Orientation Texts



​“Psychoanalysis is changing. This is… a fact.”[1] Jacques-Alain Miller makes this observation in the text of his presentation of the theme of the 10th Congress of the World Association of Psychoanalysis. It will take place in Rio de Janeiro, in April 2016.


A transformation of the unconscious…

This observation concerns, and is even deduced from a transformation in the nature of the unconscious. Jacques Lacan anticipated it in his teaching. He even ended up by suggesting that we abandon the term unconscious, by substituting it with the neologism, parlêtre – so as to be, according to him, better able to account for this change in its nature. This change in the nature of the unconscious stems from a change of era and the resulting mutation of the structure of the Other. And, of course, it is precisely in the Other that the subject finds the coordinates for his unconscious.

At the heart of this mutation is the question of repression. Arising in the Victorian era, against a backdrop of sexual repression, today psychoanalysis is practiced against a backdrop of liberation from social mores, of the right to jouissance and a generalised access to pornography. Beyond the Oedipus complex, which he never stopped dismantling throughout the whole course of his teaching, it is not for nothing that Lacan singled out the mythological structure of Hamlet in so far as it differs from that of Oedipus. The difference between Oedipus and Hamlet bears precisely on the question of repression. Lacan underlines: while Oedipus did not know, where the coordinates for his crime were repressed and unknown, Hamlet knows. It is on this point of distinction that Hamlet stands out as being better suited than Oedipus to incarnate the structure of the neurotic’s question today. Everything turns on what this unveiled knowledge concerns. It will take me the detour of this lecture to isolate the answer at the end.

But tell me: the unconscious, the repressed, the Oedipus complex, aren’t these precisely the reference points that the distinction between our major clinical structures are founded upon, and on which the orientation of the treatment is grounded?

No doubt our practice will, from now on, be oriented less on the question of repression and its lifting in terms of revealed truth, than on that of the signifier’s impact on the jouissance of the body as such.


… and its impact

What happens in the context of this reworking of our reference points and clinical categories? Things need to be clarified again and again and the contours constantly redrawn. It is anything but simple. These are the grounds upon which I will orient this opening lecture of the London Society’s year of work.

What concerns us here today are clinical questions and the difficulties that we encounter in the clinic with our classic reference points. Wherever diagnostic questions are at stake, we touch upon something concrete.

In psychoanalysis, we place a great deal of emphasis, if not on diagnosis as such, then at least on, let’s say, the markers of a differential clinic. Why? Precisely because they determine the way we orient our act and the direction of the treatment.

The treatment of a psychotic subject is not conducted like that of a neurotic subject. This is why our diagnostic reference points are important, even if, while outlining major structural lines, the precise organisation of subjective coordinates, they say nothing about what constitutes a subject’s singularity.

It is a logical paradox that we have to face up to and before which we do not recoil. Two opposing truths can be true at the same time. Everything depends on the angle from which we approach the real at stake. It is in relation to just such a paradox that Lacan can say that nothing looks less like an obsessional neurotic (a general and universal category) than another obsessional neurotic (an absolute singularity). This is what makes the relation between the singular and the universal both so necessary and so precarious.

One approach to the real of the clinic can be radically different from an approach taken from another angle, without the one cancelling out the other – just as Freud’s second topography does not cancel out the first; or again, just as Lacan’s later teaching does not cancel out his earlier teaching.

Jacques-Alain Miller does not hesitate to invite us to improvise by stitching different times of Freud’s and Lacan’s teaching together because they account for everything, in so far as they are true, in relation to a real that the truth can only catch in bits.

This is why we can allow ourselves, for example, to draw both from a binary clinic, a discontinuous one and, from a different angle, from a clinic that is continuous.  We do both. Sometimes we even use both at the same time. Both are important. I will explain why.


The binary between classic neurosis and triggered psychosis: its efficacy, a limit

On the one hand, we have a differential clinic that rests on the binary opposition between neurosis and psychosis. The category of perversion is subject to contention. It is falling into disuse, because of the coordinates of the era, which are perverse as such, to say nothing of the fact that the parlêtre’s sexuality is perverse in itself. We will return to this. 

This clinical binary offers us an invaluable point of support. But it is also rigid and restricting. It rests on: “An Either/Or, an absolute Either/Or”.[2] If we radicalise things, we must acknowledge that a whole swath of the clinic escapes this dichotomy between classic neurosis and triggered psychosis. It is not always easy to divide things up with this diagnostic reference – and this sometimes after many years of analysis.

This unsatisfactory and undiscriminating aspect of the clinical binary between neurosis and psychosis has, for many years, been the focus, in our Freudian field, of what could be called a veritable research programme. The syntagm “ordinary psychosis” finds its point of origin in this difficulty. It emerges from this difficulty, in order to move beyond it. It comes from, or rather was constructed by Jacques-Alain Miller on the basis of, the last period of Lacan’s teaching.


