Issue 16 (Summer 1999)


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…

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