Anything Goes

New York / A Report on the Clinical Study Days 9 – Must Do It! New Forms of Demand in Subjective Experience /

March 18-20, 2016, participants of the Freudian Field traveled from such places diverse and distant as Los Angeles, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Connecticut, Omaha, Columbia, Dallas, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Miami, Buenos Aires, London, Canada, Marseille, Paris and Ghent to New York City for the Clinical Study Days, which took place at the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis (NPAP). This being the 9th Clinical Study Days organized under the auspices of the Lacanian Compass, the Study Days took as its theme Must Do It!: New Forms of Demand in Subjective Experience in an effort to map out new forms of demand and the Super-ego in the 21st century.

Under this imperative, three lectures given by two guest speakers, Marie-Hélène Brousse and Pierre-Gilles Guéguen, served as a conceptual and theoretical reference throughout the weekend. Furthermore, these references were set in relation to the clinical practice of psychoanalysis in the 21st century as articulated by twelve case constructions presented by twelve clinicians, each with a discussant.

Anything Goes

The first lecture of the weekend, “Anything Goes: The Imperative of Jouissance in a Society of Permissiveness,” was given by Marie-Hélène Brousse at Fordham College at Lincoln Center on the evening of March To commence, Brousse foregrounded the discussion by citing two essential axioms: There is no sexual rapport (Il n’y a pas de relation sexuel), derived from Lacan’s late teaching; and There is something of the One (Y a de l’Un), emphasized by Jacques-Alain Miller’s note published on the back cover of Seminar XIX. The first would act to orient “The Imperative of Jouissance in a Society of Permissiveness” and the second “The Rise of the Ego in the Era of the One-all-alone.” As for the references, Brousse cited three, serving not only for the talk, but for the weekend: Jacques Lacan’s “Note on the Father” delivered at the Congress of L’École de la Cause freudienne (Strasbourg, 1968), “A Fantasy: Conference of Jacques-Alain Miller in Comandatuba” (IV Congress of the WAP: 2004), and Lacan’s formulation of the Capitalist’s Discourse. Taken together, these references set forth the coordinates of the father’s disappearance, the father as a process of naming linked to hierarchy, and furthermore, locate what in the evolution of the Master’s Discourse, at the moment of the vanishing of the father, has taken the place of the S1 as agent. Indeed, in the era of Anything Goes, it is none other than the object a, with the consequence, as Miller names it, of the Master’s Discourse today taking the form of the Analyst’s Discourse.

The first consequence Brousse identified in relation to the father’s disappearance, as afore defined, is the rise of the imperative on one hand and permissiveness on the other, “it may be a paradox, but its not a contradiction.” Turning to the linguists, imperative can be defined alternatively as order, command, demand, generally not an interdiction, and definitively as an act of language. In this way, on the side of imperative, Brousse situated: Super-ego, Command, Voice, and on the out-side of the side of the imperative:

Demand (SàD), and Will. On the side of prohibition, we find: Ego-ideal, the law, statements, and on the out-side of the side of prohibition: Desire as signified of the law. Thus, citing Lacan in Kant avec Sade (1963), Brousse identified the necessary distinction between will as not necessarily unconscious and desire as always unconscious, emphasizing two different modes of eroticization, two different modes of jouissance. Will is linked to a position of enunciation in the particular and the object of voice, while eroticization in desire is linked to the subversion of barriers and has to do with the universal. Relying on Miller’s reference, Brousse states: “Kant’s moral law is the attempt to universalize the imperative of the Super-Ego.”

Nowadays, it is the imperative that is far more present in everyday discourse than the law, and so Brousse asked: “What changes on the clinical side?” In response, she cited two key indications. First, permissiveness, i.e. the weakening of the laws, is the condition of the rise of the Super-ego, “not only are they not contradictory, they are complementary.” Second, a new form of symptom is taking more and more importance in psychopathology today and that is addiction. Addiction is the new form of the symptom in the era of the rise of the Super-ego and is determined far more by the object although it maintains something of the signifier and the image. It has the weight of the real. With addiction, there is no dependency: not dependent on sex, not dependent on love, but only on the object. The imperative saves you from dependency making you into a slave of the object, but free from all else.
The Freudian Super-ego and the Lacanian Super-ego

The second lecture of the weekend, “The Freudian Superego and the Lacanian Superego,” was given by Pierre-Gilles Guéguen at NPAP on the morning of March 19th. Guéguen commenced by commenting on Freud’s “The Ego and the Id,” the text which introduced the second topography. Guéguen, following a comment of James Strachey, highlighted that Freud wrote this text under the pressure of redefining the psychoanalytic meaning of the unconscious. Is it only the repressed or does it coincide with the drive? Guéguen emphasized that there is a hesitance in Freud to disarticulate the Ego-ideal from the Super-ego, which we see Freud construct along two dimensions. With the first, the Super-ego is understood as a part of the ego that permits or rejects the drives; thus triggering moral censorship and unconscious guilt. Second, Guéguen underlined the dimension of the Freudian Super-ego’s entanglement with the law of the father and the Oedipus Complex. The first identification which is an identification with the father, has two forms, that of the idealized father and that of the father who prohibits and enforces the law of incest. In early Lacan, as early as Seminar I, Guéguen noted that we already find references to the Super-ego as imperative, “which is so severe that it is an insane law that goes as far as having a disregard for itself,” and as “a ferocious and obscene figure.” It refers to a father that says ‘No!’ up to a point of a masochistic jouissance. Given that, Guéguen inquired ‘what is the right position of the analyst in the treatment?’