The ‘borderline’ impasse

‘Ordinary Psychosis’ is a response to the ‘borderline’ category that is so developed in the Anglo-Saxon world. This category, ‘borderline’, is itself an attempt to respond to this same clinical difficulty. Only, there where the category of the “borderline” supposes a third clinical structure which is neither neurotic, nor psychotic, which can only multiply the impasses of clinical structures, the syntagm ordinary psychosis continues to base itself on the neurosis/psychosis binary, in order, finally, to subvert it, and even go beyond it; in the sense that “we can do without it, provided we make use of it”[3] – which is what Lacan ended up saying in relation to the Name-of-the-Father, as you know.

As Jacques-Alain Miller indicates, there is “a supposedly absolute differentiation between neurosis and psychosis”.[4] If it’s the one, it’s not the other, and vice-versa. This dimension of absolute differentiation rests on what Jacques-Alain Miller refers to as a veritable Lacanian “credo”[5]: that of the foreclosure of the Name-of-the-Father. The function of the Name-of-the-Father rests on what we are now accustomed to pinning down with the syntagm: symbolic order. The fathers of the Church and conservatives of all kinds have retained only this aspect from Lacan’s teaching and freely refer to it left, right and centre.[6] Yet, it is important to grasp what this Name-of-the-Father covers in Lacan’s teaching.

What Lacan perceived in triggered psychosis was precisely its failure and it is from this that he developed the concept of foreclosure. What does it concern? In his text, Ordinary Psychosis Revisited, which in itself can form the argument for the next Congress of the NLS, Jacques-Alain Miller relocates the hypothesis that leads up to it.[7]


The Name-of-the-Father hypothesis

Lacan sets out from a state of subjective experience, in the earliest moment of the arrival of the infans in the world, in which it struggles with an unorganised space, in flux and unstructured, and which its experience is predominately that of a fragmented body, entirely subject to drive forces and significations outside-meaning: a world in which the subject’s ego and the Other are indistinct. Lacan never gives up this hypothesis about the initial stages of human subjectivity and situates its cause in the fact of a human child’s physical prematuration at birth.

In this configuration, and according to the classism of a now by-gone world, the mother, or her substitute, comes to bear these characteristics as, supposedly, the figure of the first embodied representative of this Other. The mother’s desire was the first manifestation, for the infant, of this drive force and of the figure of this disorganised, pulverous and illegible Other outside meaning. A world, an experience of jouissance, outside-meaning, enigmatic and inhabited by the figure of the maternal Other. This subjective experience is identical to that encountered by the psychotic subject, after his moment of triggering.

In a second moment of this development, Lacan situates the entry of the symbolic into this world as coming to organise it, giving order, if you like, to this imaginary and this unbridled jouissance. The symbolic comes to regulate things. It comes at least to define laws and what is prohibited. It is the supposedly natural figure that comes to intercede as third between this child and this unregulated Other, which, in this construction, is supposed to organise the disorganisation of nature: in this case none other than the father, as representative of the law and of his supposed symbolic order.

There is here the idea that there is an Other of this first Other, whose function is to come to master it, limit it, to define its organisation and, above all, to give it meaning, to make it readable. This is the ordinatory function of the Name-of-the-Father, in so far as he comes to name and organise this supposedly disorganised desire of the mother. He makes himself its addressee or, if you like, he comes to define himself as its cause, as what causes maternal desire, and consequently give it sense. It is a metaphorical operation, which Lacan called paternal. It is a metaphoric operation in so far as it comes to give meaning to an x, an unknown situated at the heart of desire, in so far as it, this unknown, is jouissance. This is the way Lacan comes to formalise the Freudian Oedipus complex.






This operation produces an effect. The symbolic operation, by organising it, puts a stop to the explosion of the drive. It is supposed to limit it. In this sense, it produces an effect of loss, as much as of localisation. This is what “castration” means and also “minus-phi”: “a subtraction of jouissance”,[8] there where in psychosis it presents itself as un-localised, unlimited, and consequently always “too much”. The penile organ makes itself the agent and representative of this jouissance that, from thenceforth, is regulated by a phallic logic. It is the organ that is precisely capable of incarnating this jouissance that is marked by a plus and a minus. It has its signifier: the phallus.

If, as modernity obliges, we clear it of the actors that the mother and the father really are, this is an extremely robust and clinically pertinent construction – at least as far as its function and structure are concerned. A part of jouissance is forbidden and passes under the bar, installing repression, a loss and the limitation of jouissance.

Moreover, it is precisely this function that Schreber attempts to re-establish, after his triggering which disorganises all the significations of the world and his relation to his body. He tries to re-establish it in another way. In another way we call: delusional. And this, in order to reconstruct his world and give meaning to the phenomena assailing him at the point where the paternal signification is foreclosed. From then on, God, a new figure of the father, becomes the cause of these phenomena. A whole new complex construction develops and also determines the ways of accounting for (and making readable) the overflowing phenomena of jouissance that cannot be localised in phallic terms. It is his work of elaboration. This is why Lacan qualifies this operation as a delusional metaphor, in so far as it supplements the foreclosure of the paternal metaphor. Precisely in line with Freud, who already apprehended the delusion as an attempt at cure.


The neurotic paternal flaw

It is a construction that I have called robust. Yet, for all that, it does not lead Lacan towards a religion of the father – and for many reasons.

