Olga Cox-Cameron – The Psychoanalytic Act

THE LETTER 18 (Spring 2000) pages 47-54

I doubted my own existence, and even today, I have no faith in it, none, so that I have to say, when I speak, Who speaks, and seek and so on, and similarly for all the things that happen to me and for which someone has to be found, for things that happen must have someone to happen to, someone must stop them.

The speaker here is the voice in Beckett’s Unnamable. It is not just that things that happen must have someone to happen to , someone to lock on to, but also, as the voice says, someone must stop them. How? Earlier the voice spoke of his vice-existors, Murphy, Mahood, Worm etc. as those old buffers who carried a mere tittle of his own pain, the tittle as he says, that he thought he could put from him in order to witness it. It is this gesture of putting from one, this installation of the lying old buffer of our fictional identity, which is absent in the passage à l’acte.

In the Seminar on The Psychoanalytic Act, Lacan refers to a particular type of absence as constitutive not just of the passage à l’acte but of any act: ‘It is a common dimension of the act not to include in its agency the presence of the subject’, he says. This statement is repeated at a number of points throughout the seminar. In fact Lacan specifically says that this is what the psychoanalytic act and the passage a Vacte have in common; this fact of knowing ‘that in every act there is something which escapes him as subject’.

Lacan’s fascination with the act has a long history. Indeed his very first incursion into psychoanalytic theory, the doctoral thesis of 1932, had been motivated by his desire to come to grips with the passage a Vacte. His patient Aimee had committed a crime of passion which bore all the hallmarks of a passage à l’acte and Lacan’s thesis suggested that the root cause of this crime was to found in Aimee’s relationship with her elder…