Guéguen stressed that interpretation is more compatible with the position of the analyst as the Ego-ideal rather than as the Super-ego. This is why it is important to radically distinguish the Ego-ideal from the Super-ego. The Ego-ideal includes a large part of the imaginary which is not to be disregarded, taking into account what Jacques-Alain Miller calls, “the equality of the consistencies.” The Super-ego pertains to the symbolic register only and leads to a mortification of the libido, commanding the subject to sacrifice jouissance, which we translate today as the concept of division. The divided subject does not work in its own interests, but rather works against itself. We see this division already in Freud through the conceptualization of Eros and Thanatos. Freud was the first to declare that there are always symptomatic remainders in analysis. Lacan proposed to turn the impasse at the end of treatment into a solution, relying on an identification to the symptom, once its most florid manifestations have been reduced. We call this reduction le sinthome. As Guéguen noted, “the problem that the Super-ego raises for the analyst is to measure how the drive may be civilized, promote a social bond, and to prevent the process of segregation… Psychoanalysis above all constitutes an experience of Ethics.” From ‘Must not do it!’ to ‘Must do it!’ both commandments can have the same effect of conveying death. It is not enough to acknowledge that the authority of the father has declined and that the globalization of the world, in particular the advance of digital technology, has produced a liquid society. As Lacan emphasized, “The unconscious is political. The unconscious is transindividual” (1967). Miller returned to this reference twice in his course of “The Divine Details” (1989) and “The Experience of the Real in Psychoanalysis” (1999).

In the last section of Guéguen’s talk, Freud the dualist vs Lacan the monist, Guéguen relied upon Miller’s reference published under the title “Lacanian Biology,” where the latter he demonstrates that Lacan discarded the dualist conception of the drive and took a strong stand for a monist conception of the libido. In Lacan’s teaching, the death drive disappears as a concept with the ascendancy of the axiom of the absence of the sexual relation. Two other monist categories will be developed in Lacan’s post-structuralist period ¾ one being the discourse in Seminar XVII and the other being le sinthome, substituting the binary fantasy-symptom in the classic period of Lacan. These conceptual innovations prevent psychoanalysis from becoming fossilized and admit the ways in which the relationship between psychoanalysis and society has changed. As Guéguen elaborated, “jouissance is not imposed on us by an internal sexual drive as much as it is by the unending solicitations of the market, advertising, business, and all the attempts to persuade us to augment and modify our bodies.” Words and images enter our bodies producing all kinds of affects and there is a new relationship between the signifier and the body. In its former conception, purely formalist, the signifier elevates some bodily part to the level of the signifier and there is some jouissance that is elevated to the status of the symbol. But Miller suggests that, “the other question raised by the late Lacan is the reverse of this operation of symbolization, it is the operation of corporealization.” It concerns the way signifiers and knowledge enter the body and produce jouissance. This is why Miller moves to discuss porn in his introduction to the 10th Congress. From Seminar XX on, Lacan will call affect the bodily affect of the signifier, which designate affects of jouissance. Affect is something that disturbs the function of the living body.

The Rise of the Ego in the Era of the One-all-alone

The third lecture of the weekend, “The Rise of the Ego in the Era of the One-all-alone,” was given by Marie-Hélène Brousse at NPAP on the morning of March 20th. Proceeding from the rising concern with identity politics in contemporary American discourse, Brousse differentiated between identity (gender, race, etc.) and the psychoanalytic concept of identification of which there are three modes: the unary trait (trait unaire; einziger zug), the hysterical one, and the identification with the symptom. Both identity and identification have to do with a common point, even if they are not the same, and touch immediately on the question of the semblant, although for centuries we have been thinking that nature gave us our identities. The dimension of the imaginary, and the power of the image, is something which is Real. When Lacan introduced the mirror stage, his reference for the image is that it is Real. There is the Real included in the dimension of the Imaginary, just as the Real is included in the Symbolic. The Real is also to be treated at the level of the Real of the Real.