Lacan only constructed the logic of the paternal metaphor to the extent that, in triggered psychosis, it is revealed, let’s say, out in the open, without repression, as lacking, and even as failed [carante]. But hardly had Lacan proposed this construction, as not operating in psychosis, than he set out to demonstrate, through the clinic, the generalisation of its failure with regard to jouissance – and this for the clinic as a whole. That is to say that not all jouissance passes through the phallic mill and the logic of the paternal metaphor, that not all jouissance allows itself be negativised.

This is demonstrated by the neurotic, Little Hans. In his own body, with respect to the life of his penile organ, the paternal and phallic signification is not able to account for the Krawall that is manifest there.[9] He must also turn to a palliative construction, the phobic signifier, in so far as it comes to aid the attempt to signify it.

What constitutes Hamlet’s traumatic encounter is also situated in this flaw [faille]. Well beyond the real death of his father, his conflict concerns the part of his mother’s desire that does not answer to, or rather that exceeds and transgresses the law of the father. It is an obsessional neurotic’s trauma of choice: the encounter, in the mother, with her femininity, which is not reducible to her maternity, which, for its part, is linked to the relation with the father. Lacan laughs at what he considers to be Hamlet’s pathetic effort to return to the realms of decency that aspect of his mother’s desire that does not refer to the father. It is his encounter with this point, that plunges Hamlet into mourning the father, well beyond his death, and it requires the appeal to the whole symbolic game  (the so-called work of mourning) to face up to its flaw [carence] encountered in the hole that feminine jouissance drills in the phallic limit. He constructs a personal fantasy, able to respond to it, his own version of the thing: namely that words are worthless and that, from now on, something is rotten in the world – in the supposed world of the symbolic order.

It is the big secret that Lacan ended up revealing to psychoanalysts themselves: namely that there is no Other of the Other[10] able to normalise jouissance, to overcome it and to make sense of it. 


Generalised compensation

In another respect, the foreclosure of the Name-of-the-Father in psychosis, which is only revealed by its triggering, relates to the logical deduction that something else has previously been making up for it, as a lateral support or compensation; just as the delusional metaphor indicates that something can function in its place after the triggering occurs.

The delusional metaphor, along with compensated and un-triggered psychosis, and equally Hans’s phobia, or Hamlet’s fantasy, all have the character of a symbolic construction, or an attempt at symbolic construction, in relation to something, a real, which objects to it. In this light, every symbolic construction has a delusional and religious structure in so far as it aims to give sense to something that is profoundly outside sense. To say it in a lighter way, this perspective relegates the paternal and phallic signification of jouissance to being just one possible signification among others. It thus loses its primacy. This is what the clinic demonstrates.


The end of the ordinary neurotic?

This poses a question for neurosis. A fortnight ago, in Ghent, the Kring voor Psychoanalyse van de NLS began a series of lectures with the title: “Neurosis Today: Still So Ordinary?”

At the start of Lacan’s teaching, neurosis was connected with normality. At least, psychosis was seen to depart from it. It was a variation, in the form of a failure, of neurotic structure, considered as fundamental, a failure of the normality and maturation incarnated by the Oedipus complex. At the time when traditional Grand Narratives were powerful (after all, that’s what the father is), and which were ultimately a set of taught and transmitted instructions for how to manage with jouissance, sexuality, being a man and a woman, etc.), neurosis was considered as the norm. In this sense, it was ordinary. Of course, neurosis was the price to pay for the law of the father and tradition, along with the whole series of symptoms that were made necessary and that led to the invention of psychoanalysis. But there we had a way to manage with jouissance, which drew all the more force from the fact that it mimicked the so-called and supposedly ‘natural’ order. In our clinical assessments, it was said that, through its very deviation from the norm, there could be no mistaking psychosis. Psychosis was clear: in so far as it was not ‘normal’, not ‘ordinary, or again not at all ‘typical’.

From the beginning of Lacan’s teaching, the perspective changes radically.

It was first the clinic that led to the discovery of the essentially perverse nature of human sexuality, which is never ordinary and “never the right one” and never “the one that should be”. It is what the return of the repressed of neurotic symptoms say, signify, and even scream, in a certain way.

Today, it is the dismantling of Grand Narratives, under the combined effects of science, capitalism, democracy – and, dare we add, psychoanalysis – that has finally unveiled their nature of semblance. What has been unveiled is that, in relation to sexuality (which for human beings – since it has passed through language – has nothing natural about it), their only nature was tradition. The great, phallocratic edifice of the law of the father, which was anything but egalitarian and democratic, has been contested and rejected everywhere. Yet, it is precisely this – the rejection of the father – that constituted the determining factor of psychosis.[11]

The law of the father, which gives access to jouissance, on the basis of prohibition, consequently appears as one way, among others, to treat jouissance. Let’s say even: a particular mode of enjoyment where one enjoys on the basis of prohibition. Others are possible.


The ordinary of generalised foreclosure

Ordinary psychosis is a syntagm that builds on this change of perspective. It makes neurosis into a quite particular case that stands out against a backdrop in which the structure of psychosis dominates and is to the fore. The ordinary is translated in terms of generalised foreclosure, in so far as the signifier that comes to signify jouissance is lacking – and for every speaking being.

Even if it continues to be based on the binary between psychosis and neurosis, we are entering into and orienting ourselves within an approach that is more continuist.

