Love's Labyrinths
Jacques-Alain Miller

Author's Bio

Love's Labyrinths

Jacques-Alain Miller

Love, in psychoanalysis, is transference.
The very concept of love, its question of expressions, in psychoanalysis, is directed by the concept and problematics of transference so that love seems to be only displacement_a case of mistaken identity. Always, I love someone because I'm in love with somebody else. That's why, in analysis, love is slapped with a certain illegitimacy. It can seem that psychoanalysis cheapens love, that it proceeds to a degradation of love. To be in love is to get lost in a labyrinth. Love is labyrinthine. You don't find yourself along love's byways; you don't find yourself.
Yet analysis follows the path of love. There is no analysis without transference. This was technical advice given by post-Freudian psychoanalysts, that the analyst abstain from any interpretation before transference is established.
The analyst's very practice emphasizes, exploits the automatic aspect of love. Regularly, in the analytic situation, this love called transference emerges. What psychoanalysis contributes to the problematic of love is precisely this notion of love's automatic aspect. To be loved, it is enough to be an analyst.
There is an aspect of contingency in love. Love depends on chance meetings. There is a tuchÇ of love, to use Aristotle's term, a "chance encounter." But psychoanalysis emphasizes an element of necessity in love that is opposed to luck: the automaton of love. The great discoveries of psychoanalysis concerning love are from this register. Analysis allows a subject to close in on what makes him fall in love and what makes him desire. This is what Freud called "the condition of love" (Liebesbedingung).
Central to Freud's studies on the psychology of love is the determination, in almost mathematical formulas, of certain subjects' condition of love, for example, for a man to be able to desire only someone else's wife. This requirement can take different forms: to be able to desire only a married and faithful woman, or an unfaithful woman tending to carry on with "every x" who is a man. Thus come the effects of jealousy the subject suffers, but which analysis reveals are part of the woman's charm itself, and determines the unconscious status of her charm.
Liebe is a term which conceals both love and desire, although occasionally we see the conditions of love separate from those of sexual desire. This is how Freud isolates the type of man who cannot love where he desires and who cannot desire where he loves.
In the same chapter on the conditions of love there is space for the analysis of love at first sight. There, in an instant, a subject meets his condition of love as if this possibility has been suddenly intertwined with the necessity for love. If Werther falls desperately in love with Charlotte, it's because he saw her at the moment when she was suckling a cluster of little children, an embodiment of maternal sustenance. The contingent encounter here creates the necessary conditions for the subject becoming enamored.


The Syllogism of Love

I will propose a general formula of the automaton in love under the form of a syllogism. It will be the syllogism of love in psychoanalysis.
Let's start from the Freudian hypothesis that for every subject there is a fundamental lovable object. When love is transferred, every subsequent object of love will be but a displacement of this fundamental object. We may write the fundamental lovable object as a Its quality of being lovable is designated by the predicate A. Aa means that this objet a has the property of being lovable. If the subject encounters an object x which resembles a, indeed (x = a) then object x is considered as lovable, Ax.
On what is this psychoanalytic elaboration based? It's based on the resemblance between the objet a and any object x, or with the significant traits of this resemblance. This doesn't stop on the notion that a man would fall in love with a woman whose face resembles his mother's. A first register of elaboration however underlines the imaginary traits of the resemblance. These perceptible traits can go from general resemblance to an extremely specific resemblance; from objective traits to traits visible only to the subject himself.
There is another type of trait that depends on the symbolic order: resemblances directly based on language. There is, for example, a whole register of psychoanalytic onomastics in which the name's value is emphasized in the object choice. There is a more complex order of reference that Freud evokes in his article on "Fetishism," where a translation error from German to English, between Glanz and glance, a signifying wordplay fixes for the subject an essential trait that he continues to seek in his objects of love, the "shine on the nose." This of course casts a certain ridiculousness on love.
I will evoke a third register of resemblance that is, if you will, more abstract. It concerns the relation between the object of love and something else. It can happen that the subject falls in love with an object x, provided that he have the same relation with this object as with the fundamental object, or, another possibility, if this object x has the same relation with him.
Freud discovered that a is either the ego itself or belongs to the group we can call family: father, mother, brothers, sisters, extending to the ancestors, relatives_all those who enter into the sphere of the family. An enormous part of the analytic interpretation on the facts of love consists in bringing to light the different identities of a. It is disclosed, for example, that the subject becomes enamored of an object x provided that the latter resembles him: this is the narcissistic object choice. Or else the subject becomes enamored of an object x who has the same relation with him as his mother, his father or another family member had with him. In the theory of the masculine homosexual object choice, for example, what is emphasized in the object is a resemblance to the image of the subject himself, but this object also maintains with the subject the relation that the subject had with his mother.
Different formulas are in play in analytic literature. They inspire the most commonplace practices of the deciphering of underlying images, symbolic articulations and logical relations, which direct the subject's love. This brings with it a certain number of consequences as to the very definition of love.
First, love is metonymical. There is a connection between the fundamental object and the object x, the object x borrowing certain traits from the fundamental object.
Second, love is a repetition; hence comes the essential place of the latency period, a gap that separates primordial love from repetition_love.
Third, love translates a psychic inertia. Under the auspices of newness, of "the surprise of love," as Marivaux said, love in fact testifies that the subject is ensnared by a choice which is always the same, and translates an ongoing mode of constitution of the object invested by the subject.
Until now, nothing has prevented us from bringing the dimension of love back to the imaginary formula a-a', which sums up the Lacanian mirror stage. There is indeed symmetry, equivalence, and metonymy between the two terms.



