In "The Direction of treatment and principles of its power" (1958), Lacan refers to Dora, as he will repeatedly throughout his teaching. In the 1958 essay Lacan points out that hysterics generally remain captives of purely imaginary identification because their fantasies imply its ensnarement. In the essay "Intervention on the Transference" (1953), Lacan opened the door to a reconsideration of what he has termed the ego blockage or méconnaissance that hindered Freud as well as Dora, and hastened the end of Dora's three-month analysis. In essays such as these Lacan emphasizes the suturing or closing out of any analysand's desire. The analyst's unconscious desire can also block the progress of any analysis toward truth: that is, in the direction of cure.
In this paper I shall talk first about the ego closures of both Dora and Freud. Next I shall examine some of the signifiers in Dora's two dreams, in hopes of highlighting the particular, structure of Dora's hysteria. In "The Direction of treatment and principle a of its power" Lacan pointed out that until Freud wrote "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego" in 1921,Freud had not yet conceptualized any mode of "identification" apart from the two-body pair of subject and chosen other (the latter an object of identificatory love or hate, and so on). In the Dora case examples would be Dora and Herr K., Frau K. and Dora's father, and so on. But in his chapter on identification Lacan said: "Freud clearly distinguished this third mode of identification that is conditioned by its function of sustaining desire and which is therefore specified by the indifference of its object" (Sheridan, Ecrits, p. 274). The third mode is the ideal ego, formulated by Lacan as the a' in his Schéma L. Its relationship to desire is, for Lacan, a metonymic or contiguous one.
What does Dora want? Was will das Weib? Lacan used the ideal ego to bring us back again to Freud the7 clinician who was "so firmly tied to mundane suffering, (who) has questioned life as to its meaning... to say that it has only one meaning, that in which desire is borne by death. A man of desire, of a desire that he followed against his will into ways in which he saw himself reflected in feeling, domination and knowledge, but of which he, unaided, succeeded in unveiling... the unparalleled signifier... that phallus of which~ the receiving and giving are equally impossible for the neurotic ... because ... his desire is elsewhere" (Sheridan, Ecrits, P. 277). In Dora's case the "elsewhere" lies in ' the jouissance of physical suffering. But to the conscious eye there is little more going on than her toleration of the position she occupies: being the desired object of a man, Herr K. , whose wife Dora's father desires. Dora's games with Herr K. and the illicit circle were death games, alienation games, games of sick complicity. When Freud verified the truth of the suffering revealed by Dora's physical symptoms and her emotional outbursts; when he supported Dora's interpretation of her family novel instead of her family's fictions, he showed her what she knew, but had kept unconscious: that is, what she could not bear to see.
What Lacan is telling us is that Freud's great discovery of transference in the Dora case contained a paradox which Freud himself did not understand: that the principle of Freud's own power lay in the transference in as much as he didn't use it(Sheridan, Ecrits, p. 236). Lacan contends furthermore that, as with transference, Freud's bold conception of interpretation has also not been given its "full mantic meaning"; its power of prophecy. Having mapped the real of unconscious symptoms, then proceeding to transference identifications which the Viennese founder interpreted, Lacan taught that Freud, nonetheless, failed to realize that the conscious ego of perceptionhis and the patient'sis a unifying agent of exclusion that lies about the unconscious. Although Freud, by constantly shuffling the cards of his evidence face-up, gave Lacan the means to answer some of Freud's own doubts, Freud never recognized the ego as itself the idealizing agent of any human subject. The subject saves narcissistic face by not recognizing the vagaries of unconscious desire, nor its connection to the death signifier when suffering is involved or, in other Lacanian terms, that when the structure of alienation imprisons a person behind the bars of neurosis or psychosis signifiers point beyond ego identity themes to particularities in the unconscious real. In Freud et le desir du psychanalyste Serge Cottet argues that since the ego is unreadable to itself, it has the structure of the symptom. Lacan taught analysts how to decipher symptoms in reference to structure and signifiers. When Freud exposed a drive, Lacan said, what he (Freud) called Trieb, we do not see that the Trieb (quite different from an instinct) implies in itself the advent of a signifier (Sheridan, Ecrits, p. 236). In Dora's case we can deduce something about her ideal ego (a' if we look at the repetitions which link the phallic signifier to her demands (). Her, overt demands are that she be recognized as a dutiful and caring daughter. Thus, she demands the chance to nurse her father when he is ill, and to care for the children of Frau and Herr K. She also demands that her parents believe her story about Herr K.'s sexual proposition proffered beside the lake. Dora's father brought her to Freud for treatment after he and his wife found a suicide note in her desk. Promptly after this event Dora had an argument with her father and lost consciousness. Put another way, Dora's father brought her to Freud so that the good Doctor would convince the recalcitrant girl to believe the bourgeois family fiction regarding his gratitude-filled friendship with Frau K. Dora was also expected to accept her mother's warning to let sleeping dogs lie. And indeed Dora had done just this for years. The balance was tipped when Harr K. denied that he had made Dora an indecent proposal and Dora's father believed Herr K. Thereaf ter Dora's father attributed her depressions to her alleged immoral fantasy.