We could represent this new clinical perspective as a Gaussian curve. At one of its extremities, we could place triggered psychosis, with all its phenomena of disconnection, phenomena of the body and of the signifier. In line with our initial clinical reference points, it is a dimension which, when we encounter it, is unmistakable. But at the other extremity of this hypothetical Gaussian curve, you also have something that, particularly in our present era, is also unmistakable: neurosis. In any case, that is my experience as a practitioner of psychoanalysis. The ordinary, if you will, becomes the “between the two”, so to speak. At the two extremities of the clinical field, you have what is extraordinary, you have what is clear, the binary. With the ordinary, you have a more difficult register: its tonality, its signs, where its oppositions are less categorical.


What does not mislead in neurosis

The effect of changes in discourses makes it necessary for us to refine the concept of neurosis.

In his text “Ordinary Psychosis Revisited”, Jacques-Alain Miller is clear. Neurosis is something very precise, very constructed. It bears within it something that one can be sure of. It is in this sense that, as he says, it bears a signature. He uses other terms: it is a formation that has stability and permanence. There is a repetition in neurosis. In terms of structure, of a general architecture, if you will, Jacques-Alain Miller specifies what it must have for you to be in the presence of this so singular construction that a neurosis is. He even speaks of “criteria”. To quote him, “You need certain criteria to be able to say, ‘This is a neurosis.’ You need a relation to the Name-of-the-Father – not a Name-of-the-Father – you need some proof of minus phi, some proof of the relation to castration, impotence and impossibility, you need – to use the Freudian terms of the second topography – a clear-cut differentiation between ego and id, or between the signifiers and the drives, you need a clearly delineated Superego. If you don’t have [all] this, and other signs, then it is not a neurosis, it is something else.”[12] This is very powerful! And you have to submit to it, to its discipline and precision. I am not sure that all the clinical consequences have always been drawn from it.

The image of the Gaussian curve is not satisfactory here. According to this logic, the “between the two” is to be situated, at the same time, on one side. If it is not a neurosis, it is a psychosis – to be understood that, given that it is based on the binary, it is not a neurosis.

As an effect of the deconstruction of traditional discourses, with the Name-of-the-Father being classed as one semblant among others, the dimension, encountered in the clinic, of a compensatory semblant that fulfils its function is becoming generalised.


The epistemic category of ordinary psychosis…

Let’s return to the clinic. In the register of ordinary psychosis, because the psychosis is not triggered, not manifest, and because it is not a neurosis, we therefore have to suppose that something is functioning, doing the job of the Name-of-the-Father; in so far as it stabilises and knots the different registers, those of the body and the signifier, without it being the Name-of-the-Father. Another non-typical element is doing this job. As Jacques-Alain Miller notes, again in “Ordinary Psychosis Revisited:

That introduced a change of status for the Name-of-the-Father. We use the Name-of-the-Father as a proper name in the classical Lacan texts. When we ask: “Does the subject have the Name-of-the-Father?” logically we are using the Name-of-the-Father as a proper name: the proper name of one particular element that is called the Name-of-the-Father. If we follow the idea of the delusional symbolic order, we may say that the Name-of-the-Father is not a proper name, but a predicate as defined in symbolic logic – NP(x). One such element functions as a Name-of-the-Father for the subject. This element is the principle that orders his world. It is not the Name-of-the-Father, but it has the quality, the property of the Name-of-the-Father.[13]

We can thus have a clinical picture that may seem to resemble a neurosis, even if it is not one. It is precisely in this singular between-the-two (which is therefore not one) that a way needs to be found to unfurl a whole field of clinical richness and subtlety [finesse]. Far from constituting a blurred area, of non-knowledge, this requires and produces an appeal for an ever-greater refinement of our clinical reference points. Quite the opposite of vagueness or woolliness, or a rag-bag zone, it summons us towards greater rigour. It is precisely at this point that our whole knowledge of clinical distinctions is called upon.


… and of the renewed clinical knowledge

It is a programme of research, a work-in-progress. The indications that Jacques-Alain Miller introduces in his text with regard to differential clinics provide a very precious resource for this. In this register, in which the clearness of the traits of the great classical binary between triggered psychosis and neurosis is absent, it becomes necessary for us to produce distinctions that are not drawn up in broad strokes, but in detail, with fine distinctions. Jacques-Alain Miller again uses other terms that attempt to describe what is required for this: it is a clinic of “various very small clues”.[14]  In the field circumscribed by the syntagm “ordinary psychosis”, we are not in the register of a “rigid definition”.[15] It is a not a clinic of the “objective category”, it is a clinic of an “epistemic category”,[16] a clinic in search of “signs” [signage][17]. In short, it is a clinic in the register of “discreet signs”.

Here, I am outlining the stake and the scope of the next NLS Congress: “Discreet Signs in Ordinary Psychoses. Clinic and Treatment.” It will take place, this year, for the first time at the beginning of July, on the 2nd and 3rd to be precise. And, above all, it will take place for the first time in Dublin – a city whose link to the Lacanian psychoanalytic corpus hardly needs specifying, were it only through Joyce as intermediary.

