Imagine that you are sitting at a
desk writing something about Lacanian clinical practice. You probably
know that such activity requires considerable concentration of one's
mental faculties. And imagine that as you are performing this
activity there appears in the room an insect, a fly, the sort that
makes a sound that is impossible to ignore. If you would like to add
meaning, make it that the fly is buzzing around your head. At first,
the sound of the fly is an annoying, droning, slightly whining buzz,
but if you listen closely, if you redeploy your mind in the direction
of the fly, you may discover that you can make out through the noise
the faintest phonetic distinctions. And after a little practice you
may eventually be able to make out the word that this fly is trying
to communicate to you. As I myself was practicing this exercise the
other day, I reached the point where I understood what the fly was
saying behind the buzzing. The word he was saying over and over again
Let us say that the word gets around. And one of the words that is making its way through the community is that Lacan does not have a theory of affects, that Lacanian analysis misses fully one-half of what matters in treatment and in life, and that this encourages people to intellectualize to such a degree that they lose touch with their deepest, inmost feelings. This word, of course, has been floating through the psychoanalytic ether for over 25 years now; it is not original and ultimately it is not very interesting. Lacan answered it on many occasions, including once on nationwide television in France. The problem is that no small number of people find it to be eminently persuasive. One may only wonder whether the argument is persuasive intellectually or affectively. If you do not mind a caricature, I would say that from the point of view of the affect theory that Lacan does not have I should have been delighted, I should have rejoiced, at the intrusion of the fly. Not only did it distract me from what would surely have been some sort of intellectualization; it brought to the surface a repressed affect, and returned me to full consciousness of my bodily existence. In affect theory you do not only rejoice about the existence of whatever mother it was that made the fly, whatever mother made you, and, if you believe that the father of affect theory was Bernard of Clairvaux you try to find a mother that made both of you, mother nature some sort of madonna figure, and you construct a cult of motherhood. If you are Lacanian, you kill the fly.
The problem with the idea that Lacan neglects affects is to find out what the authors of the charge mean by it. One would be very hard pressed to assert that the world of Lacanian psychoanalysis is short on affects. A minimal understanding of the history of the psychoanalytic movement in France should persuade anyone on this point. But then, is it true that people who are undergoing Lacanian psychoanalysis are somehow disaffected; do the modalities of the treatment have any tendency to numb people into some sort of affectless stupor? Again this is ludicrous; anyone who has practiced sessions whose time is variable or even short knows very well that this aspect of technique in itself produces about all the affects you would ever want to handle. It makes no sense within this context that the analyst would tell the patient what the patient feels; our patients do not have a problem knowing what their affective state is. If you want to give patients a problem at this level, the easiest and most affective way to do it is to regularize the analytic session, to ritualize it, so that its parameters are always the same. Make it into a conflict-free sphere or an average expectable environment and you will see less affect. And I would add a remark that Lacan made in 1956, namely that candidates in analytic institutes are terrified of one thing in particular, their intelligence. Since most of them are very bright, they are afraid of where their intelligence would lead them if they would let it. To which Lacan answered that the idea of intellectualization is a convenient way to disembarrass people of the problem: they can leave their intelligence at the door of the institute and feel good about it. Of course, the one affect that would have been of significant psychoanalytic interest, the anxiety, is evaded.
Meantime there is the charge that in Lacanian analysis something essential is not being analyzed. Some people think that we are missing fully half of what is gain& on, to which one might respond that missing half is better than missing it all. We do not believe that you can analyze everything. If you try to analyze everything you run the risk of missing the one thing that you should be analyzing. This one thing is going to be the patient's symptom. I am reminded of the story of Aaron Green as Janet Malcolm told it in The Impossible Profession, where Dr. Green had analyzed everything but one symptom, what we might call his anxiety about speaking in public, performance anxiety, which, as we will see, is castration anxiety. It is possible that in a world where speech is taken to be an ego function, such behavior would be classed as well-adapted. It may be that the reason such a symptom is not analyzable, may be because the analyst holds that the speech that is offered in session is private, or better that the value of that speech is its reductions to a set of meanings that are purely personal. From our point of view the symptom is the one thing that ought to have been analyzed; the rest, we will say, could easily have analyzed itself. Another example which comes to mind is the collection of transcripts of psychoanalytic sessions made by Hartwig Dahl. I am indebted to Don Moss for having let me and other people see a couple of these. If you have a chance to look at them you will see that the project entails transcribing everything that is said in a psychoanalytic session, including any and all of the background noise: coughs, mmms and ahhhs, pauses, mumbling, everything. Clearly the aim of the project is to be absolutely exhaustive, to cover all the bases, like the Prefect of Police in the story of the purloined letter. And of course these transcripts have one glaring omission, an omission that is common to all case reports and thus is perfectly acceptable under the circumstances, and that is that all the proper names are removed. From this and other evidence we can say that it is with the proper names that a central and crucial aspect of analysis takes place, and that to analyze a symptom names must be taken into account.
