.........Michel Silvestre

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By no means can the recognition of the clinical type of a particular patient be taken for a preliminary to the cure; this is rather a matter of the position proper to each analyst, who manages his practice in solitude, with the experience he has forged for himself. However, note the solidity of the threefold division hysteria, obsession, and phobia - all attempts to reshape or to modify this division have been unable to shatter it From this, we suggest that each of these three general clinical types regroups specific modes of the subject's response and that these responses are found from one subject to another within the same clinical type.

The finality of the cure is not at issue, since it does not depend upon the clinical type. At the horizon of every cure, there is a coming to terms with desire beyond the unfolding of the phantasm. This horizon renders the clinical types obsolete. Thus, we are only concerned with the means of achieving this end. Now, it is a fact that the responses of the subject - i.e. his/her neurosis-oppose to these means difficulties which can be clarified by being put into relation with the clinical type under which the patient is classified.

The responses put forward by hysterical neurosis concern essentially the dialectic of desire, that is, the flow of this desire, articulated by the signifier between the subject and Other. Let us agree for the moment that the figure of hysteria is incarnated by those speaking beings who bear a uterus. This remains, for psychoanalytic theory, only a statistical coincidence , a coincidence that permits us however to invoke under the name of hysteric those exemplary patients, those muses of desire, who have quickened to analysts the words of their interpretations since Anna 0. The hysteric was in a good position to inspire analysis and to encounter the analyst since the analytic offer free association - brings to a deadlock the dialectic of desire that expresses itself in symptoms.

Analysts do not always respond felicitously to such solicitations. The hysteric can indeed be led to muffle her demand by diversifying her symptoms; this can carry her to excesses of suffering in response to which the cure takes on unexpected disguises of its own. We will take up these avatars which so divert analysts that they come to doubt they are still dealing with hysteria and in response drag out of the closet a hypothetical psychotic nucleus. But the difficulty remains, even if their comfort is in part preserved by this expedient, which only diagnoses their counter-transference.

Nevertheless, before coming to these reefs that threaten the cure and to the beacons that one can oppose to them, we must agree that hysterical neurosis lends itself obligingly to the Freudian method.


The offer of the psychoanalyst is summed up in the fundamental rule, which also states the sole technical prescription to which the psychoanalyst is bound. This rule suffices, Lacan indicates, to produce the supposed subject of knowing, which issues from the analysand herself, thus establishing the bases for the transference.

Nothing is more equivocal than the fundamental rule. As the hysteric understands it, her speech sustains the Other listening to her and thus is the cause of that which she may receive from him in return. From this, the idyll can begin. The speech of the hysteric becomes a pastoral by means of which the subject dedicates her complaint to the Other, whom she certainly does not confuse, at first with the person of the analyst. On the contrary, the analyst fulfills his function only be keeping quiet: his very silence guarantees the good understanding that the hysteric contracts with the Other. This setting is in every way propitious for the effective deployment of the process of the care and the development of the transference.

The hysteric’s interpretation of the fundamental rule is correct insofar as it assigns to the analyst the status of being present in the Other's place, and, as such, establishes him in the position of returning to the subject that which she represses. Yet having assigned this place to him, the hysteric understands that he will stay there. Thus, the material of interpretation is invaded by the return of the Past to which memory gives an overriding emotional content. The cure comes to resemble a process of repetition or a rehearsal, and the transference indulges in false recognition, preventing the advent of the new. In this way, the hysteric is responsible for the confusion between transference and repetition, which Lacan dissociated the two.

For the hysteric, the analyst has only to follow up on those meanings implicitly revealed through repetition. The analyst has only to complete her sentence, for the allotment of roles in the play of desire to induce its pacifying effect.

If desire springs from dissatisfaction, the hysteric makes of dissatisfaction an absolute condition, but with the corollary that this be the Other's condition. The hysteric aims at making the Other always desire more. This is fine for the analyst who is supposed only to await the next signifier: a perfect accord, one could say, since it rests upon the infinite variations of signifying metonymy. The hysteric exalts the division from which she suffers by providing the Other with signifiers to direct his desire. This sacrifice, she believes, settles her accounts with castration, since castration is what those signifiers suppose.

It follows that the position of the hysteric is quite able to sustain a social bond, since it can rally several subjects, a group, even a crowd. The other is allowed to accede to desire, by offering him signifiers to guide it. But more often than not a fiasco comes to ratify the imposture of this position, for example when it claims to regulate the sexuality of the couple. Desire not only causes obedience to the signifier, it also involves a truth the revelation of which requires a certain kind of knowledge. It is this knowledge that the hysteric cuts out by claiming to reign over desire. The task of the analyst is to reveal this omission.

