It is now a common thing to say that Psychoanalysis was born, that Psychoanalysis was invented by the hysteric. Psychoanalysis was not born around melancholia, nor psychosis. Not even around perversions. Psychoanalysis is the greatest contribution made to the history of thought by the hysteric. The 'praise of the hysteric' has been pointed out and rightfully so, as she is a discoverer. Only on the condition that we do not fall into her trap.
Psychoanalysis began with hysteria insofar as the hysteric creates a desire through her symptom while at the same time inducing someone else to express it for her. The trap is for the analyst to respond effectively as the one who knows, as the one who knows what her desire is, as the one who knows what sex is.
When Freud insists on telling Dora whom she wants, what she wants, when he insists on setting himself up as the one who knows what Dora wants; then the analysis fails. It fails because it was actually Freud's desire of what he wanted Dora to desire. But because he was Freud, that is to say, a man with a remarkable mind as well as with a passion to conquer enigmas, he was able to recognize his failure and to address the enigmas, he was able to recognize his failure and to address the enigma that appears when one discovers that a woman does not naturally and simply 'want a man.'
Thus in a letter to Abraham, Freud confessed that the feminine aspect of the problem was extraordinarily dark for him. Freud used to refer to feminine sexuality as the 'dark continent', meaning as I understand it, that somewhat mute, unexplored and virginal territory. Women do not seem to be uncomplicated beings, neither do they seem easy to please. They will not grant their secrets too easily or too willingly. This led Freud to wonder, to ask himself as well as others the question of: "What does a woman want?" Does she want a man, does she want his penis, does she want his name, does she want his child, does she want her mother, or even... does she want herself?
Thus Freud formulates the enigma that women pose to men in terms of desire.
Lacan, in a way that can be said to be strictly Freudian, proposes the articulation of another question. Lacan will propose to us that the access to our being lies within the formulation of a question. If the question that concerns that lack will discover the 'thing' that is missing, the illusion of having it, will, on the other hand, propose the question of how not to lose it. In having a penis men can sustain a phallic illusion with which to cover their lack. Thus their concern does not regard the 'what' of sex inasmuch as they can always define it around the phallic appendage.
Rather, the question concerning the masculine position can be articulated as follows: "How can a man have the phallus without killing his father or being castrated by him?"
If man's question is articulated in terms of "how", "how to be a man," the question in the case of woman concerns "what." "What does it mean to be a woman?"
"What does it mean to have a sex when one does not have a phallus?" "From where can one love?"
"Whom can one love?"
These questions which occur throughout Dora's case give this analysis a privileged position. One can take this case as the paradigmatic example in the conflicted access to the so-called 'feminine identity.' The question regarding femininity brings onto the scene the enigma of sex, insofar as this enigma is formulated from the place of a phallic lack. One could say that Freud worked with Dora as if she were already a woman, only one who had lost her direct road to femininity and therefore could not come to terms with her desire for man. So he made it impossible for her to pose the question of femininity. If Lacan reformulates Dora's case in terms of the question each woman will have to face, it is because he understood our sexual identity as something which is not born with us. Being a woman or being a man is the mark left upon us as the result of our journey through the Oedipus Complex and Castration Complex.
What Psychoanalysis shows us is that our sexuality is not natural or predetermined in biology, that biological certainties are lost. As spoken beings, as parletre, what characterizes us is that our sexuality marks us from the outside. Sexuality is spoken, and we pass through the binary oppositions of the symbolic system of language. The real of sex appears always as an enigma, inasmuch as we are animals oppressed by language, and it is only through language that each of us can know who he is and who the other is. One can even say that sex in itself does not have a sex. Because if sex had a sex ... women would just naturally walk towards men and vice-versa. This does not seem to be the case; rather the access to our own sex requires an inevitable and indispensable mediation through an other and an Other. If it were otherwise, why would we need the transmission of knowledge and the awakening through seduction?
If sexuality is mediated through an Other. What then, does Frau K mean to Dora? Was Frau K like a mother to Dora? On what grounds could one say that Frau K was like a mother to Dora? Surely not because Dora wanted to be fed by her.
Finally, what does a mother mean to a daughter?
One could say that what Dora sought in Frau R, as a daughter would seek in a mother, was what she was unable to find in her own mother, that is, a woman.
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