The mistake of wanting to analyze everything is manifest in diagnostic categories which do not specify the structure of a symptom. Something like insomnia may have many and varied causes. It is not in itself a psychic symptom. The moment it becomes a symptom for us is when, as a patient once told me, she was perfectly able to sleep on the sofa in the living room. Once she got to the bedroom her ability to sleep vanished. This has a structure; it says that beds are for something other than sleeping. It poses the question of what beds are for. The most popular of the diagnostic categories that obscure the symptom is the borderline personality disorder. If you read a good description of the borderline personality disorder you will discover that this patient has a representative from all of the categories of symptoms. A borderline is anxious, depressed, phobic, hysterical, obssessive-compulsive, perverse, psycho-pathological, and even has psychotic episodes. In the first place, the category tells you nothing about the patient, except perhaps that the patient has a demand to be taken as Everypatient. Certainly, the use of the word "borderline" is a misnomer since the patient is trying to be everything. Now this is very appealing to psychiatrists because it implies that the therapist will become everything for the patient, assuming that he responds to the demand, something that he does if he accepts that the patient is borderline. The mods of self-presentation is a demand and it is only by refusing the demand that one may arrive at the symptom, to say nothing of the desire. As my supervisor told me when I was beginning to practice, these patients do not have to show their symptom. And if they do not show their symptom you aren't going to analyze anything.
This gets to some crucial clinical issues. In the first place, the idea of not analyzing everything implies that the analyst does not analyze very much, does not interpret very much. A patient may bring a pile of symptoms or a pile of dreams all of which call for interpretation. From our point of view there is in such a situation a demand for interpretation which is best refused. However clever the interpretation, however much confirming material it elicits, if it does not address the patient's question, as Lacan put it, it is off the mark. What will lead the patient to pose his symptom as a question addressed to the analyst is that the analyst has not been analyzing everything that is presented to him. So the first thing about Lacanian practice is to learn not to analyze too much or too often. In either case the patient will continue to produce dreams, symptoms, even acting out, but in the case where the analyst is there to analyze all of them, there is no way of knowing which one is crucial to the structure of the neurosis, nor is there any way of knowing whether these are not simply being produced to give the analyst a sense that he is an analyst, thus that he is analyzing. Our practice is based on the frustration of these demands, whether they are demands for love, or for affection, or for interpretation. Eventually, you see a convergence or distillation of the problems into a single question that articulates the symptom and which therefore may be addressed. Let us examine this within the context of a patient I treated in France. I mention this to warn you that the details are somewhat hazy. As it happened, this woman was a perfect borderline, i.e. a severe hysteric, who I will call, not Everypatient, but Everywoman. I me" this small change to show that is necessary to have some sense of sexual difference in these matters, to say nothing of having-an idea of what is in question. Everywoman was sufficiently in trouble to have been hospitalized and to have received psychiatric treatment. So when I began to see her she had medication for all of her problems. She had a pill to help her get up in the morning, another to help her to stay up during the day, one to help her to stay up and not be anxious, one to make sure that she did not fall into a depression, to which she added liberal dozes of cocaine, heroin, and alcohol to have some fun, all of which was topped of by something to put her to sleep at night. So she had a substance for each of her symptoms, at least for those that responded to substances. And yet, without knowing much more, you should be able to see the rationale of this treatment as a question: What is it that has trouble getting up, trouble staying up, trouble not being anxious about being up, a problem about falling down, a problem having fun, and a problem coming down? I trust I do not need to provide the answer. In any case, that was not her question. Her first demand was for affection; she had, she declared, enormous affective needs which, when they were not ministered to or administered to, had a tendency to erupt in crises, constantly, as it happens, because no ministrations or administrations were truly sufficient. It happens that she on her own was able to find all sorts of reasons for her tremendous need for affection; and her reasons were not so different from what you can read in any psychoanalytic text on the subject. Obviously, none of this did her much good, and things did not advance very well. When she got around to directing this demand for affection to me, I answered simply that there was no such thing as a need for affection, that the problem was elsewhere. Which is one of the ways that we get the reputation for being insensitive to affects. This woman was drowning in her affects; to respond to her on that level, on the level of her demand, would have led me into a perverse game of giving and withholding affection, in which I am persuaded that she would have come out with her neurosis untouched. I do not believe that her question was articulated in terms of this need for affection. Her question was posed in a far more innocent way, a way that seamed to