Testimony of the Pass in New York
Mauricio Tarrab

Nathalie Djurgberg

One day as I was taking my daily walk near my house in Buenos Aires, I found glued to a wall a small advertising that offered literature courses, with an inscription of a beautiful verse by J.L.Borges. It read:

“The story goes that in that time past
Where so many things happened
Real, imaginary and uncertain”

I bring this to mind here to locate the perspective one should have when one has concluded an analysis and is looking back, especially if one has to give a testimony that may be conveyed to one’s colleagues. One rebuilds a story with“all those real, imaginary and uncertain things” with which one has built the mortar of life. But we should also say that doing analysis and finishing it implies not only reconstructing the past and making the experience of the unconscious; it also implies the contingency, the novelty, the surprise and the unforeseen event.

I have to say that in my case, the act of speaking here in New York, in front of you, is an unforeseen event in my life. I can assure you that nothing could have led me to foresee it. The fact itself that I have to speak through this translation shows how unprepared I was for this occasion, and how I will try to show you towards the end of my speech something of my relationship as a subject of the language.

To undergo analysis is in a certain way to find the footprints that have marked us, and along this path we hope to reduce the weight of the pathos that affects our body and mind. This pathos is what we call our symptoms. The person who takes and follows this path does it because she suffers intensely in the search for knowledge or truth. Or because too much knowledge has confronted her with an unbearable truth, or because hiding the truth gives knowledge a role as buffer that is the cause of the suffering.

The beginning of the road of analysis and the progress along is marked either by the certainty of anxiety, or by the invasion of a mortifying jouissance; or by the excess work required by the need to support the neurotic symptom, or by the unbearable modulation of the pain of being; or even by the weight of the moral law.

These footprints I am referring to are the footprints of the unconscious, the footprints followed by Freud and those he taught us to follow after him. When we try to have a subject follow the path of analysis, what we try to do is to make him see in principle the footprints that his senses place in front of his eyes. These are the traces of the sexual sense that we follow with Freud, as the surest clues to mitigate the suffering of the symptom. These are the footprints of the unconscious, which in the end lead us to the footprint of trauma and its consequences. These are the footprints that lead us to the edge of the unknown, to the navel of the Freudian dream, where all the answers that can give us sense and meaning end.

Many of these footprints are erased in one’s life, but there are also footprints that never fade away. There are indelible images, unforgettable words, long-lasting events, inerasable memories, eternal feelings. In them, fiction and reality are subtly intertwined. There are also the footprints of the symptom where that same limit, that same intertwining, that same edge, are played.

In this littoral, as J. Lacan liked to say, we find in the life of each one of us the imaginary, the symbolic and the real. These are the points where language and satisfaction; where words and bodies are uniquely intertwined for each of us. This leaves footprints. In the Lacanian-oriented psychoanalysis we follow these footprints, because we think that what each one of us does in our life, the thing that somehow directs that for which we suffer, love and experience jouissance, that which is the basis of what we are, has its foundations there.

For this reason, psychoanalysis is so antinomic with our times. And that justifies talking of the path of analysis and of the end of analysis. I will illustrate this antinomy with an example of the most common occurrences of everyday life: reading a newspaper as a weekend starts in Buenos Aires.

Every Saturday morning we receive in our home, together with the usual daily newspaper, a condensed edition of the New York Times. In last month’s issue (August 18, 2007) we found an example of the direction followed by the world in an area that interests us, that is, the survival of the subject and his dignity. It is an article signed by a Benedict Carey, which describes with enthusiasm a recent experiment made by psychologists at Yale University, who altered the mind of people participating in the experiment by giving them a simple cup of coffee. The subjects of this study had no idea how their social instincts were being deliberately manipulated. On their way to the laboratory they had crossed an assistant who was carrying several objects in his hands, as well as a cup of hot or frozen coffee, which he asked them to help him with. That was enough: the students who held the cup of frozen coffee rated a hypothetical person about whom they read later on during the experiment as colder, less social and more selfish than the students who had held the cup of hot coffee just for a moment. And he goes on… New studies reveal that people clean more thoroughly when they can perceive in the air a subtle aroma of cleansing liquid… and the scientific findings continue… This is not the time to discuss the ill-fated and broadly disseminated influence of behavioral scientificisms in modern explanations of the thing that guides the lives of people.