The axiom There is something of the One (Y a de l’Un) developed by Miller in his presentation of Seminar XIX is precisely not that there is One, the logic of the paternal exception. The relationship of this kind of One (Y a de l’Un) doesn’t have to do with the symbolic function but with the body. In this way, Brousse, relying on Lacan’s reference on pg. 126 of Seminar XIX published in French, says: There is something of the One (Y a de l’Un) is in relation to the body of each subject. Firstly, this definition of the One has to do with the body image that makes One out of the fragmented body, and secondly, emphasizes the importance of belief going back to the Cartesian cogito. Lacan emphasizes that it is because you have a body that you can have a belief that you are One, when as far as the subject is concerned, the main point is how does it divide itself. There is something of the One (Y a de l’Un) is precisely a belief as there is no such thing as immediate identity. Thirdly, if it is a belief in relation with the One operated by the power of the image, this belief lacks, for example, in the experience of psychosis. This One related to the body image needs to be believed in order to exist and function. In order to get the feeling that you are, “I am,” you have to necessarily believe what the mirror stage provides you, which is two-dimensional. It’s because you believe that you are One that you think you have a being. “I am” is a consequence of that belief.
Brousse then proceeded to construct the relationship from the One to the body, and from the body to the ego. There is something of the One (Y a de l’Un) implies that instead of referring yourself to what can give you two, the feeling of being, which is a master signifier; you refer yourself to a mirror image added to a belief. The formula of “I am” either has to do with the master signifier, as in identity politics, or it has to do with the object a left by the experience of jouissance and the encounter of a signifier which gives you your name of jouissance. The third one is the ego, the Joyce solution, the reference for which is Seminar XXIII, a solution which Lacan universalizes as a new definition of the symptom, which makes of the ego a symptom. Indeed, the ego can be a symptomatic solution under certain conditions. The Cartesian cogito which held as a metaphysical and epistemological theory from the 17th century up to present, only functions now by the necessity of saying, “I think I am” all the time. In a society where the big Other is less powerful because of the Analyst’s discourse and the Capitalist’s discourse, what is going to be used in order to sustain identity is the ego, as the imaginary consequence of the mirror stage. The rise of the ego in the era of the One-all-alone is linked to the rise of the imperative against the signifier without signified. In psychoanalysis, Miller emphasizes the importance of the unconscious as Real, but in the contemporary Master’s discourse, as Brousse contended, the unconscious is being more and more pushed to the imaginary side. As a consequence of the fall of the One of the exception and the rise of the One-all-alone, we can see the importance of the ego in everyday pathology. So, with the rise of the ego in contemporary society, the concurrent question that Brousse posed – and on which the lecture and conference ended – was as follows: what happens to narcissism at the end of analysis?

Clinical Discussion

Twelve case constructions presented by twelve clinicians, each with a discussant, offered diverse conditions of treatment, location, age, and clinical structure. Common themes emerging throughout the weekend included the paradox of the unchanged nature of the fantasy, divorced from time, and the proliferation of symptoms and Super-ego imperatives in the 21st century as witnessed in the contemporary clinic. Participants were surprised to find 19th and 20th century fathers, mothers, and subjects veiled under the discourse produced by the capitalism, science, and its corresponding gadgets and applications: i.e. the iPhone, Tinder, and the like. However, no less surprising, participants found a proliferation of 21st century subjects, indexed by cases of ordinary psychosis which were marked by an inability to distinguish and prove neurotic structures. This was supplemented by cases of hysterical and obsessional neurosis dressed in new guises. In all cases, discrete signs of structure and the lack thereof led to pertinent questions and considerations regarding the direction of the treatment related to each subject’s singularity. In other words, “so now you have the structure, but what do you do?” From a certain democratization of the analyst’s position, to the assumption of the position of the Ego-ideal as a necessary maneuver to avoid falling into the position of the Super-ego, each clinician ably exposed the knowledge of their acts, constructions, and interpretations. Accordingly, each clinician and discussant engaged in a fine construction of the handling, doing, and making of a subject’s cure for which each is credited as a practitioner and transmitter of essential psychoanalytic findings that will continue to be pursued and refined at the next Clinical Study Days, the 10th, that will take place in Miami.

Case Presentations

“Superintendent”: Cyrus Saint Amand Poliakoff-Discussant: Liliana Kruszel; “I am the Dictator, the Destroyer of My Life”: Pamela King – Discussant: Alicia Arenas; “A Brilliant Brain – I Should (Must) Shine”: Francine Danniau – Discussant: Jeff Erbe; “Mental Anorexia in the Elderly: A demand for love”: Ellie Ragland – Discussant: Nancy Gillespie; “Claustration”: Jared Russell – Discussant: Pamela King; “Feel Good! An imperative to excitement”: Elizabeth Rogers – Discussant: Maria Cristina Aguirre; “Performance Demands in the University: Is the Transferential Relationship Still Possible?”: Gary Marshall – Discussant: Pierre-Gilles Guéguen; “Little Leo: From must have, to may be”: An Bulkens – Discussant: Karina Tenenbaum; “Aunty Needle Heel”: Josefina Ayerza-Discussant: Fabio Azeredo; “I’m Gonna Get Them! (Quos ego-!)”: Michele Julien-Discussant: Tom Svolos; “The father’s demand”: Stephanie Swales- Discussant: Gary Marshall; “To make a stop”: John Burton Wallace V- Discussant: Alicia Arenas.

John Burton Wallace V


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