But Freud ignored Dora's father's request. Instead, he headed straight for Dora's unconscious real: the physical symptoms, the meaning of her dreams, and sought to find out the true object of her desire. We may imagine how disconcerting (and satisfying) this must have been for Dora. On the one hand, Freud did not agree with her family's accusations against her. Nor did Freud try to convince Dora to "be a good girl". But what Freud did do proved intolerable to Dora's hysterical psychic structure in the sense that Lacan has defined it: a structure whose unconscious jouissance resides in keeping desire unfulfilled, in worshipping at the altar of the impossibilities in sexual relations. Freud went right after Dora's secret, not knowing that it was structural rather than substantive. This secret was not a hidden masturbation, or a hidden love for Herr K. It was that her repeated conversion symptoms, her recurrent miseries (even up to her death in New York City) followed this formula:
This Lacanian formula. for an hysteric's fantasy reveals Dor unconscious intentionality: that is, to sustain herself as a suffering object. This was the desire that informed the truth of her being, and enabled her to preserve the Other's jouissance.If the dialectical interplay between Dora's ideal ego and her superego made her feel guilty, deprived and castrated, this guilt was atoned for in her symptomatic suffering.
I am strongly inclined to view Dora as an abandoned child. Eric Laurent, for example, observes that Dora "constituted herself as a subject beyond desire." I read Laurent's observation to mean that Dora's joy came from denying what was only too obvious in her parent's discourse: that she was a rejected object. What Freud so valiantly confronted behind a mere "case of petite hystérie” was the structure of hysteria itself: that is, the refusal of knowledge about one's own unconscious at the expense of living a life lightly threaded around the death signifier.
In Dora's first dream about the burning house perhaps we can disengage meaning of the signifier beyond Dora's ego if we take the dream as a statement of the subject's lack of trying to reorient 'the relations of that desire to the world of objects. It is appropriate that this dream occur right after Dora's first encounter with Herr K. at the lake when he told her a truth she could not tolerate hearing: "I got nothing out of my wife". The metonymy left in suspension here is that Dora is thereby even less than Frau K. In Dora's long fantasy regarding Herr K., let us suppose that she saw herself 'as cherished, a virgin, a blameless girl pursued. In her own concept, then, she would' have been more than his wife. But given that Herr K. asks for sexual favors because his wife was unresponsive; and given that he had already used the K. family governess sexually and abandoned her ("Dora," pp. 146-47); and worse still, Frau K. had usurped Dora's place as her father's own caretaker, I suggest that Dora's ideal ego fantasy was shattered. She was utterly demoted. Her ideal ego position could no longer be that of a cherished object, free to reject or be pursued without sexual consequence. Up until this time she has been able to wield power over the men in her world by the more fact of her existence. After the proposition, she is required to face unconscious truth, at least in a dream.
In this first dream one might consider Dora as identifying with a precious object: the jewel case. Yet, she has the still greater obligation of speaking for her father who says he will not lot his children be burnt for the sake of a jewel case (her mother's vanity). Various interpretations come to mind. One might say the children must not be sacrificed to feminine matters. On the other hand, the bearer of "family jewels" (Schmuckkätchon)the father in vulgar German slangis not permitted to destroy his children merely so a mother can preserve her family jewels (her prestige, her dowry). Dora's dream father was determined to protect his children from death by fire (sexual sacrifice, passion). Perhaps the first time Dora dreamt thisafter the scene by the lakethe dream represented her hope that her father would save her reputation (and that of the family as a whole). Certainly her mother is no help to her, and now neither is Herr K.
Let us suggest that what was repressed in Dora's conscious lifein $was her father's inadequacy as a protector, and, consequently, his power to hurt or harm. This situation was bearable as long as Herr X. played the protector role. Indeed, from her early childhood Dora's substitute mother had been her own father whom she nursed. For Dora this functional bond between $ and a broke down once Frau K. entered the picture sometime after Dora's sixth year. At that time the family had moved to the resort town B.and Dora's symptoms subsequently appeared. The intention behind Dora's first dream once in analysis may well be an expression of her wish to leave the Autre seine where she has installed her own subjectivity. Lacan viewed dreams as wishes unfulfilled in the Other (A): a statement of lack. The metonymy in Dora's first dream may well be a reference to the truth about her Imaginary father. His lies and betrayals manifest an impotence in the Nom-du pére, and a blemish on his Symbolic-order reputation. Dora's dilemma at age 18 is to figure out who she can be ideally. She can no longer identify with her father or with Herr K. She can, however, identify with Frau K. because sheunlike Dora's motheris a desired precious object.
