Helena Texier – Anxiety and Phobia – Sign and Symptom

THE LETTER 06 (Spring 1996) pages 54-62

In the course of his seminar on The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Lacan, in answer to a question from the audience says that ‘For analysis, anxiety is a crucial term of reference, because in effect anxiety is that which does not deceive. But anxiety may be lacking’.

There is perhaps no better way of unmasking the positive face of anxiety and its role as the purveyor of truth than by way of referring to a clinical case which begins with its marked absence. And there is quite possibly no better case to serve us in that regard than the well-known case of little Dick which Melanie Klein presents in her 1930 paper The Importance of Symbol Formation in the Development of the Ego. It was this case presentation which served Klein in establishing what was to become for her the central role of anxiety as the driving force in the process of symbolisation and as the prime agent in the creation of phantasy. A discussion of the case is doubly advantageous to us here today since Lacan’s commentary on it in his 1953-54 seminar, Freud’s Papers on Technique, provides us with clues to understanding his early position with regard to anxiety, a position which can be understood as asserting that anxiety is synonymous with (and is a sign of) the unconscious.

As you will remember, the four year-old boy who first entered Mrs Klein’s room displayed absolutely no anxiety. At the same time and, as we shall see, as a consequence of this lack of anxiety, he showed no interest in anything, displayed a marked inability to handle and manipulate certain objects, comported himself in the manner of a fifteen month-old child, and displayed no wish to make himself understood, merely uttering sounds in a…

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