However, it often happens that from the response he is getting, the analyst realizes either that what he can tell her is only a proxy of this knowledge or else that she knew it already. What's the purpose, indeed, of telling to someone who is complaining that the cause of her complaint is her suffering? The hysteric sustains her desire by exalting the phallic lack (- F.); thus, interpretations which rest upon the sole signification of the phallus are bound to encounter abutments. These interpretations are purely tautological. Constructed as formations of the unconscious, they reveal only the dominion of the master signifier, while leaving in the shadow that which sustains the subject beyond her division the object of her phantasm.

Note that such an interpretation is consistent with the above mentioned place that repetition assigns to the analyst. It can induce a certain appeasement because the analyst relies upon suggestion. Which is to say that in certain circumstances the master discourse can play a trick on the hysterical discourse. The hysteric agrees to withdraw her complaint if she reckons that the transference can only be maintained at this price. The analyst heals the hysteric on the condition that their relation is prolonged as long, as metonymy can go, that is, indefinitely.


It is the transference, however, that leads the direction of the cure of the hysteric to a quandary which forces the analyst to be more than the silent understudy of signifying repetition; here he has to sustain a real presence.

When Freud had to acknowledge that the transference involves a slope of resistance, he discovered the fact that beyond repetition which lends to the analyst the traits of the infantile imago - the analyst himself counts as a presence. For if the transference does not totally resolve into signifying repetition, in this transference the analyst must be also real. This presence of the analyst as real is the question underlying Freud's reflections from 1910 to 1919 on the "technique" of psychoanalysis. Freud discovers that the hysteric produces love in the transference in order to obstruct the real of the analysts. Reread the admirable text on transference-love, where Freud stages the astonishing duo of the hysteric who loves and the analyst who desires.[2]

To be sure, Freud does not ignore the fact that love is perfectly contented with letting the coitus wait: there would be no poetry without this avoidance. Freud claims nonetheless that the aim of transferencelove is the sexual act, first, because the phallic meaning love is the sexual act, will have to be revealed; second, because this meaning can be worded nowhere else than in the place of the analyst. It is for the analyst to keep the place of desire, regardless of the maneuvers of the subject to make him lose his course.

Transference-love troubles Freud all the more because it resists interpretation, at least the notion of interpretation then available to him. Transferencelove cannot be interpreted Eke a formation of the unconscious. The mis/take, of transferencelove consists not in taking the analyst for an other, but, on the contrary, in loving him for what he is. Thence the Freudian reflection on acting out. Love in the transference is what repetition is in the supposed subject of knowing an obstacle and a revealer at the same time.

Freud is so bothered about his discovery that he does not know what to say when Ferenczi, in 1924, proposes to modernize the technique of psychoanalysis by introducing into the handling of transference the notion of acting out Ferenczi calls this the "active technique." He had the right hunch, realizing that in order for the analyst to take the place of subject's Other, he cannot be a simple reflection of the subject. However, Ferenczi got it wrong when he confused the omnipotence of the maternal Other and/or analyst with the absolute of the cause of desire, the object <a>. Ferenczi agrees with the neurotic in effacing the Other of desire behind the Other of the demand.

This confusion is most agreeable to the loving hysteric herself because she devotes her love to the analyst/Other in order to lead his desire astray. The hysteric wishes that the Other desire, but only on the condition that she be the cause of this desire. At this point, the direction of the cure ought to take a turn corresponding to the position Lacan has designed for the analyst. That he is in the place of the Other curbs, in fact, every outcome of transferencelove. The impasse thus reached leaves the subject with only two options: running off or the passage à l’acte.

Only by reversing the cards can the analyst now return the hysteric to her desire, allowing her to forsake the object that she made it her duty to love. He can shatter the subject in the place from which she stirs up in the Other the signifiers of her desire, on the condition that the analyst incarnates himself that which causes this desire. The object of the hysteric's amorous élan is found outside the transferencenot in the past but in the here-and now.

By unveiling this gap too quickly, Freud had Dora slam the door in his face and run away. Refusing anxiety, Dora preferred to keep her symptom rather than to spell out her phantasm (in which her ideal of Woman took the place of the object.) Anxiety is the price the hysteric must pay in order to accept as truth that if the Other desires her, this desire remains opaque for her. Dora stopped midway between symptom and phantasm, between rejecting phallic signification and hearing the anxiety which unveils the object of Jouissance. For the hysteric such an outcome can be upsetting but this is not necessarily a failure.


The cause of desire can be made palatable to the subject only by means of the phallic device. This is an habitual compromise which makes jouissance possible under conditions of near Oedipal identifications and of using the paternal metaphor well. Neither these identifications nor this metaphor are for the hysteric a matter of course. These first identifications - identifications with the man - are contrary to her anatomical sexuality; choosing them, she is led to protect the father as love object, refusing to hand him over to the signifying mill. Hence her contempt for semblance, which derives its efficacy only from a well-implanted paternal metaphor.