In Dora's second dream about a train station, an ego repetition still "in play" concerns the paternal function. But here, her father makes no effort to save her. He is dead. In waking life, he had betrayed her in collusion with Herr and Frau K. But Dora's outrage, built up over years, only cam into the. open light of conscious awareness when this unwoithy father chose to believe' Herr K.'s defamation'of character. In her dream, Dora's father has become the death signifier par excellence: the dead father. In other words, Dora can no longer impute (supposer) any knowledge or hope to him. One must wonder how there can be any Jouissance in Dora's irreparable disillusionment in her imaginary relations with adults? The answer lies In the unconscious structure from which her symptoms arise. For her second dream states the paradoxical victory that verifies her unconscious view of her father: he is inadequate anyway. At the dream's end Dora is apathetic. This apathy may represent the victory of the real Other (A) in the sense that her father has won. This interpretation would corroborate Cathérine Millot's contention that in hysteria the father is allowed to jouir unconsciously as long as he remains denigrated (Hystérie et Obsession, p. 226).
After a 15‑mouth interval Dora returned to Freud for a final visit. In my view Dora went back to report her revenge: the dual admissions of guilt obtained from the K.'s. Lacan calls this interval Dora's "temps pour comprendre". What has Dora understood? I suggest she understood that she had been morally vindicated. This knowledgeanalogous to her indentification with the Madonnais crucial, for in the absence of truth in the conscious subject ($), as in the face of her refusal of unconscious truth, what recourse is left to Dora with which to combat the gaze of others and her own superego except identification with some moral ideal, or a saintly superiority? In this way such a woman can dwell in a false peace, above social reproach. But not above Freud's reproach, since he deduced more in Dora's return visitand in her second dream as wellthan she could bear to hear.
In dream II the 18-year old Dora was walking in a town she did not know where the streets and squares seemed strange. This dream sequence seems to me to represent ‑-not only the village photos Freud pinpointedbut the different look thingshad after Freud's guided tour of Dora's unconscious terrain. One can almost infer unconscious guilt in this second dream. Dora had left home without her parents' knowledge, and her father had fallen ill. Is Dora identifying with the K.'s governess and then Herr K. himself forced the scales to fall from her eyes? In any case, Dora's father M has passed from illness to death. In seeking the train station to go home she asks where it is 100 times. I was struck by her asking for the Bahnhof when 19th-century Vienna already had its Hauptbahnhöfe. That is the "Head" (or Haupt) is missing in the word, in her dreamand in her life. Failing to f ind the station, she found instead a wood. Lacan suggested that there is a feminine sexual identification to Frau K. implied in Dora's going into a thick wood and refusing the company of a‑man who asked to go with her.
Once Dora found the station within the woods but could not reach it, she was seized by a paralyzing anxiety. To me the real of this anxiety seems logical in light of the go fragmentation and body disorientation that stemmed from Dora's lack of sufficiently solid identity models. To return home, to go upstairs, and to read a big book would be a solution to the anxiety; a substitution of Symbolic-order knowledge for the primary Symbolic signifier (the father's Name) she has lost, or that has abandoned her.
No doubt Dora's dreams will be reinterpreted far into the future. The special interest of the case for me, however, lies in the insights that may be: gleaned from it regarding the structure of hysteria. I do not dispute the findings of Freud and Lacan concerning the bisexuality inherent in hysteria. I should like to suggest, however, that hysterical bisexuality should not be confused with lesbianism. It is true that the hysteric identifies with the father, as Dora attests in remembering cigar smoke at the end of her dreams. But I suggest that she does so in order to reject identification with her mother. Those lesbians who suffer little identity conflict believe they have the Imaginary phallus. Hysterics, on the other hand, are never sure whether they have the phallus or not; whether they are castrated or not; whether they are a man or a woman. It is in this sense that the female hysteric is an abandoned daughter since she must act out the paradox of being caught in the middle.
I believe the progress made by Lacan in his comments on the Dora case lies in his stress on the issue of identity rather than on Freud's literalist sexual interpretations. A second advance would lie in Lacan's distinction between a défi savoir and a désir du savoir. An hysteric like Dora who shrank back from knowledge of unconscious truth, remained symptom-ridden until her dying day. The question I would like to leave you with is this: What is it, apart from the Lacanian analyst's knowledge concerning the hysterical structure, that enables some hysterics to be cured, and dooms others to repeat their symptoms at the price of their own potential freedom?
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