her to be rather trivial. She asked to have three sessions a week instead of four. The first few times this came up I let it go by, sometimes offering a throw-away reason about why four times was a better rhythm for her. Her response was systematically to skip a session every week, for one reason or another; she always, of course, paid for the missed sessions. I did not say anything much about that either, even though one could think lots of wonderfully psychoanalytic things to say about missed sessions, wishes to be pregnant, etc. One of the reasons for not saying such a thing was that she knew it already; besides, it was too general and too obvious to produce much of an affect. My intervention came after this reached some sort of crisis, at which point I agreed to see her three times a week, but I added that I would raise the fee per session. This was not especially earth-shattering since the new weekly fee was exactly the same as the old one. Only now the fee per session, and the fee, as is common in France, was paid at each session, was higher, and it was my act that was determinant, rather than her failed act. As an interpretation, this says that the demand for fewer sessions represented a desire to pay me more. The next session, of course, she didn't show up. The session after that she began by saying that she had a fantasy. The question that had come to her mind was the following: What is it that sleeps all morning, drags around the house all afternoon, and comes alive to have fun in the evening? And the answer provided by the fantasy was: a prostitute. And to fill out the structure of the fantasy as it was enacted in the analytic sessions, she averred that I was what is nicely called a procurer, or a pimp. Her symptom was in her-mode of being, her being-there, if you like. It is not a question of understanding or becoming aware of this, but rather of pinning a name on it. And even that was only the beginning, because the relation of her proper name to prostitution had then to be connected to this material. The word prostitute had more to do with my name than hers. Her own name had nothing to do with prostitution; rather it had to do with saintliness, it was phonetically resonant with the name of a famous saint, like Joan of Arc. It seems that her mother had married a man who could provide for her daughter a last name that sounded like the name of the saint, and then when she had a daughter named her with a name that sounded like the first name. And rather than acquiring the personality traits of the saint, she simply constructed her life to be in constant opposition to that of the saint. This was her way of validating her father's desire, since the instance of his Law was played out in his refusal ever to let her attend church. Be that as it may, this intervention produced an effect on her multiple problems and even on her general affective state. Obviously, it took some time for her to see that it was something that the analyst had done that was responsible, because, after all, it does not look like I did much of anything.
Despite this there is still the problem of what one does with the rest. We may not want to analyze affects or borderlines or narcissistic personality disorders, but that does not mean that we do not have to deal with these things. And as Lacan said, it is entirely untrue to think that he was not extremely serious about these matters, or that he was not attentive to them. Not that this satisfied his critics, one of whom reproached him for only teaching people how to deal with affects. The way to deal with them is not very difficult to understand; one does so using a mode of discourse that Lacan said he preferred and which he used with exceptional effectiveness in his practice. And that was what he called a discourse without words, through the language of gesture, movement, tone of voice, different types of looks and salutations, different ways of ending the session, basically through variations in almost every element of the situation of the psychoanalytic session. You might consider this to be a paradox, because people have always accused Lacan of believing that language was only words, when in fact he intervened on different levels. The question this raises is the status of the groat variety of attitudes that he adopted in the session. This is not to say that he ever intervened at the level of what he could observe of the patient's appearance, or that the fact that he spoke little of himself was an invitation for the patient to bypass speech in his own communication. And those who disparage Lacan's approach, who aim for absolute consistency in-an average expectable environment, even to the point that the Paris Institute once passed one of its counter-Lacanian resolutions to the effect that an analyst should greet his patient at the beginning of each session with a handshake and a neutral smile, those who disparage Lacan have no other choice, as it seems to me, to treat affects by verbalizing them for the patient. At which point it is well to ask who is the analysand? And it is also well to note that if the analyst offers his language without having much of an idea of what language is about then he is simply not in control of the instruments of his work, to say nothing of his interfering in the patient's associations. Take the level of connotation. An analyst tells a patient that the patient is mad as hell; he addresses an affect the patient is supposed to ignore with a line from a popular movie. And yet, might we not note that when a member of the mental health profession says to a patient that he is "mad" this has connotations that go well beyond the innocent affect. It has the value of a judgment. And take another popular intervention or interpretation, or whatever, it is almost a cliché that therapists these days tell their patients that they are afraid of commitment, afraid of being committed. Again