Telepathy and its vicissitudes: Freud, thought transference and the hidden lives of the (repressed and non-repressed) unconscious

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Colleges, School and Institutes


This article explores the relationship between telepathy, ‘thought transference’ and transference in analytic settings in Freud's thinking. Telepathy is troubling for Freud. On the one hand, telepathy as unconscious thought transference brings to light the secret repressed unconscious that is the cornerstone of his theory and practice. On the other hand, it also leads away from this crypt-like space of the repressed unconscious to illuminate non-repressed thought transference – an unconscious sharing of thoughts and affects between individuals enabled by a lack of repression. Freud remained ambivalent about telepathy, particularly because of its unavoidable association with other occult phenomena, as he wanted to delimit psychoanalysis as a material science. And yet the key to understanding the psychoanalytic concept of analytic transference lies both with appreciating its roots in telepathy and with telepathy's blurring of the non-repressed and the repressed. In exploring this paradox we aim to identify some of the ‘hidden lives’ of telepathy in psychoanalysis.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-425
Number of pages22
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010