This issue of the letter opens with the text of one lecture given by Charles Melman at LSB college on his most recent trip to Dublin, taking addiction as its subject matter. The topic had been suggested by the prospective audience in light of the work being currently undertaken at the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies in the college, under the guidance of Rik Loose, by staff and students of the Masters programme in Addiction Studies, attempting a psychoanalytic examination of the phenomenon. Melman’s lecture serves as a starting point to orientate and ground the possibility of the treatment of addicts, a treatment which he proposes begins with a proper naming of the drug the toxicomaniac is enraptured with; his fix is the ‘sexiolytic’, it does away with sex! And, given our own nation’s long acquaintance with addiction through the phenomenon of alcoholism, it only takes a moment’s reflection to realise that this sexiolytic effect has been common knowledge for a long time, only, less elegantly, we called it ‘brewer’s droop’.
Where Melman’s article provides us with a focal point from which to begin to develop a theory of addiction in general, Huber’s article details one very particular manifestation of it, – the phenomenon of the addicted gambler, highlighting what constitutes the difference of this one from a more ordinary predilection for what we would call ‘a flutter’, – the occasional gamble. …Continue reading
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THE LETTER 16 (Summer 1999) pages 1-8
I am going to tell you things, both classical and original, having consequences for the treatment of addicts. As you know, neither Freud nor Lacan directly interested themselves in the area of addiction. Nevertheless, they have left us with a certain number of elements which will allow us to have an orientation and also to arrive at conclusions with respect to this very difficult question. I am going to start with some of the theses that Freud tackles in his famous work Mourning and Melancholia. These theses are going to tell us that we are all dependent and that we are all in a state of addiction. Secondly, I am going to try to show you the role of addiction in the field of toxicomania. And then in the third part of my presentation I am going to give you the exact name for the drug that is used by toxicomaniacs.
So the first part of the question: What does Freud teach us in Mourning and Melancholia? He shows us that there are two different types of loss. First of all there is bereavement or mourning which normally provokes a state of sadness, but which also, paradoxically, in some cases can produce phenomena of happiness, gaiety and joy. And there is another type of loss, which for its part produces a destruction of the personality, of identity, and which is called melancholia. And Freud explains for us very accurately the difference between the two. We know, thanks to psychoanalysis, that the mechanism of desire is set up in the human subject starting with a fundamental loss. For example, with what the theory calls the Oedipus complex, the child must lose the being that for him has been the closest and dearest, in order to gain access to desire…
THE LETTER 16 (Summer 1999) pages 9-26
Introduction: The Passion for Gambling
Last Wednesday was the official start of the Football World Cup 1998 – different nations such as England, Italy, Brazil, France, Germany, Argentina, Holland (just to name a few of them) are in a state of excitement. Statistics, theories, speculations, hopes and guesses are circulating: who is going to make it this time? This is the heyday of calculating and betting- not only via the official football pools, but also in innumerable private bets and estimating contests. These days, homo ludem forcefully displays an old and universal passion, the passion for gambling.
As a matter of fact, hardly any other cultural activitv can boast such a long tradition as can gaming and gambling. Board games already existed at the time of the First Dynasty in Egypt, at about 3500 B.C At around the same time the first dice were introduced, also in Egvpt. Predecessor of the die was the astragalus, the heelbone of a deer, dog or sheep. Already prehistoric cavemen kept collections of coloured pebbles and astragali, which may have been used for some kind of primitive counting and as toys. Rolling the dice, throwing sticks, pebbles or stones – all these were ancient means of organising chance events. Such ‘games of chance’, as they would be classified today, were not only played for pleasure and recreation, but also served as means of divination. Men invented mechanical random devices to consult the gods. For instance, in some primitive cultures the guilty were detected by drawing marked pieces of wood or straws of unequal length; the drawing of lots was also…
THE LETTER 16 (Summer 1999) pages 27-48
The political can also be regarded as a dimension of psychoanalysis which awaits its own development. There has been some quite serious thought on this matter and beginnings made which, however, have hardlv entered into the specificity of psychoanalysis but rather approached it from outside and regarded it, or attempted to throw light on it, from the standpoint of political philosophy, sociology, or ethology. Psychoanalysis found itself for the most part in the position of the loved one which was loved passionately but which, – after confronting something resistant or mysterious in her approach, something not amenable to conceptualisation, – was rejected with no less intensity and even perhaps being dismissed as obscurantist or simply forgotten. For some analysis was, and is, at most something like a comet in the sky which only briefly Hamed out and then immediately disappeared, but which had none of the strength, or constancy of a real star to enlighten the universe and human existence. Whether psychoanalysis is able or will ever be able to do that is something that analysts do not vet know, because their young discourse is not very far seeing and hardly any of them has found a position from which he or she could begin to answer this question. Freud and Lacan worked in this context like lonely exceptions, the one, in that he discovered and faced a new field of work , and the other in that he anchored that field of work in Western discourse and in the scientific tradition. …
THE LETTER 16 (Summer 1999) pages 49-56
In Lacan’s teaching with regard to the real and its articulation to the imaginary and the symbolic, I would like to point out some paradoxes and contradictions with respect to four aspects: (1) Starting from the symbolic; (2) impossible to penetrate; (3) the non-existence of sexual rapport; (4) the impossible in relation to the original repression.