the phrase has a connotation with the field that in itself is sufficient to provoke in the average sane human being some sense of fear. So, how do you deal with narcissism? Simply, by acting strange and weird. You want to present to the patient something that is not his mirror image, something that he must question and interpret and even analyze. You want him to see what is going on outside of himself. If however you should tell him to introspect and then wonder why you are not getting anywhere with his narcissism, this is nothing more than a sign of not recognizing the extent to which you are sustaining the problem precisely as you denounce it. With someone who is depressed you obviously cannot sit back and wait for the person to talk, nor do you want the patient to emote ad infinitum. Here the point is that the analyst ought, as Lacan once said, to signify his desire, and this desire is not addressed to and does not concern a being who is a bundle of affects. At the least it is a desire to listen to something, a desire for the patient to talk. Of course, if the depressive state is couched in a demand for the analyst to respond, it is a good idea not to. Not respond to the demand for affection, that is; for it is certainly reasonable for the analyst to respond to the words that he hears, to recognize the person as a speaking being. If there is no discernible demand, it is necessary to do something to create one. As Lacan once said, by my offer I create the demand. In this situation it strikes me as reasonable to demonstrate interest, not in what the patient feels compelled to talk about, but in other things, in the margins, the outlines, the situation that produced the affect. If Lacan was right in defining depression or sadness as a fault, of the order of moral cowardice, then the one thing you do not want is to be with someone who is depressed is cowardly or self-defeated. The principle of dialectical opposition determines how the analyst situates himself in these cases as well as in other contexts.
Let us fill out this discussion first. Lacan says in "The Direction of the Treatment" that at the beginning of a psychoanalysis the analyst ought to resituate the analysand in the real. Meaning what exactly? If we know that the real is not the externalization of an endopsychic passion play, this is to say that the real is defined in the exclusion of the claims of the Self. We want to know what is going on, what has been happening, in terms of who, what, where, names, dates, places, an ordered series or sequence. Naturally, we also want to know who said what to whom, when, and- where, and in what sequence. And we are not so concerned about how all of these people feel about each other, how they relate to each other, but rather, how they are related, and how they got to be related. A patient who was depressed one day decided to stop talking about the fact that the man he loved, call him Daniel, was about to run off with another man. He stopped talking about it because he saw that he was putting me to sleep, and rather than that, he preferred to change the subject. So he began talking about a dream about some of his siblings and the idea that when his mother was pregnant with him she was preoccupied with the marriage of his eldest sibling. To which I responded that he must have nieces or nephews of about his age. This brought forth a story he had often heard, in which, at the age of four, being jealous of the attention his infant nephew was receiving, he decided to imitate all of the infant's gestures, to the great amusement of all concerned. I asked him the name of his nephew. He responded: Daniel. To which I said something like: Ah! His retort was immediate: You're missing the point. There are other people in the family with the same name, one of them being a homosexual uncle who died in severe depression. This ought to give an idea of how we see the dialectic of analysis, and how the patient offers material to oppose the analyst, not to consent to his judgment.
The dimension of the symbolic, in other words, is the place from which the analyst directs the reorientation to the real. It would, however, be entirely false to think that this should all be reduced to what Lacan once called a semiotic delirium, the kind of thing that structuralists were doing when they broke everything down into plusses and minuses. It is not that we disparage such efforts, because if there is going to be any gain of knowledge on the part of the analysand in analysis, it will necessarily be in terms of some sort of structure, some sort of ordering of material. Otherwise the material is simply not intelligible. You might think that once we have some idea of what is going on in the real, that we should encourage the patient to have an appropriate or adequate affective response. When Lacan addressed this question, he said that it reminded him of the medieval theory about the adequacy or adequation of ideas to things, a major epistemological problem. To that he added that we were obliged to await twentieth century medicine to give us the idea that affects ought to be adequate to things. To soften things a bit, the point was that none of the great theorists of affects, people like Aristotle, Aquinas, Spinoza, most of whom are not taken into account in psychoanalytic theories, ever imagined such a thing. Meaning that the idea of regulating affects to place them in harmony with the real is an absurdity. But it is not simply a question of blocking situations or scenes; it is also a question of reading those situations, of finding the truth that is articulated therein. And that truth does not lie at the level of the affects; quite the contrary, the truth is the desire. As you know from reading and studying the case of Dora, Freud, through his reading of the comings and goings of the little band of people around Dora, was able to articulate something of Dora's desire.