I just have to use this to put tension into the Freudian aspiration that we continue to uphold: to enforce the particularity of each subject against the crushing tendency of subjective differences derived from experimentations such as those with coffee cups or cleaning liquids. Naive but promising for marketing experts. Psychoanalysis, in this sense, is not hypermodern. Against the banalization and the anonymity of the modern day subject, it defends this singular dimension of each person, which makes each one incomparable, that is, this singularity that cannot be taken by any experimental situation. If undergoing analysis meant only following the footprints already laid, then it would be just a new way of repetition. This has been the lost way of psychoanalysis: the way of an analyst sleuth à la Sherlock Holmes and a patient that finally finds the moment of the trauma, which reproduces the current scene and liberates the patient… Hollywood has not overcome the conception of a pre-Freudian cathartic psychoanalysis. This is not what it’s all about, because analysis itself leaves footprints, it leaves new and fresh footprints. This means that we believe that undergoing psychoanalysis can change something, let’s not be excessively enthusiastic either, it can somewhat change the subjection each one has to their identifications. You know that Freud said, “Destiny is the parents.” This was his attempt at extracting the individual destiny from the firmament and placing it among family stars, the effect of which is the Oedipical identifications fixated in childhood. With Lacan we say that identification is not destiny; which also implies certain optimism, a rare thing in this day and age. It is to say that the weight of what Lacan calls the Other, of the mark of the Other, can be twisted during psychoanalysis.

There is then the determination of identifications, but also an unfathomable decision of the subject implied in them, that has consolidated them and based on which the whole existence has been plotted, and from which the subject draws sense and satisfaction. To say that identification is not destiny also implies a way of understanding the direction of the healing that advances at the rhythm of the fall of identifications. And it is for that reason that the end of analysis is defined by Lacan as crossing the plane of identifications. Each one of us has made during our lives an interpretation, a reading with which we have built a destiny, and psychoanalysis taken to the end must sift through these footprints that, written on the body and in the Other, have left our encounters with the real, as well as the reading of what we have done with those encounters.

This is what the testimony of the pass is all about. Of this reading that a subject has made, of its oftentimes unbearable effects and of the way in which someone has been able to twist, at least a little, that destiny. In a few days, on October 9 it will be forty years since J. Lacan proposed to the School, which then was the Freudian School of Paris, to create the Pass device. In spite of the blows and crisis we all know, it is still alive.

I will give brief points to situate the fundamental steps of the analytical path.


 Going through something of the Father

Analysis had revolved around the symptomatic suffering incarnated in a sensation of menace and of being exposed to fatality, as well as certain stoppings in professional life and immobility of the body. The origin of that symptom was located only during the last analysis: paralysis—signifier of childhood horror. Childhood neurosis explained this as an early and intense phobia that had led the subject to see a psychologist at the age of 5. There he would learn something that he would realize only many years later: that the signifier marks the body and is the cause of jouissance. This encounter took place in an institution where children victims of child paralysis were rehabilitated. The phobia left vestiges in an interminable series of obsessive symptoms and the menacing idea of catching a disabling disease; and he also kept a long lasting interpretation of the mother’s wish: she wants me sick. The love for the Father and the jouissance of the Father are connected to the symptom when menace and exposure to fatality become present in the transference. We can then situate the multiple ways in which the subject had taken charge both of the suffering of the Other and of the jouissance of the Other during his life. The love for the Father seemed to include this sacrifice. Taking care of the Other organized the position it had in the ideal, it gave new meaning to the story of the efforts made and it had been quite effective in giving me a place in professional life, which can be very useful but not recommended for a psychoanalyst.

When already near the end of the analysis the essential of the fantasy was revealed, what I called in the Pass “the altruistic tale,” it would reveal itself precisely as what it was: a tale, the tale of the love for the Other, which would find its reverse in the most real of drives. The name of the Father echoed the name of the analyst, but also the jouissance of the ripper: I recognize then in analysis that my father in his collapse was a fool who ruined his life with self-torture. He wasn’t Jack the ripper, but the ripped.

The analyst ends the session and says as I leave: “Bull’s eye!” I go out moved and stroll through the city for a long while, purposelessly, until I go for dinner at a restaurant right across from the Pantheon. The Pantheon of the great dead men. A sudden and brief episode of suffocation that anguishes and is accompanied by pain in my chest leaves me the evidence that I have crossed some of the Father.


