The Refusal of the Language of the Other
Maria Cristina Aguirre

Author’s Bio

I propose that the difficulty certain subjects have to learn and speak the language of their adopted country is a symptom.

My hypothesis is that the difficulty to learn the language of the Other is a refusal to submit to the discourse of the Master. It defies its knowledge, and it points to the hole in the Other. In this sense it obeys to the logic of the hysteric, who seeks a Master to castrate him. The state of the art of medicine is worthless without access to the language. But in the other hand, it indicates its link to jouissance. It aims at the supposed jouissance of the Other.

The lacanian orientation disturbs the traditionally setting of practice, unmasking the jouissance at stake. We know that by emptying the words of their meaning, the analytic act inscribes itself as the limit of the flight-of-sense and by doing so it aims at the real.

Some patients with multiple and diverse somatic symptoms are referred for mental health services for treatment of depression and/or anxiety symptoms.

The somatic symptoms are meaningless and as such silent. The complains must be expressed first to access later the realm of jouissance. When this space is created we hear the stories of love and desire, of pain and suffering, that constitutes our contemporary practice.

In the Lacanian orientation we analyze case by case but we can also put these cases side by side and obtain a series. Here are some clinical vignettes to illustrate this.

The ravage of man

C. suffers from multiple somatic pains, the consequence of a terrible accident many years ago when a wall fell on her. She was bedridden, in a cast for more than 3 years. But it is the relationship with her ex-husband that made her suffer most. It took her a long time in the group before she could talk without crying. She married young, and her husband took her to live with his aunts. She was a stay-at-home mom, rarely going out, because she taking care of her 4 children, while her husband did as he pleased. This went on for almost 30 years until the day she asked him where had he been. When he replied that he had been with the mother of his daughter, something snapped and she threw him out the house, his clothes and belongings out of the window. What became unbearable to her was that somebody else was the “mother”. A boundary had been trespassed.

L.’s husband sold lottery tickets. She dreamt a number and told her husband to reserve that number. When the lottery played she asked him about it and he said he had sold that number. Some time later a neighbor congratulated her for her good fortune in winning the big stakes at the lottery. She was surprised and denied it but he was adamant, as he himself had accompanied her husband to the bank. Having found the bank statement together with a house deed she waited in vain for her husband to tell her. She eventually took him to the house and confronted him. Then she took her children and left him. What is unbearable for her is that after more than 15 years of marriage he deceived her and cheated on her, putting the house in his sister’s name. She has not forgiven him.

These women relate the devastating effects of their relationships with their partners. The love failures, the discovery of infidelity, life in a couple without desire and without words plunge these women into a particular state of panic or depression. Some can be considered cases of domestic violence. But above all, their stories tell us about the crossing of a line, a boundary trespassed and a betrayal that cannot be forgiven nor forgotten.

The Ravage of the m(Other)

For some of these patients the relationship with the mother constitutes a ravage. E. was robbed at gunpoint at the store where she worked. Some time later her home was burglarized and her jewelry stolen. She lives this as an irreparable damage that nothing can replace. She cries, she flushes, she is inarticulate. E. was often punished and beaten as a child. A childhood memory: one day, half- teasing, half in defiance she swallowed a coin. Her mother beat her so hard that until today she suffers from headaches and vision problems related to that incident.

K. was raised by her aunt. She stayed with her mother while waiting for her visa to join her aunt in USA. The mother “gave” her to a man when she was in her early teens. He prostituted her. She managed to run away and joined her aunt later. She has three children each from a different man. Her oldest daughter died suddenly last year. While she is still mourning for her daughter, her mother is constantly asking for money. She questions why did her mother do this to her. The m(Other) is a terrifying Other to whose will and jouissance they are submitted, helpless in the confrontation to the mother’s feminine jouissance.

From the m(Other) to the Partner-symptom to the language of the master

I propose that there is transference from this ravage in the rapport to the m(Other) or the partner to the Other of society. They abide to the rules and the laws paying more than their pound of flesh but they reject the language of the Other. Their survival as subject of desire is at stake. Libido as a lost object is concentrated in lalangue. Refusing the language of the Other, constitutes their last refuge against an absolute Other. It is a way to render the Other incomplete.

They would never have sought for psychotherapy. Their physical symptoms brought them to the Hospital and they handed their bodies to science. If they had not been referred to Mental Health Services these patients will have been treated only for their physical symptoms, maybe with some medication for depression and anxiety and they would have continue to drag their unhappiness and their misery, prisoners of the jouissance trapped in a mortifying relationship to the Other.

Ricardo Seldes [1] stresses the fact that there are subjects who demand us to authenticate their illness for several reasons. Our task is not to satisfy this demand offering a therapeutic listening or a dialogue to restore the subjective lack.

The work of psychoanalysis invites the subject to be responsible for their choices and their jouissance.

Let me quote one of them: Why is it that we choose suffering as a partner? The offer to go beyond the well-being and reestablishment of a functional equilibrium but to address the real is what is at stake. It is the position of the analyst that matters, in a practice that does not adjust to the statistical requirements of the contemporary master or to its utilitarian aims.

Jacques-Alain Miller [2] asks whether the encounter with an analyst may be useful or not, produce good or evil. He proposes the model of the psychoanalyst-object versatile, receptive and multi-functional, to loosen the ideal identifications, to consolidate a viable organization, to articulate, to liquefy and dialectelise sense,to introduce stopping points, quilting points to non-stop flowing sense.

If the psychoanalyst knows how to be an object, then he says, the contraindications are decided case by case. He defines this place as a place that welcomes contingency, where necessity loosens its grip, the site of the possible, versus the impossible of the real. The challenge is to become the psychoanalyst-object as a place of pure semblance, the reverse of every day life and for the subject to face what lies beneath the suffering to trade it for an analyzable symptom.

[1] Seldes, R. Papers 10.
[2] Miller, J.-A., Contraindications to psychoanalytical Treatment, psychoanalytical Notebooks # 4.

This paper was originally presented at the NLS Congress in London in 2004. This is a modified version.

Art: Nicky Nodjoumi, To Point Out, oil on canvas, 2003.