Editorial, Issue 4


Psychoanalysis bears witness to the unhappy reality that underpinning the subject of knowledge is a radical yearning for ignorance. Who should want to know that moment in suspense where the person comes to the meaning of his existence, if it is trauma in its different guises which fires us? The subject-in-suffering is bom when the object is lost and so we are all products of that moment and in that sense too each of us may be said to have a good wound, to paraphrase Aristotle.

The question of trauma is what unites the various authors in this edition of The Letter although of course they never intended it………………………

This issue covers quite a range of traumatic experiences both implicit and explicit, thereby demonstrating how the particular is linked in an inexorable way to the universal and vice versa.

The absolute loss from which the subject appears in the Symbolic is the theme of Guy Le Gaufey’s paper. Implicit in Le Gaufey’s argument is that the object a creates a space of illusion where even trauma itself can be borne with fortitude because of the metonymical links with the past, present and future of the subject.

Thanks to the phantasy and the object, the subject does not always have to rely on the goodwill of the Other. Helena Texier, however, shows how, at a stage further removed the Symbolic Order is that potential locus of trauma for the infant, in that the very guarantee of his being is attributable to the Other who may or may not create a space for him to acceed to his position.

The father’s role is essential in holding the fragile function of subjectivity together and Aisling Campbell’s case history is evidence of how trauma ensues every time an encounter with the Other has no father to support it. Consequently, when the flaw appeared, this person’s relationship with the signifier was put into question. The Symbolic order, already very fragile for him, did not seem to allow him space to stake his position. That which could not be said was repeated and so he left the analytic space.

Claus Dieter Rath shows how a language-structure (in this case National Socialism) can impose its will and ensure that there is nothing missing, – the traumatic Thing will have been covered over because, as Rath argues, where lalangue is elided everything and everyone will become uniform, which is another way of saying nothing extraordinary has happened here.

In the case of Lady Macbeth that which happened is the trauma of rupturing the mother/child bond as Ann Hanrahan explains. The curse and the glory of the human condition is neatly summed up by that other great dame of Shakespearean drama, Cleopatra, as we testify to the very struggle of the trauma winding its way towards articulation.

If lack is one possible foundation-stone of trauma then Gerry Sullivan describes clearly that this not-wanting-to-know-anything-about-it is what characterises capitalism as a social and economic system. Within this framework the bourgeois phantasy comes to cover up this fundamental contradiction.

Liberato Santoro, in a Hegelian reading of eating disorders, points out that underlying the distorted self image which haunts the subject may lurk the ghost of some intersubjective trauma.

Martin Stanton details Ferenczi’s journey through traumatic processes, from the trail left on the very body, as the traumatic intrusion structures itself, to the deciphering necessary for a reading of such an event.

Claude Dumézil describes the child’s concrete encounter with language as a traumatism of which we can name primal repression the corollary. The implicit vocation for the subject then is to call out from the silence a speech which will be an act. In this way the analytic setting can be a frame which will allow the person to walk the corridors of his own particular trauma so that the Symbolic can lie safely and patiently in wait.

The Symbolic has indeed called forth these papers as many of them were delivered to members of APPI at St. Vincent’s School of Psychotherapy, – hopefully a sign that the writing will continue!

Helen Sheehan

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