The two blows: S1 + a

A very early childhood memory situates the encounter between the body and the word of the mother. The memory takes place in elementary school and has sharp edges: there was a hallway under the staircase, a dark tunnel through which the children had to pass. I am certain that something sexual happened there… something was seen, heard, touched? The memory does not go so far. The boy exits the tunnel all exited, climbs up the staircase at a run and when he reaches the top he collapses. The essential of the memory is that the mother would later say that it was a heart murmur (In Spanish soplo al corazon).

At the end of the tale during analysis I get an interpretation: the words of your mother penetrated!!!

Sexual arousal, the collapse of the subject and the death threat are combined with the traumatizing maternal words. The maternal words touch the body, marking a destiny for any excess, excitement, or effort. It also marks certain vulnerability of the body that will be confronted with all the resources of overcompensation that obsession could offer. It leaves the footprint of this saying and the signifier murmur [soplo][1]marking the body.

This first murmur is unequivocal in its effects of jouissance, although the child could never know that it was a heart murmur. It would then have a destiny of equivocation as a result of the interpretation made by the subject.

The interpretation of the analyst begins to draw from the body the pathos that the word of the mother had introduced. This is were the position of jouissance from which the subject did nothing but read the signs that announced its connection with fatality stumbles, of what his anxiety with respect to the desire Other was an unequivocal signal.

After murmur, a dream. In the dream: I show the analyst a written report of some
medical tests I have taken. The report contains a terrible announcement. The
analyst (in my dream) reads it and says: what’s written there is not correct.
of the dream.

When I recount it in the next session I say: “in my dream you tell me that what’s written there does not have the value I have given it. Or that what’s written there is not mine.”

The analyst goes into one of his silences, he stops talking and after a little while he whispers in such a small voice that I have to make an effort not to lose the thread of his speech: “It… is… not… yours.”

End of session

After that a decisive shift takes place concerning the symptom. The interpretation shows the reading that the subject continued attributing a mortifying desire to the Other. The conclusion is that if what’s written is not mine, however the reading is, and therefore I will have to take charge of this reading and of the jouissance drawn from it.

The interpretation separates the fatality, both of the name and of what’s written, in the Other and supposedly destined to the subject, and indicates the place of the jouissance included in the same reading. The consequences of this reading that fixated both the pathos of the identification as well as the symptomatic jouissance will remain entirely on my side.

The relief is striking. Something essential of the burden of the mortification has been lifted.


The logical moment of the pass: the second murmur [soplo]

Although I am immediately asked how to end the analysis, two more years would be necessary to allow me to move away from what I was holding on to and to cross the shocking evidence that the Other is a hole, before finding, as J. Lacan says: “the good hole through which to come out.”

At the end of the last session of a series and after telling my analyst that I couldn’t find a way out, and that he was going to have to listen to me a little bit more, I bought a beautiful book of Chinese calligraphy. I had always felt attracted by this aesthetics that shows how letters are divorced from the senses, and I was not indifferent to the fact that it was a book by Francois Cheng, for his relationship with Lacan. I bought the book, I put it in my suitcase and I went on a trip.

The title of the book contains a word whose translation I did not know, it was a word in French that for me had only a culinary sound, and which remained unknown until one day when, already in Buenos Aires, I looked it up in the dictionary, and then the translation hit me. The title of the book was: Et le souffle devient signe.

Souffle: breath.

Immediately a memory precipitates the construction of the fantasy. It is the memory of an episode in the life of my Father, who in his childhood almost died of a pulmonary disease and who, in order to recover the use of his lungs had to blow into the chamber of a football.

To be the breath that the Father lacked. The formula identifies the being of the subject and defines the object. This second breath shows how the logic of the Name of the Father retook that first breath, a footprint written in the body. To encourage the Other, to blow in the hole of the Other was the matrix of the fantasy that I could then build.

One memory almost showed it to the letter: when the father took a nap the child would lie next to him, attentive to his breathing, in a game where he tried to synchronize his breathing to that of his father, always vigilant that it did not stop. To be the breath of the father is the side name of the father, of that which penetrated in the body through the word of the mother. Illuminating the fantasy would then situate the “I am that” in a blunt manner. But it also showed that in addition to the determination of this identification, there had been an unfathomable decision of the subject that became evident then. A decision to be that breath had given consistency to this identification of which meaning—all the meaning possible—and satisfaction had been drawn. It became then completely evident how an entire existence had been plotted from this decision.