So Freudian and Lacanian practice is not centered on the problem of affects. The reason that affects are not at the center of our practice is that desire is. And if we do not give equal weight to desire and to affects, which is the question in a lot of people's minds, because it seems unfair and not nice to exclude anything, it is because the two are in direct opposition. If you accept a patient's affective state as the truth of what is happening to him, you will not only miss the desire, you will also miss what is happening. And it is important not only to know something of desire but also here to know why desire and affect are in opposition. The simplest way of demonstrating this was invented by Socrates in the dialogue called the Philebus. Perhaps this is not theoretically the most rigorous presentation, but at least it will give you in idea of how this problem can be conceptualized. Socrates is explaining to one Protarchus a point about bodily affections. You should know that one of the ideas behind affect theory is that affects were originally bodily functions. In any case, Socrates chooses them as examples of affective states hunger and thirst, and he says that they represent a feeling of emptiness in the body. And he goes on to say that these affective states produce, though not in all cases, an image in the psyche representing a feeling of fullness of the sort that one gains when one eats. It might as well produce an image of oneself eating. Socrates says that when one is hungry one feels empty and wants to feel full. The question he then asks is where the image in the psyche comes from? It makes no sense that it comes from the affect, because the affect is of emptiness and the image is of fullness. He asserts that it must come from memory, which for us means that it comes from elsewhere. It is not an expression of the bodily affective state; in fact, the image which represents the desire realized is precisely the contrary of the affective state. You might say that the desire is in dialectical opposition to the affect, remembering, of course, that this example is not chosen for its theoretical rigor. The reason for choosing it is that it permits you to see that desire is in a relation of contiguity with affective states, that it is not related by similarity or resemblance. Desire is not just some other kind of appetite.
So desire is Other to whatever state one is subjectively conscious of Being Other it is also enigmatic; it requires reading and interpreting, and, as we have said, to be interpreted, it must be abstracted from Self. If we know that the dream is an exemplary instance of the enigmatic presentation of the desire of the Other, the question is how one goes about setting forth the principles of its interpretation. In the first place you are not trying to find the affective state that produced the dream. The fact that the dreamer was irritated by an alarm, was hungry, or suffering from indigestion, does not constitute an interpretation of a dream. Freud never suggested anything of the sort. Dreams are interpretable and intelligible only insofar as they are, in Lacan's phrase, structured like a language. And what this means, among other things, is that the laws that determine the construction of the dream are the laws of language. So that there is a barrier, if you like, between the subject, and the signifying chain, the rebus, that constitutes the dream. If that chain is deciphered, what is gained is a desire, a desire that is Other to the subject, that he does not accept as his. If he did accept it as his, there would be no need for a dream to tell him about it. To reduce the dream to an affective state that supposedly would be expressed therein short-circuits the work of interpretation in the interest of something that seems to be a metalanguage of affects. It is as though the affect was called upon to provide an unassailable meaning, a meaning worthy of conviction, a meaning that could be known directly without any intermediary, without the introduction of an intellectual operation like reading, and without the uncertainty that such a dialectical activity necessarily entails. I trust that some of you have had the experience of explaining politely to a patient that you are having difficulty making sense of his story because it is totally disconnected and riddled with contradictions, only to hear him exclaim: But that is what I feel. To know that your desire is such and such through what we might call insistence of certain elements of the signifying chain without feeling it directly, knowing it in one's gut, seems to run directly counter to the contemporary sense of the value of Self.
