustaining a transference to a ‘work’ qua ‘being true to desire’.

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