It is interesting to note that in French, the term “discret” has a very interesting double signification, which only passes into English by differentiating the spelling. It signifies, at the same time, what cannot easily be seen, what is small, not evident, almost hidden, secret – discreet. But it also carries the signification, in other registers, of that which determines, or provides a signature, and that which is decisive – discrete.


From the non-rapport

Stemming from a clinical necessity that the syntagm ordinary psychosis attempts to circumscribe, this clinical logic of discreetsigns, of “tones” that need to be found and specified, is inscribed in a logic that we need to broaden. On account of the mutation in the structure of the major discourses, it is a logic that in the end concerns the whole of the clinical field. It is there that I situate the scope of the next NLS Congress.

Against a backdrop of binarism, we are sliding, swinging towards and entering a clinic that is gradually coming to be inscribed in a continuist register.

It is a register of clinical distinction that builds on a general trait shared by all speaking beings and which is felt by everyone. This common trait has been pinned down by Jacques-Alain Miller as a discordance; a discordance that is experienced by everyone, at the level of, in relation to being – the sense of being [le sentiment de l’être]. When speaking about this, he uses a phrase from the early period of Lacan’s teaching that has precisely to do with triggered psychosis, “a disturbance (…) at the inmost juncture of the subject’s sense of life.”[18] It has to do with a feeling of something that jars, something that does not fit, something that does not function as it should. In fact, in terms of Lacan’s later teaching: a “non-rapport”. This non-relation stems from the conjunction, from the encounter, between the register of the body (the imaginary) and the signifier (the symbolic). This structural encounter produces, or procures, a “disorder”. It produces a non-rapport. (Here we find the same encounter between the imaginary and the symbolic that made the seedbed for the Oedipal construction, dealt with in a different way.) Yes, but if it is felt by everyone what particular form does it take, and what tone? For example, in which register does this non-rapport more selectively manifest itself?

This last question allows us to situate a first distinction: between hysteria and obsession. Jacques-Alain Miller specifies: this disorder is perceived by the hysterical subject in relation to the body, and by the obsessional subject in relation to ideas.[19]

Yes, but – further clarification is necessary...

When this discordance is inscribed in the register of the identificatory narcissistic relation with one’s own body. When this relation is not ‘good enough’[20]. When it is manifested in the feeling of not having a body. When the relationship with the body is inscribed in this dimension of “total disarray”,[21] does all that fall within the scope of hysteria and the empty feeling [sentiment de vide] that such subjects can experience in themselves, or does it point to or denote a relation to the “psychotic hole”?[22] Which, in the latter case, reveals that no mark of symbolic identification fastens the body, and thus indicates a total disjunction, if you like, between the two registers of the body and the signifier?

It is similar when we are in the register of a discordant relationship with thought. Does the subject have an overly eroticised relationship with his thinking? Is he encumbered by his thoughts in the obsessional mode? This is what Jacques-Alain Miller recently described[23] as presenting a highly specified structure within a very complex edifice. For example, have a look at the Rat Man and the structural analysis that Lacan sets out in “The Neurotic’s Individual Myth”? [24] Or, for example, does it go as far as the feeling that, in one way or another, his thinking is being influenced, or that it runs in an autonomous fashion, in the form of mental automatism? Or, is it haunted by the feeling that it is being manipulated by an Other exterior to the subject himself – which is related precisely to the psychotic register? 


The binary clinic: doing without it, while making use of it

Even with regard to what still remains as a major opposition between the body and the signifier, all this requires a more accurate tracking. It is not always easy to decide, particularly when it does not present in a clear form. As, for example, when something – a non-typical knotting of the evoked registers – “veils”,[25] “hides”[26] or mitigates the potentially greater and more excessive effects.

When this is the case, it becomes necessary to refer to the dimension of “tone” or “intensity”.[27] This is a very delicate operation. Jacques-Alain Miller situates several registers where these can be defined. They are fascinating. Their delicacy demands that they be unfolded, refined. This produces a novel enrichment of clinical distinctions.

A useful initial standpoint [registre] is to be situated at the level of the subject’s social inscription and social bond. It is not about promoting social inclusion, or making its rejection into an ideal, but about what, from this standpoint, can be read of a given subject’s particularity? More precisely, what clues are there in the way he identifies with his social function? What kind of “negative relationship” does the subject foster there? Again, there is discord for everyone. But what kind is it? Does it have the character of a rebellion – the mark of the hysteric? Or is it of the “stand alone” mode of the type: “I’m not really into it... Don’t think that I believe all this... It doesn’t much matter to me, but...” which is more the signature of the obsessional? Or, is the sense of disinsertion stronger? Is the inability to engage socially more pronounced? What form does it take and in what circumstances? Is engagement in the social bond impossible? Or is the difficulty necessary? Does the subject go from break-up to break-up, to the point of severing all ties with the other – which is the signature of the schizophrenic? Does a relational problem lead to taking a distance each time until, at some point it becomes vital to put a number of miles between things, literally the same number of miles proportional to the distance the subject needs not to find himself engulfed by the Other? With what ease does the subject deal with break-ups in relationships, considering that some neurotics stay attached for years, because they are anxious about the idea of any change? Or, at the other extreme of the identificatory scale, is this outside dialectics altogether? Is there an immediate insertion without discord, or even a complete and total identification with a role – which can produce not a deficit, but rather a super-competence on occasion? Is this identification with a social position just the non-typical knotting that allows a psychotic subject to give himself a being, a position in the social, an ego and an image, which can only be termed “compensatory”, when the loss of this real support proves insurmountable for the subject, and can then lead to a psychotic triggering or disconnection [débranchement]?