Another chapter of the theory of love emphasizes the dissymmetry in the facts of love.
By means of a short-circuit into this dilemma, let's distinguish between loving and being loved. We'll study what "I love" means. Take the relation x R y, a dissymmetrical relation which translates x loves y. The first value one can give to "I love" is "I lack." I mark the beloved with the sign (+); the lover with the sign (-). Indeed this introduces castration into the theory of love.
The psychoanalytic theory of love is, on the one hand the automaton of love, and on the other, the implication of castration in love. Castration is on the side of the lover, while correlatively the phallus is on the side of the beloved.
We'll write the lover with an A and write - j the signification of the phallus. The one who loves is castrated. That's why conventional wisdom reserves love for women.
A relationship in which neither of the two partners lacks is not entirely unthinkable. We have the attainment of this in masculine homosexuality. Homosexuality is constituted in a completely different way when it concerns women and when it concerns men. For women it is constituted in the domain of love, while for men in the domain of desire, and is, on occasion, totally separate from love.
Why distinguish here between love and desire, which are merged in Liebe ? Because there is the following paradox: to love the other is to constitute that other as phallus, but to want to be loved by him, that is, to want the beloved to be loving, is to castrate him. Lacan has analyzed the love life of the woman in the following way: she constitutes a man as phallus, all the while secretly castrating him. He believed he could indicate that with the man these two functions are separate or tend to separate themselves_on the one hand the beloved woman, on the other the desired woman, in as much as she has the signification of the phallus.
Freud contributes a supplementary element when, in his book Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, he describes the pure amorous state putting the accent on the submission of the loving subject to the one he loves. The plus isn't the phallus, but what he calls the ego-ideal, which is also found in Lacan under the nature of the S1, the master signifier.
In the relationship of the lover to the beloved, the essential issue is to have the lack in the beloved emerge. This is the very formula of hysteria. What supports this process? Quite simply it is the demand for love. The demand for love, in so much as demand to be loved, is the demand that the Other reveal its lack.
The implication of castration in the theory of love generates diverse dissymmetrical constructions, like the Freudian distinction between narcissistic love and anaclitic love. In fact narcissistic love concerns love of the same, while anaclitic love concerns love of the Other. If narcissistic love is placed on an imaginary axis, the anaclitic love places itself on the symbolic axis where the business of castration is played out.
So the difference between love and the drive is clarified. Why did Freud invent the term drive? Because there is within the subject a type of demand that has nothing to do with the demand for love. It's a demand that doesn't speak, and that is nevertheless insistent, a demand that does not aim at the Other, nor at the Other's lack, but on the contrary is the imperative of a presence as an absolute condition.
We have the example in fetishistic perversion. It is not a matter of knowing whether a woman lacks, or consents to lack, a high-heeled shoe. There's no reason to think that this creates a lack for her. The presence of this object is the subject's imperative for jouir, totally mocking the eventual reticence of his object.
What makes a labyrinth is the implication of the three levels. The object must have the signification of the phallus, in so far as to love is to desire. It must also have the value of A, in so far as to love is a demand to be loved. And it must also have the value a, in so far as to love is to want to jourir de. The object should be at once situated in the desire, the demand, and the drive. The labyrinths of amorous life are made from the articulation of these three levels, at times united, at times separate, permanent here, temporary there, whether pure, whether mixed. This is how one obtains in amorous lives meetings of infinite variety. 

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