Instilled in the right way by the analyst, the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father can nevertheless offer happiness to the hysteric, if she can be brought to accept the phallic solution. It suffices for this that an other comply with castration and dedicate his desire to her. A husband, or the recognition of the husband's adequacy if marriage preceded the cure, comes in the nick of time to detach the hysteric from her analyst. We can consider this outcome a real therapeutic conclusion without fearing the echoes of a tradition which has always offered the suffering hysteric phallic pharmacopoeia. Knowing the potion does not always mean that one can make the patient swallow it.

If he can do it, the analyst need not blush because of his art, even if the hysteria has not been cured. Analysis can also obstruct the above solution by reinforcing the subject's scepticism on behalf of the phallic function. In this case rejecting castration serves less the purpose of fending off anxiety than that of defeating the semblance it compels the subject to bear.

This reef of the cure leads the hysteric to condone the alienations of analytic experience in order not to be duped by phallic deceit: the cure seems to have returned to the starting point. In fact, the suffering no longer depends upon a desire intent on finding a conciliatory Other, allowing the subject to play the game of desire. The new suffering springs from a jouissance which refuses phallic finitude and which constrains the subject to read the Other for signs that the signifier is not all. To this exhausting quest anatomy predisposes women more than men, justifying our speaking of the hysteric in the feminine gender.

Thus is revealed to the hysteric the essential elasticity of desire: that which she took for its cause and its reason, the phallus, is only the disguise whose tinsel turns to farce. The true cause is elsewhere, not in the signifier ruled by the phallus, but in the object that does not fall wholly under phallic rule. The hysteric accepts this cause, but only to pledge it to the jouissance of the Other: she offers herself, as object, to this immoderate jouissance.

The impasse that the hysteric encounters in the dialectic of desire tunes her to aphanisis, the subjective fading by which she recovers her jouissance. Desire seems to go away, as the sea seems to retreat, so as to leave her in the lurch, a poor thing betrayed by the Other who desires without her. This is the state of rejection and abandonment which psychiatrists do not hesitate to call with their customary doggedness, melancholy, but which is simply the end of desire showing what desire is in the end - desire for death. This is what Freud called the negative therapeutic reaction or again primary masochism. However, there is no need for analysis for this picture to come to life, and the list would be long with the everyday figures of women for whom destiny is unhappiness. Such figures run counter to the customary evocation of the 'beautiful hysteric" ,vindicator of phallic glory, but they too speak the truth about hysteria.

The truth is that in refusing castration as normalizing desire, work outside analysis. The hysteric has no choice but to realize herself in the object of her phantasm, sacrificing herself to the Other’s jouissance. At this point that the analyst is summoned to be present, for the passage à l’acte, here looming, is different from the sexual act evoked above which finally aimed only at revealing the ridicule of male phallic strut. In the world of the hysteric, thus devastated by the desire for death, the analyst must start the cure all over again. This second start stakes the desire of the analyst at the point where the demand is gone.

This substitution rests upon what might be called a maneuver of the transference, rather than an interpretation. It is from the real laid bare that the analyst must lead the affair in this second round, and not from the signifiers whose repetition had designed his places in the first. We are suggesting that such a prosthesis of desire makes it possible for the analyst to function as the object of the hysteric's phantasm, cause of her desire, putting him in a position to break up the trap where her paradoxical jouissance confines her.

The trap is the phantasm, the ultimate defense against the desire which it nurtures. This is why this moment of the cure, where the end threatens, can reveal and put into question the foundations of hysteria's structure. This poses for the subject a new choice.

Either she decides to pursue the quest that her phantasm outlines for her, strengthened in her endeavor by the therapeutic effacement of the symptom. This pursuit may proceed without the support of the analyst, who in absentia can continue to incarnate the vainly desiring the Other. But the proclaimed vanity of desire shows that the structure has remained untouched; it continues ti work outside analysis.

Or else she agrees to pitch phantasm against desire, here separable. Two configurations, referred to above, illustrate this possibility: either she accepts a partner whom she no longer confines to impotence, obliging to incarnate (- P ), the imaginary castration; or she admits that the Other desires, but for that does not ask her to embody the lost primal cause of his desire, Disengaged from a phantasm henceforth reduced to the meaning of familial history - circumstantial and soon obsolete - the subject can find in her desire the reason for her actions for the rest of her life.

[1] A translation of a revised version of "La Direction de la cure de l’hystérique", ORNICAR? No.29 (Summer 1984), pp.58-65.

[2] Sigmund Freud, "Observations on Transference-Love", in S.E. XII, pp.159-171.

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