The above offers some variations that we are not always able to identify solely on the basis of the binary neurosis/psychosis, which is indexed on the presence or absence of the Name-of-the-Father. Furthermore, the absence of the function of the Name-of-the-Father can only be deduced on the basis of these traits, and according to the intensity with which they present.

The same refined level of detail is necessary when considering the relationship to the body and to the feeling of strangeness that can be experienced there. We’ve already briefly touched on this. How does the subject inhabit his or her body – which is something that is always problematic to a greater or lesser degree? Concerning this body, does this discord present in a way that is finite, localised and bordered? Is it a part of the body – the penis for example – which escapes control and mastery, and is the object of all dysfunctions? Or is it never affected, and thus not submitted to the coming and going of desire? Is this discord coming from a localised feeling of powerlessness, for example in relation to an ideal and idealised functioning? Is it then marked by a function that pertains to the minus, the minus-phi from which the neurotic binary of powerlessness and impossibility derives? Or is it the whole body that slips away? Is the localisation vague and undefined? For example: are tears linked to an event, even if this event is accompanied by a feeling of emptiness, or are they of a radically unmotivated nature? Jacques-Alain Miller says this quite beautifully in a nutshell: is this a discord submitted to a constraint, to the limit imposed by the minus-phi of the structure required by neurosis, or is the fault unmarked by this limit, thus displaying a more unfathomable character?

Details can multiply, intertwine and accumulate. Jacques-Alain Miller takes the example of the real mark on the body, which can be a compensation for the non-inscription, for the lack of a symbolic mark, for the non-knotting of the symbolic in relation to the body. It is not simple to elucidate its consequences, all the more so in these changing times, especially where the power of the marks inscribed by traditional discourses is waning. For example, some traditional rituals used to create bodily marks by inscribing them in a social register and giving them, I would say, a bodily function. In this era, characterised by the fall of such significant markers, we now see a large, generalised and “democratised” use of real bodily marks: piercings, tattoos, etc.: sometimes, if not often, on its most sensitive areas. What are these the marks of? They were considered too quickly as signs of psychosis – without doubt mistakenly – even up until fairly recently. Tone tells us a lot in this case as well. Does it imply a limit? Or is it about something else: giving a body to a psychotic subject where he or she has no other way to hang on to it?

The question of whether a dialectical relation is present, on the one hand, or a fixity and strange insistence, on the other, is also at stake when it comes to the subject’s manner of identifying with the waste object. Is it related to lack, or the lack of lack? For example is self-denigration masking narcissism and a well-anchored ideal that the subject maintains a dialectical relationship with – which doesn’t stop him from suffering from it? Does it, again, involve a sense of lack or limitation? Or is the subject without dialectics, entirely identified with the fault that he embodies? Does it go as far as really truly becoming waste in one’s relation to the body and clothing? Does this happen in a way that is less marked in tone? Also, how does this non-dialectical identification manifest itself? Is it clear? Or does it find a way to veil and reveal itself in the form of a mannerism, a hygiene habit, or specific clothing that bears its mark?

Also, for example, how is the presence of guilt marked? Of what order and intensity is it in relation to its extreme manifestations? Of a neurotic type, or again bottomless, coinciding with the identification with the fault and the object I have just described? Such is the case for Kafka for example, in spite of the fact that, for him, this guilt is played out very clearly in relation to his father. What type of father figure is the subject dealing with?

And what of the relation to language? In his general clinic, Lacan ends up describing it as a parasite for all. Yes but what form does it take for each person, in the singular, and according to what modalities?

The list isn’t over. The continent is immense – both between registers, but also within each clinical entity. Jacques-Alain Miller takes the example of psychosis:

Look at the difference between a good, fine, muscular paranoiac, who really makes a world for himself and for others, and a schizophrenic who can’t get out of his room. And we call all that psychosis. When you have a paranoia, the semblant of the Name-of-the-Father is better than yours, it’s stronger than yours (…) But you have some kinds, like the kind of sensitive paranoia I mentioned before, which are not clear-cut from the beginning and it was only after three years of analysis that the analyst perceived that something was amiss, perceived that the subject was constructing, every day, his paranoia. And then you have the socially disconnected schizophrenics, whereas the paranoiac is totally socially connected. Large organisations are frequently managed by powerful psychotics who have a super social identification. So it’s immense.[28]

It’s no coincidence that he takes the example of the vast clinical field provided by psychosis; neurosis probably being more specific, more “extraordinary”, thus more precise and limited.