So how does the analyst allow the analysand to engage in the work of analysis? First you should see that the analyst at the beginning is at the place of the capital Other, the place of the subject's desire. In order for the analysand to look to this Other as a situation wherein to read something, he must make the supposition that the analyst knows. In order not to make this too sterile, we will call this love, usually considered to be transference. Of this transference love Lacan says first that since it is not the sum total of all the analysand feels about his analyst, since it is not affective, what it is erotic. And not just because the analysand has erotic fantasies about the analyst. That the interaction between analysand and analyst is erotic leads us to remark that an erotic interaction does not sustain itself all by itself, it does not sustain itself well in the presence of the caricatured version of the analyst who sits in his chair, motionless, like a mirror reflecting god knows what, offering an occasional interpretation. So the problem is how to' sustain an erotic interaction, an interaction where desire is the essential element that is in play, without there being any sexual contact. To address this issue Lacan, for example, studied the example of the Platonic dialogue. His seminar on transference began with an extended exposition of The Symposium. The other form of erotic interaction which excludes sexual contact is courtly love. In either case the relevant structure shows that a series of demands, through the fact that they do not receive a response, leads to the posing of a question. This in its turn allows the one to whom the demands are addressed to reply with an interpretation. Lacan is clear about the fact that if the beginning of the treatment concerns resituating the patient in the real, the next part is the development of the transference. and that this leads to interpretation.
What does this tell us? That the transference ought not to be considered a skewed view of reality, a mistake about the analyst's person. When it is taken to be such, the analyst in all innocence, replies that since he is not the patient's parent, the mistake about his identity shows that the patient is reliving in the transference his relationship with a parent, seeking therein to correct the failure of that parent. This might be summarized in the statement: If my mother had loved me more, I would be less neurotic. This is of course the patient's demand, and there is no point in responding to it. It is not what the patient wants. There are a lot of things that would have made the patient less neurotic or have given him a more congenial personality, but what he demands of the analyst is none of those; what he wants is to be someone else, to the point of having a different name, of having different parents, the analyst being one of them. This we are unable to provide. If this is what is demanded, the answer ultimately is simply "No". The use of this word, of the idea of prohibition, is crucial to Lacanian analysis, as it represents the Law, thus the father's desire. When it is absent from theory and from practice, though I would hope that it is less absent from practice than it is from theory, there is a movement to gain access precisely to what the "No" inderdicts, the mother. Such a procedure would place lived experience prior to the effect of the signifier, and it would see regression as real. As Lacan said many times, there are experiences before the child learns to speak; but the fact that the child is speechless does not make them exist outside of language. It is simply the discourse of someone else that organized those experiences. If regression is real and if it is lived out with the analyst, does this not make the analyst the new parent of a new being? So the question is rather what the patient's actual parents wanted, what their desire was toward the patient. Certainly, there is regression in analysis, but the regression concerns the recovery of memories through the recovery of their signifying elements. The desire of the parents may never have been articulated as such, but it can be read once the signifying elements have been recovered. What gets enacted in the transference is the structure that is not accessible to memory; there may be in the combination of the signifying elements a message that does not have an experience as its basis, that cannot be remembered as such. So the analysand does gain knowledge, but I would assert that this knowledge has a far better grounding, than knowledge based on affects. The analysand may see it as more personal, as further from his actual concerns, but this after all is the point; we are not attempting to rectify anything about the analysand's personality. We do not deal with persons, good, bad, or indifferent ones. The knowledge gained in a real regression strikes me as problematical because if it is based on the fact that the analysand has the sense, or the sensation, of reliving the oral or anal phase, how does he know that it is his own oral phase that he is reliving or that of someone else with whom he is identifying empathetically?
It remains to be seen why this is erotic. Simply put, because it is an attempt at a seduction. The analysand argues his case by saying that what he wants from whatever mother is not erotic, is not sexual, it is just love, and therefore why would anyone have a reason to interdict such a thing. The demand for love may well be addressed to a mother, but the place from which the interpretation is offered is paternal. The effect of the interpretation is to bring the analysand to recognize his ruse and to recognize that the ruse has been found out by the precise person who was excluded from the mother-infant dyad. At that point he discovers that he has a larger problem. At that point he will attempt to seduce the father into releasing him from the chains of the Law. This is why it is congenial to the analysand to present to you his soul; after all there is a substantial theological tradition in which the soul, taken to be feminine, is in the position of trying to seduce the father, to get him to reveal himself, to see him face to face. This is another way of saying that once the Oedipal phase and castration complex are attained all previous developmental stages are contaminated retroactively.
