THE LETTER 26 (Autumn 2002) pages 109-119
At the beginning of his teaching, what motivates Lacan is, according to his own saying, ‘to clear away the imaginary, which was too prevalent in technique’1. Since post-Freudian theory and technique revolve around the axis of the ego and its resistance, Lacan seeks to define the respective domains of the symbolic and the imaginary within analytic practice. One of the crucial topics underlying Lacan’s elaboration of the agencies of the ego and the subject of the unconscious throughout his first seminars concerns the question of the way to deal with the ego-defences within clinical practice. To put it bluntly: can one interpret the ego-defences? Following Freud, Lacan demonstrates that the interpretation of the ego defences is a technique that just doesn’t work.
The agency of the ego: Freud and Lacan
Picking up and radicalising Freud’s work, Lacan splits Freud’s concept of the ego in two, into the subject and the ego. Lacan calls the ego the ‘mental illness of man,’ for it is synonymous with resistance in psychoanalysis.2 More precisely, the ego functions like a resistance operating against the analysis of the subject of the unconscious. As for the…