A non-distinguishing factor

The list is infinite. I will only bring it to a close – and that’s crucial – with a counterexample concerning a register described forcefully by Jacques-Alain Miller as precisely not pertinent, not “discrete”, in the sense that it is not a determining factor with regard to clinical distinctions: namely the register of sexuality. One cannot form a diagnosis based on sexual activities as such, precisely because this is the specific area of the non-relation where the norm, the ordinary, doesn’t come into play for the speaking being. The ordinary, the natural, with regards to sexuality, is what is called instinct. It is, in its nature, flawed as far as the speaking being is concerned. There is no “typical sexual life”[29]. This is a point one must always remember, even if sexual activities can reveal, help refine, or be linked to elements from the other registers we’ve discussed (the relationship to the body, etc.), they cannot do it per se.


The teaching we must train in

The “little clues”[30], another name for discreet signs, need to be specified each time in what can be read in them of each subject’s own relation, taken in his or her own singularity.

Pushed to its logical conclusion, this more rigorous refinement required leads us beyond the binary, hierarchical clinic. It does not annul the binary clinic as such, but makes it pass into the background. Or rather, it shifts the angle from which to envisage it.

The clinic is thus oriented more towards the logic of Borromean knots, which was the focus of Lacan’s interest in the later period of his teaching. It is a logic that grasps all the consequences of the initial disorganisation of the fields of human subjectivity that we earlier evoked as the basis for Lacan’s conception of psychosis. The clinic led Lacan to generalise these. What leads him there is the change in the status of the Name-of-the-Father that we have touched upon, where it is “reduced” to one way, among others, of knotting together those three registers with which, from the beginning of his teaching, Lacan divided up the field of human subjectivity. And here the logic is reversed. It is the field of extraordinary psychosis that reveals the initially unknotted and independent status of these registers. They found a typical, socially shared way of being knotted, arising from tradition: the neurotic and Oedipal way. And so, in being typical, it was possible to think it ordinary and even ‘natural’. This ‘typicality’ was challenged, and trimmed right back to the bone.

The vast field that does not fall within its ambit, this vast field we are trying to capture with the notion of ordinary psychosis, the psychosis that we refer to as compensated and un-triggered, the register where other forms of knotting are revealed as effective, constitutes the teaching of another logic that we must familiarise ourselves with.

It is not so much a question of mapping out what is deficient compared to a standard and a supposed norm – which, in fact, do not exist. It is an attempt to grasp and encompass the subtle and moving way in which each subject, in his singularity, manages, or does not manage, to knot and link the real of the sexual non-rapport with the body (the imaginary) and with the signifier (the symbolic). We have begun this task by itemising the clinical registers. Is this knotting for example typical, singular, or non-existent?

In other words, citing Jacques-Alain Miller, our work is rather to isolate and “understand the particular way, the peculiar way,” in the sense of each one his own and no other’s, “he makes sense of things, how he always makes the same sense of things, how he makes sense of the repetition in his life.”[31]. This comes back, if you will, to define his “private delusion”, which, at one point, Lacan isolated with the term fundamental fantasy, in so far as it gives the algorithm of the subject’s being.


Clinical phenomenon or the anti-DSM

In this logic, diagnosis, and in particular the binary neurosis/psychosis, is crude; in the sense that it can be insulting, especially to the required finesse. It is too big and its brush too broad. This logic leads us less to classifications than to isolate “clinical phenomenon” as such. We return to the “discreet signs” of the NLS Congress, to the point that we can only consider what is at stake to have been rigorously grasped, if it escapes established classifications and touches upon absolutely singularity.

Jacques-Alain Miller stated precisely at the last meeting of FIPA in Paris[32] that De Clérambault’s clinical reports provide us with a model in this respect – namely, a rich precision that mobilises all the resources of language, in its literary dimension, to grasp clinical phenomenon, to the point of attempting to say, and to reduce, in one or two sentences, what constitutes the very bone and blueprint for each subject. It is an approach where the diagnosis is no longer pronounced. It is eventually deduced, but no more.

Let us note that these are the resources that classical psychiatry had available to it and upon which it leant. Psychiatry lost them in its frantic biologisation. Psychoanalysis became the depositary for them. It is also charged with reinventing them from its own points of reference.

Grasping the clinical phenomenon by means of a tightened-up saying, in so far as it is specific to a subject, is the very opposite, radically, of the DSM approach. Here, it is the absolute singularity that is in question. In the DSM, this dimension is dissected and unravelled by a mindless statistical review of standard and quantifiable symptomatology.


Towards a new orientation of the treatment

I will conclude by returning to what Jacques-Alain Miller said on the subject in his presentation at the Congress of the WAP – to which I referred at the beginning of this presentation.

A new point of inflexion is present from the very last period of Lacan’s teaching, the one that anticipates the clinical consequences of the figures of the Other today.

If psychoanalysis is changing, says Jacques-Alain Miller, it “has to take into account an other symbolic order and an other real besides those upon which it was established”. He specifies that not only has the symbolic order faltered, but that the true mutation it has undergone is the revelation that it is nothing but an articulation of semblants, of simple social constructions, all of them always increasingly doomed to deconstruction.

Like the speaking being of today, it is precisely this that Hamlet knows, whereas for Oedipus it was unknown. What is unveiled to Hamlet is the nature of the dimension of semblance that qualifies the father and his order. From then on, everything is mere semblance. This is what constitutes the erring (the era and the erring ways) of the speaking being today, making him, fundamentally, a non-dupe.

