Issue 23 (Autumn 2001)


This issue of THE LETTER continues along the same route as our previous issue, bringing the reader a selection of papers which, although gathered together from as near as the heart of Dublin and from as far away as Beijing in China, criss-cross their way over the same territory.

Hubert Van Hoorde’s work, presented in Dublin earlier this year during APPI’s Clinical Seminar Series 2001-02, opens this collection of articles. Concerning the possibilities for dialogue between the fields of psychoanalysis and psychiatry, it served us well in provoking what was a serious and at times heated debate, a preparation for the forum that this year’s November congress will provide in the section devoted to what I think Van Hoorde would describe as ‘the approach of the Hedgehogs’.
Following on this are three papers, which were initially presented in April of this year during the 2001 International Symposium on psychoanalytic Research (ISPR) at Beijing University Health Science Centre.

In Franck Chaumon’s contribution, a thoughtful account of early short circuits/fixations of the drive, particular attention is paid to the mother-child relation when the child in question is a female. (A sort of return of the real to China). Picking up on Freud’s account of the strength and the conflict in the girl’s relation to her mother, he underlines one particular outcome, what he calls the revival of ‘an ancient product of the drive’, where it is a question of producing not a child from the father but a child for the mother. … Continue reading

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THE LETTER 23 (Autumn 2001) pages 1-21

Car Vexactitude se distingue de la verite, et la conjecture n’exclut -pas la rigueur.

Jacques Lacan


A century after the appearance of psychoanalysis in the field of the medical clinic and science its position is not easy to define: received with enthusiasm, it is also equally enthusiastically rejected and maliciously misunderstood. To be more precise, in psychiatric circles it is ‘good form’, often on the basis of an extremely simplistic, not to say caricatured conception of psychoanalysis, to deny its right to exist in the clinical field and to relegate it with well-meaning misunderstanding to the ‘general culture’ box in which, to the right-minded scholar, literary theories, hermeneutics, philosophy, theology and suchlike belong. Nevertheless, general psychiatry makes eager use of a watered-down version in which a few vaguely recognizable psychoanalytic concepts are to be found and for a number of patients – sometimes as the last remedy – the address of an analyst is dug up out of the drawer. Yet psychiatrists – often the same…

THE LETTER 23 (Autumn 2001) pages 22-32

Precocious impasses in the drive’s link to the mother are common occurrences in child care. Rather than acting as the privileged vector to an outside world, ensuring the subject’s inscription in the field of the grand Autre, the big Other, the drive fixates and encloses itself in a vicious and unproductive circle. An object – whether it be the breast, faeces, the voice, or look – takes on a value of exclusivity, either because it becomes the choice object, or because it is the impossible object. From that moment on it will be as if the loop that the drive makes from the child to his mother, around the partial object (Lacan’s objet petit a), has been interrupted, or closed in on itself.

This is the case, for example, in certain forms of child psychosis, where mother and child seem to blend into one, in an exclusive, imperious and limitless drive exchange. This is particularly present in the field of the oral drive, where the insanity of the drive relationship manifests itself, above all, in violent anorectic opposition. However, it is equally present in the anal drive, where maternal demands can be devastating. The object at stake effaces everything else, and the mother, indeed the whole family, rotates around the child’s meals (which can take up most of the day), or sessions in the toilet, where the child’s product becomes everybody’s sole preoccupation. Sometimes there is recourse to physical violence, with force-feeding, or active extractions. It is noteworthy that generally the first reaction of those who witness these scenes – care professionals in particular – is often to attempt to separate mother and child, in an effort to break up this union which seems so incestuous. What provokes such a…

THE LETTER 23 (Autumn 2001) pages 33-42

Based on a cure of a diabetic adolescent who refuses to take her medicine correctly, we will show how psychoanalysis allows this patient to free herself of blocks associated with the medical discourse.

The function of repetition will be highlighted through two series of recurring dreams; the link between repetition and enjoyment (puissance) will also be examined. Furthermore, this paper will call attention to the way psychoanalysis brings to light a subjects identifications, allowing him to set his sights on his desire by getting rid of certain symptoms which sign away his future.

In France there are health centers for children and adolescents, called Medico Psycho Pedagogico Centers. I am the Medical-director of one of them located in Morsang sur Orge, a town near Paris. We give consultations to young people who are having problems, whether those difficulties concern language, writing, learning to read, or, psychological suffering or behavior problems. The young people are sent to us by teachers, doctors and also by their parents. From time to time an adolescent will come directly to us of his own accord. The staff is made up of speech therapists, psychomotor therapists, psychologists and doctors, the two latter groups having gone through analytical training in our center. …

THE LETTER 23 (Autumn 2001) pages 43-62

Pascals Wager … to which, from my Rome report on, I indicated that instead of a thousand other futile occupations, psychoanalysts should turn their gaze.


Putting the title in this way is meant to reflect two things. First, that Jacques Lacan is unequivocal in his assertion that the work of Blaise Pascal, and in particular his Wager, is of ‘inestimable value’ for the psychoanalyst. And second, that it is not at all clear – not to me and not to anyone I have read – why he thinks that the seventeenth century genius should have so much to offer to a praxis that saw the light of day almost 250 years after his death. In fact, as he presents the Wager, Lacan feels the need to protest that it is not out of date, that he is not lending his support to a piece of religious obscurantism, but is restoring to its proper place one of the most extraordinary intellectual feats that has ever been undertaken.