Starting from the Symbolic
Starting from the notion of the symbolic, Lacan comments: Many things get a direction and become clear, but many paradoxes and contradictions appear (…) that are not because of this, opacities or obscurities
To avoid mere confusion with respect to the real, the first step is imposed: start from the symbolic order, because, according to Lacan, ‘it’s from there that the other orders, imaginary and real, find their place and get ordered’-” This affirmation in Seminar I is repeated in a similar way in this same Seminar and throughout Lacan’s teaching. For him, it’s not just a question of starting from the notion of the symbolic in order to clarify our work but to recognise the anteriority of the symbolic, a logical anteriority of the necessary psychic determination. If there’s no symbolic, one cannot…
THE LETTER 16 (Summer 1999) pages 57-77
For many children who experience parental suicide there is a silence, a seemingly inexplicable discontinuity in the family discourse. Following dramatic events there are also technical difficulties when working with parents and children. How can a context be created where children’s stories unfold, allowing for differences in understanding, cognition, readiness to question, to know the truth, their truth? Should the family be held together in family sessions avoiding further secrets and dysfunctional coalitions? It could promote connectedness, meaning making and offer a sense of containment. The family is the context within which the death occurred, the meaning of which will be mediated by family members. But the response to death, to what it means, is an individual experience. So while disagreeing with the notion of universal family patterns and responses, death’s meaning is mediated through self in relation to others and somewhere in the therapeutic frame, self and S\’Stem need to be addressed.
According to Pocock the link between self and system, between psychoanalysis and family systems, has to do with meaning and understanding expressed consciously and unconsciously through the narrative of plav or speech or both media It is precisely these connections which underpin work with children and parents. …
THE LETTER 16 (Summer 1999) pages 78-91
It has been argued that since Lacan’s concept of the symbolic order is phallocentric and structured according to the law of the father, that it represses the ‘truly feminine,’ and defines femininity in patriarchal terms as a consequence of lack. Whilst for the male child the entrance into the symbolic Order is characterised b\> his identity with the father or the Phallus, for the female child the experience is a negative one and characterised by her identification with lack. Lacan’s theory on the development of women remains a penis-envy theory, according to Elizabeth Grosz, although he uses social, unconscious, and linguistic explanations of the oedipal structure, in place of Freud’s phylogenetic, pseudobiological ones.
However, it is clear from Lacan’s work, with its innumerable references to the subject as ‘fading’, ‘alienated’, marked by an essential ‘lack of being’, ‘split’, possessed of an ’empty centre’, etc., that the idea of ‘lack’ is not confined to femininity. Psychoanalysis is based on a fundamental split behveen the subject and the knowledge he has of himself. Lacan’s theory of the ‘mirror stage’ (1936) showed that all notions of unity and absolute autonomy were mere illusions. The human subject will continue throughout life to look for an imaginary ‘wholeness’ and ‘unity’. There is thus a fundamental ‘alienation’ in this action.” It is within this context that one must consider Lacan’s view of women as being ‘not whole’, not existing, and so on, rather than simply regarding it as phallocentric or misogynistic. …
THE LETTER 16 Summer 1999, pages 92-126
… when one gives rise to two (quand un fait deux), there is never a return. They don’t revert to making one again, even if it is a new one. Aufhebung is one of philosophy’s pretty little dreams.
Despite its foundational orientation towards the notion of sexualitv, Freudian psychoanalysis ironically spends a scant amount of time speaking of what one is most inclined to associate with ·making love’ -that is, love itself. It is only as regards two interlinked phenomena that Freud feels compelled to address the topic of amorous sentiments. The first location where love finds a place in psychoanalysis is the dynamic of the transference. In the transference, love is merely the emotional epiphenomenon of a duped, deceived ego that misrecognises its interlocutor. The second schema to which analysis relegates love is the mechanism of object-choice. The notion of such a mechanism maintains that the individual’s personal history of loving relationships is nothing more than the repetition of a limited number of childhood refrains: ‘love consists of new editions of old traits. But this is the essential character of every state of being in love. There is no such state which does not reproduce infantile prototypes’. In both the transference and…