It is up to psychoanalysis to establish that not everything is mere semblance. There is a real beyond meaning [hors-sens] – that of the non-relation, with respect to which the speaking being is placed in a position of debility that dooms him, in his search for meaning, to delusion.

In this respect, Jacques-Alain Miller continues – I will quote it briefly but obviously this needs to be unfolded at greater length:

So long as the symbolic order was thought of as a knowledge that regulates the real and imposes its law upon it, the clinic was dominated by the opposition between neurosis and psychosis. The symbolic order is now recognised as a system of semblants that do not govern the real, but rather are subordinate to the real. It is a system that responds to the real of the non-existent sexual relation. The consequence is what I might call a declaration of fundamental clinical equality between parlêtres.[33]

Anyone who has been in analysis knows that, when it comes to this real, no normality is worthwhile – that one can no longer speak of any “ordinary”.

From this Jacques-Alain Miller isolates a ternary that “echoes”, as he put it, the classical registers of the real, symbolic, imaginary: delusion, debility and dupery.

The only path that opens up beyond is for the parlêtre to make himself the dupe of a real, that is, to assemble a discourse in which the semblants clasp a real, a real in which one can believe without adhering to it, a real that does not carry any meaning, that is indifferent to meaning, and which cannot be any different from how it is. Debility is, on the contrary, the dupery of the possible. To be the dupe of a real – which is what I’m extolling – is the sole lucidity that is open to the speaking being by which he may orient himself.[34]

I will add that this is what is called making a dupe of your unconscious.

A new definition of an orientation for the treatment emerges which, contrary to the one that founded our binary clinical coordinates, is trans-structural: “Analysing the parlêtre requires one to play one’s way between delusion, debility and dupery. It is about directing delusion in such a way that its debility gives ground to the dupery of the real”[35]. It is in this school that we must try to situate ourselves.



Text presented at the opening of the London Society Programme, on 10th October 2015

Translated by Michele Julien, Jo Rostron, Nicolas Teste and Bogdan Wolf

Edited by Philip Dravers, Janet Haney and Florencia F.C. Shanahan


[2] Jacques-Alain Miller, “Ordinary Psychosis Revisited”, trans. Adrian Price, originally published in Psychoanalytical Notebooks, 19 (2009), pp.139-167 (out of print). Text reprinted in Psychoanalytical Notebooks 26 (2013), pp. 33-48. References will be to the currently available copy: this reference, p.35.

[3] This is precisely what Jacques Lacan invited us to do with the Name-of-the-Father in his Seminar, Le sinthome, p.136.

[4] Jacques-Alain Miller, op. cit., p. 148/p. 35.

[5] Ibid. p. 36.

[6] [This was the case, for example, in the recent debates about gay marriage in France. T.N.]

[7] Ibid. p.33-48.

[8] Ibid. PN 19, p. 38.

[9] [Strachey translates Krawall as “row”: Sigmund Freud, Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old Boy. S. E. 10, p.5-145; first appearance: “making a row with its feet”, p. 50. T.N.]

[10] Jacques-Alain Miller, “The Other without Other”, closing presentation at the NLS Congress in Athens, May 2013. Published in Mental 30 and Hurly-Burly 10. Available on-line: http://www.amp-nls.org/downloads/HB10%20JAM%20Athens%20FINAL.pdf

[11] Jacques-Alain Miller, Sur la leçon clinique des psychoses, Actes de l’Ecole de la Cause freudienne XIII, ECF, Paris 1987.

[12] Miller, J.-A., “Ordinary Psychosis Revisited”, op. cit. p. 45.

[13] Ibid. p. 39.

[14] Op cit., p. 37

[15] Ibid. p. 34

[16] Ibid. p. 37

[17] Ibid. p. 47

[18] Ibid. p. 41, the reference is to Jacques Lacan, “On a Question Prior to Any Possible Treatment of Psychosis”, Écrits, trans. Bruce Fink (New York/London: Norton, 2006) p. 466.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid, p. 36

[21] Ibid. p. 39

[22] Ibid. p.42

[23] At the FIPA conference.

[24] Lacan, J., “The Neurotic’s Individual Myth”, transl. M.N. Evans, Psychoanalytic Quarterly 48 (1979), pp. 405-425.

[25] Jacques-Alain Miller, op.cit. p. 37

[26] Ibid., p. 41

[27] Ibid.

[28] Op. cit. p. 46-47.

[29] Ibid. p. 50

[30] Ibid., p. 47.

[31] Ibid. p. 40.

[32] There is an internal report of that meeting, prepared by Patricia Bosquin-Caroz. This is what serves as my reference here.

[33] Jacques-Alain Miller, “The Unconscious and the Speaking Body”, speech delivered in French at the 9th WAP Congress in Paris, 17 April 2014. First published in English in Hurly-Burly 12, pp. 119-132,transl. A. Price, ed. V. Woollard, NLS, January 2015, under the title “The Unconscious and the Speaking Body”. Published also in Scilicet, 2015. [reference is to Hurly-Burly 12, p.131]http://www.wapol.org/fr/articulos/Template.asp?intTipoPagina=4&intPublicacion=13&intEdicion=9&intIdiomaPublicacion=5&itArticulo=2742&intIdiomaArticulo=5

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.