What I have just described is the logical moment of the pass. It is the moment when, in a flash you catch the fantasy framework that had until then sustained all the significations of one life. In that moment we perceive this construction of the fantasy and at the same time this fantasy solution is eclipsed, loses its value, falls. That where the subject, without knowing, affirmed his being falls and one is left in a bind similar to the one described by Lacan that has a fish with an apple; it does not know what to do with it.

To be the breath that the Other lacked… on the one hand we have situated the place where the being of the subject was sustained, but at the same time we can see the dimension of the object that is now situated: breath.

We see then how the neurotic solution of the subject was built around of the signifier breath that now is unfolded. The first breath, “footprint written in the body by the word of the mother,” corporization of the signifier that is the matrix of the symptom and the background of the enigma of the desire of the Other and the second breath articulated to the Father, which allowed the metaphorical replacement of the DM.

A breath, to put it this way, on the side of the symptom, the other breath on the side of the fantasy.

Breath 1 Breath 2

DM ←←← NP

Symptom fantasy

S1 + a

It’s a limit point in the analytical experience. It is the limit point where a field that is beyond the Oedipus begins. Breath 1 signifier enters the body through the word of the mother and breath 2 linked to the Name-of-the-Father are the source of the meaning and the signification. Now, after crossing this, the ties to the Other, to knowledge, to the Other sex, to the partner and to the analyst will be redefined. There, the subject is no longer represented and the Other is a hole where the path of the drive will be articulated.

This path would reveal a circuit between keeping quiet and being heard and certain proximity between the respiration (the breath) and the voice. The object then slips from the breath and the word supported by the respiration that goes through and on the other side the muting that closes the mouth in the jouissance of the drive around the vacuum of which the voice resounds. This is how I can situate today, very briefly, the statute of object a in my case, that is found in this limit between the body and the Other, between the sonority and the sense.

This logical moment of the pass ends with a pass symptom and a dream. The symptom was fleeting, but quite worrisome. It was an acute difficulty in understanding what I was hearing, a sort of sensitive or receptive aphasia. I could hear, but sometimes I could not understand. You can imagine the repercussions of such a deficit. The exaggerated worry caused at that moment by the fact that a small and very close child could not completely master the language, led me to decipher this symptom and contributed to its dilution much more than consultations with specialists. It wasn’t a loss of hearing but of the critical limit between the sense and the absence of sense, between the sonority and the sense, which presented itself symptomatically. It had its problematic and disquieting side, but it was also funny, when I perceived that I did not understand well especially when the person speaking was a woman.

In turn, the dream was a dream that alludes to logic, to language and to the job of reduction of the unconscious: “I have to take a Latin test. The words can be clearly seen written in a page, but I don’t know what they mean or what I am expected to do with them.”It is a disconcerting dream because I never learned Latin and however I am compelled to take this test.

It was only recently with the device of the pass that I could better understand the question. Indeed, the Latin test is the analysis, but the analysis insofar as it reduces the fundamental signifier of the subject to a senseless registry. And on the other hand it shows the position of disconcert in which I found myself, on the edge of the end, against those senseless signifiers already reduced by the work of the unconscious.

In another part of this dream, as the symptom I recently mentioned, shows the ultimate resistance, or in other words the primary and autoerotic rejection of the Other, the language of the Other, the heterogeneity which dissolves in the kingdom of object a. This also shows the limit of what can be drawn from the signifier. And what is drawn from there is the object: breath, voice which will no longer be left in the hands of the Other, that the subject will rather take with it without sacrificing the cause of its desire to the Other.

It is the limit of the Freudian unconscious, of the deciphering and of the history. During the stretch that goes from the end of the analysis to the Pass, a stretch that I will not mention today, we confirm the installation of a new regimen of satisfaction, already outside the fantasy where otherwise the object of the drive and the real that is isolated would become entwined, as well as the Other and the partner.

The final reduction of the symptom to a sign introduced there a certain displacement that implies not being left at the mercy of the hole that opens in front of the inexistence of the Other. This implies recovering and using the object and the symptom in another way and to keep a certain distance from the symptom reduced to a sign, which is left at the end. What is left is the writing of those fragments of real and another use of the blow. Which I could write as follows:  Blow = symptom



[1] 1 T.N.: the word soplo in Spanish can be translated, depending on the context as murmur, blow, breath



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