A striking aspect of Lacan’s teaching is his use of major historical turning points in the subjectivity of Western man as a way of understanding the fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis. For example: transference love is illuminated by Plato’s Symposium; the o-object by the look in Velasquez’s Las Meninas; the tragedy of desire by Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But to none of these creative moments did he accord the explicit…

THE LETTER 23 (Autumn 2001) pages 63-76

This paper represents an attempt to unpack some of the key elements in Lacan’s seminar on Anxiety in the context of three clinical examples. My exploratory focus will be on the points at which anxiety appears in each case as it is framed by and within the field of the specular image via the scopic and invocatory drives; the ways in which anxiety becomes narrated as moments at which the formations of the unconscious are made immanent; and, the movements/articulations/actions made by each client which implicate the correlation between the affect and its effect. Commensurate with this focus will be a serious engagement with the particular ways in which anxiety is caught up with ‘m-other-ing’.

Lacan has drawn our attention on manifold occasions to the function of the mother as the first big Other in terms of the structural development of the subject. While this aspect of the mother will be pertinent to my discussion, I am also interested in creating a condition for the understanding of the mother subject as she is caught up with her own child-as-subject and who functions as an Other in whom the specular image of secondary narcissistic identification is operational. In other words, I will be arguing that the child subject can act upon the mother’s subjectivity akin to Lacan’s praying mantis2 as the voracious desirer in the face of whose desire the mother asks ‘what kind of an object am I for their desire?’ and, ‘what do they want of me?’. In addition but in complementarity, the mother is caught up with an entire world of specular images whose gaze falls upon her ability to mother, and as such bring into play questions of the mother’s relation to desire and the law. …

THE LETTER 23 (Autumn 2001) pages 77-95

In contemporary Lacanian theory, one of the accepted ideas is that there exists such a thing as the perverse structure of the subject, alongside the better-known neurotic and psychotic ones. Perverse structure means that there exists a perverse relationship between subject, Other and lack. Lacan himself did not publish all that much on this subject, and in matters of treatment, his publications are even more rare. His most quoted saying teaches us that:

The whole problem of the perversions consists in conceiving how the child, in relation to the mother, a relation constituted in analysis not by his vital dependence on her, but by his dependence on her love, that is to say, by the desire of her desire, identifies himself with the imaginary object of this desire in so far as the mother herself symbolizes it in the phallus.

The link to Freud is obvious, that is, the denial of castration, although Lacan adds something to it, by focusing on the part played in this by identification. The perverse subject is the one that identifies itself with the imaginary phallus of the Other.

If we want to understand this difficult characterisation, we have to turn to clinical praxis. And there we meet with lack again, although this time it’s a rather more mundane one. Clinical experience with perverse subjects seems to be lacking; there are not that many case studies to which we can turn. Does this mean that perverse structure as such is rather rare? I think that this is not the case, on the contrary even. As far as I am…

THE LETTER 23 (Autumn 2001) pages 96-108

In the extreme, life is what is capable of error. Error is at the root of what makes human thought and its history. The opposition of true and false, the values we attribute to both, the effects of power that different societies and different institutions link to this division – even all this is perhaps only the latest response to this possibility of error which is intrinsic to life. If the history of science is discontinuous, that is if it can be analyzed only as a series of ‘corrections’, as a new distribution of true and false which never finally once and for all liberates the truth, it is because there, too, ‘error’ constitutes not overlooking or delaying a truth but the dimension proper to the life of man and to the time of the species.

Almost a year ago, Cormac Gallagher took as a starting point for an overview of Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality the anonymous, unattributed assertion that Foucault had cut the ground from under psychoanalysis. This assertion was not contexrualized, and was neither proven nor disproved by the article, which went on in an interesting manner to outline the central arguments of this remarkable but unfinished work. At the end of the overview, the author returns to the original, anonymous and unsubstantiated assertion and opines not unreasonably…

THE LETTER 23 (Autumn 2001) pages 109-125


Experience indicates that patients often enter into analysis with the complaint that they can’t manage to do the things they want to do; they feel reluctant or unable to act within one or more domains of life, notably in fields such as love and work. According to Freud in Analysis Terminable and Interminable, analysis often – but not always – results in overcoming these kinds of inertias.

In this paper we will discuss inhibitions as an obsessional strategy for dealing with desire. Like other obsessional neurotic symptoms, for example compulsions, inhibitions have a structural function in the obsessional strategy of denying desire. Along this line of reasoning both the absence of activity (inhibition) and excess of it (compulsion) are attempts at avoiding a confrontation with desire. Desire is an issue the obsessional neurotic puts under a taboo.

Furthermore, we will contrast inhibitions, which are typical for obsession, with symptoms, which are typical for hysteria. Symptoms always express a struggle with a desire the subject tries to ignore. The subject tries to ignore a desire, but this strategy fails since the repressed impulse continuously returns. Inhibitions are a much more radical attempt to efface desire as such, and at a more fundamental level they are an attempt to erase the drive. Inhibitions are attempts to nip desire and drive in the bud and as such are exercises in control. …

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