The important point for the handling of sessions is to recognize here that it is not just the analyst who interprets. In fact, most interpreting is done by the analysand, and this activity does not just concern dreams. The analysand interprets whatever he knows of the analyst, and since the question is not to bring him to recognize the real person behind the analytic mask, he ought to be allowed to do so, pretty much with impunity. To the extent that he is involved in transference love, he will believe that every gesture, motion, inflection, turn of phrase, is meaningful, and he will seek to read something therein. Since desire is outside, it is certainly desirable that the analysand seek to discover what this enigmatic figure wants from him. And yet, these readings will generally be off the mark, they will represent figures from his past whose desires he has been unequal to. Being unequal to the desire to which he owes his existence, he will be unequal to a series of other desires. The demand contained therein is for the analyst to tell the patient what he, the patient, wants. The analysand believes that the analyst knows what the patient wants, and he wants to be told. At the same time he wants to know what the analyst wants from him, not so much because he is concerned about the analyst's desire, but rather because he is demanding that the analyst sell out his desire, the better to make him the patient's counterpart.
Of course, if the analyst accedes to this demand, he also accedes to-the idea that he in fact does know what it all means, or better that the problem can be resolved in the discovery of some meaning. So at a certain level the analyst does not tell him what any of it means. Better, he allows the analysand to recognize what he himself is saying. The recourse to meaning seems to me to obscure the fact that analysis functions to give the analysand access to speech, it offers him, as Lacan said, the freedom to speak differently, and he can only learn such a thing if he can exercise the activity within the session. On the one hand, this is called free association, but the correlative attitude to free association is not interpretations that make it all meaningful. Lacan said explicitly that the correlate to free association is evenly hovering attention, or freely floating attention, as it is called in French. This tells us that free association is not a continuously flowing stream of words, but rather that it has a fundamental structural property that there are breaks and cuts between the associations. Free association does not happen naturally because someone is lying on the couch several times a week and saying what comes to mind.
Additionally, Lacan does not accept the model of treatment where the patient supposedly free associates, the analyst interprets, and the patient provides confirming material and consents to the interpretation. Nor does he accept that when the patient does not free associate or does not accept the interpretation the analyst offers another interpretation, this time of the resistance. With Lacan we are dealing with the subject who is speaking, not the subject who is presenting a self-image for acceptance or rejection. And the analyst's position is to permit the subject of the unconscious to speak. But for this subject to speak, it must have a listener. All analysts are supposed to be good listeners; this does not however tell us what they are listening to. For us one of the primary things to hear is equivocation it is not so much then a question of interpreting slips of the tongue and other equivocal remarks, but rather to show that the analyst has heard them, and not only that but that that is all that he has heard. Whatever intended meaning or expression the patient hopes to express is disregarded, as the analyst responds to the equivocation. A man talking about his previous therapy with a woman therapist said: I always left my sessions with her satisfied. The idea is that the signifying or phonetic elements of spoken language do not always have a fixed meaning; it is the listener who precipitates meanings through his punctuation or through other forms of responses. The unconscious desire that the patient is attempting to gain access to is present in his speech as well as in his dreams and symptoms. And the only way to gain access to whatever is encoded in dreams and symptoms is through the language that structured them in the first place. That language is present because the patient speaks it, not because the analyst provides a meaning for it. He should be brought to see that his speech is an act, that it produces an effect on the analyst, and this is beyond the idea that by an interpretation the analyst shows the patient what he really means to say. The effect produced in the analyst is represented by all the variations the analyst introduces in the way he acts during sessions. Since the patient assumes that it is he who has produced these effects, his effort to interpret the analyst's gestures, to decipher the enigma, will lead him to his own desire. This means that the analyst's antics, if you like, the fact that he is not always the same from session to session, cannot be entirely haphazard. There is a considerable difference, Lacan said, between reading hieroglyphics and reading coffee grinds. Since analysands have a tendency in the transference to read almost everything, it is an interesting question of how they know which effects are produced by them and are there for them to read, and which are not. In lieu of answering the question, let us say that when an analysand in the throes of the transference reads coffee grinds, what he is looking for is what most analysts are trying their best to give him: love and/or affection. They are, in other words, looking for a sign from the analyst that he is willing to accept as valid some part of their ego, some aspect of their personality, at least one of the several self-images that they present. To vary the theme of a popular song, when you are looking for love you will be looking in the wrong places.
As Lacan once said, variations in attitude will do more for the hysteric than all of your interpretations. What the patient's unconscious means to say is said, only the patient does not recognize it. I think that the place where you can see most clearly the importance of the concrete experience of speech is in the case of people with eating disorders. These patients have a tendency to take whatever wonderful interpretation you offer, chew it up, and spit it back at you, with a little saliva added for confirming material. What is clear here, as it should be in other circumstances, is the limitation that the analyst imposes on the treatment when he is looking for insight or conscious self-awareness and where he takes that to be the measure of the cure. The ethical considerations that motivate Lacan's teaching on clinical matters concern how well what is said is said and whether the analysand arrives at acting in accord with his desire. As you probably know the clinical issue that is raised here concerns termination, and on that Lacan was clear in making the termination an act of the analysand; not that the analyst has nothing to say about it but that it is not he who suggests or proposes it. When we say that it is an act we mean that the verbal statement is not sufficient in itself; it must be accompanied by a change in reality. In a sense the analyst also acts, and he does so throughout the treatment process. It is his act which accepts the patient in treatment, it is his act which determines the length of the session, the amount of the fee, the number of sessions per week, and so on. Not only does he say these things, but his saying produces an effect in the real. Lacanian technique is anything but empty verbalizations, because it is not the structure of speech to be simply expressions of interior realities.
With this we may make a preliminary approach to the one affect that Lacan said was a specifically psychoanalytic issue: that being anxiety. Here it is ,not only a question of dealing with the affect, because anxiety is something that analysis should provoke. Since I do not want to summarize an unpublished seminar, I will keep my remarks brief and perhaps provocative. Lacan said that in Freud castration anxiety was the precise point where the treatment process blocked, and that therefore it is worth a rather considerable effort to grasp what is going on there. First, an example which will give you access to a paradigm for anxiety as Lacan saw it. He offered the example of little Hans and he said that if we assume that the boy's mother threatened to cut his penis off if he did not stop playing with it, that this threat in itself does not constitute anxiety. So he proposed taking things one step further. Imagine that his mother actually does cut it off, that she is holding it in her hand, and that little Hans sees his sex in his mother's hand. That is anxiety. Certainly, separation is in question, but anxiety is not separation from the mother. That experience Lacan called nostalgia; anxiety, he added, is the immanence or immediacy of the mother, her oppressive presence. You should understand that anxiety then is not, in Lacan's formulation, without an object. There is an experience of strangeness, of what in French is called disquieting strangeness, when this object is seen in a place where there is normally no such object, and this is part of the structure of anxiety. You can also see that this object is an instance of the object (a) and that from such a paradigm you can gain a reasonable idea about the structure of certain phobias. You should also understand that from such a paradigm we can draw conclusions about feminine adornment and ornamentation, especially in the sense that such instances of the object (a) may also function as fetish objects. That a man should have a certain attraction to such things is not entirely unintelligible. And if a feminine position involves deploying such objects, a woman's way of dealing with the anxiety will not be the same.
As far as the end of analysis is concerned, might we not say that the anxiety in that moment concerns precisely the fact that the analysand is going to leave something behind, a pound of flesh, if you like, and thus that he will have paid a price. The price that he will have paid is not recoverable, is not an investment which will give him some final reward or return; it is of the order of pure loss. If this is true the rather idyllic pictures we sometimes read of the end of analysis where the patient walks forth into the sunset to be healthy, wealthy, and wise are a falsification. So how does the analyst deal with this anxiety, given, at least, that we understand that self-awareness and insight are particularly impotent when facing it? And let us say that it must be dealt with by action, and that a technique that places the analyst in the position where he acts, and where his acts produce effects is certainly directed in the right sense. As far as the patient is concerned, he ought to come to see that saying things well is an ethical act, that knowing what one wants is the place that he should be, but that knowing and speaking place him under the weight of an ethical imperative to keep his word and to act according to his desire.
The idea that psychoanalysis is half affect and half language, as is commonly understood, should be reformulated. As they hear it and as they repeat it to me, it is as though one had to make a choice between affect and feeling on the one hand and language and the work of intellect on the other. They are persuaded that if you choose language you choose your affects. To me this sounds like the alternative that might be presented by the thief who walks up to you and says: Your money or your life. As Lacan pointed out this is not really a choice, because if you choose your money you lose them both. Well, it is as though certain persons were saying to analysts that they are faced with a choice of: Your affects or your language. And here the interesting thing is that if you choose your affects you lose them both, not because you will have no affects, but because without language, you won't know that any of them are yours. If you choose your language, you get your affects, only they are not the same ones as you would have had it you had chosen only them. I hope that this is sufficiently confusing to serve as a closing remark.
From: * Acts of the Paris-New York Psychoanalytic Workshop, 1988
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