NLS Minute 12


- 12 -

Ordinary of the tattooed mark
Nassia Linardou - Blanchet 



Ordinary psychosis entered our vocabulary to become one of our clinical concepts during the Antibes Convention in 1998. Jacques-Alain Miller created it "as a direct consequence of what we call the last teaching of Lacan which is a feedback from his pragmatic development over the thirty years of his Seminar"[1].

As J.-L. Monnier reminds, the production of this concept took place in three phases: surprise-rare cases-ordinary psychosis[2]. In Antibes neo-triggering, neo-conversion, neo-transference have tried to apprehend what is new into the clinical field. But in his introduction, Jacques-Alain Miller says that he doesn't want to connect this elaboration to the neo-psychosis: "I don't like at all the neo-psychosis. And I told myself: finally, what we are talking about is ordinary psychosis"[3]. So, ordinary psychosis indicates that the psychosis of the modern times displaces the question of 'ordinary' normality assigned by the only Oedipus complex.

It is sensible that Jacques-Alain Miller encourages us to center our diagnostic question on the existence of "a disturbance that occurred at the inmost juncture of the subject's sense of life" and to refer all the little details to that central disturbance. He organizes this disturbance according to a triple externality. It is here that I would like to stress on the bodily externality.

The body nowadays tends to be less 'hold' by the discourse. Clinical evidence converges to the fact that "to build his own body" or to establish a link with the Other often gets through the cutaneous mark. Ordinary psychosis certainly inspired this tattoo fashion which acquired a surprising importance and claims to be an answer to the question 'what can the body be made for?' at the very moment that the norms forsake it. Anthropologists confirm that today the tattooed-criminal short cut, whose tenacity was remarkable, has been put aside. Moreover, where usually the body mark socialized the human being, nowadays the 'ordinary' tattoo is considered rather a personal act and an individual choice[4].

Could we establish a differential diagnosis of the tattoo? It is a question of tonality, Jacques-Alain Miller says. For example, such a masculine subject consults the psychoanalyst following the advice of his cardiologist because of an anxiety which could heighten his mitral valve prolapse. He is a young man who pursuits a rather successful career. He is covered in tattoos, specifically with Tibetan death's-heads. He decided on his first tattoos at the exit of the adolescence when his father died. This subject is inhabited by the death but a particular detail gives a precise indication into the disturbance at the inmost juncture of his sense of life. His tattoos certainly tell a story of power and wisdom, a story which pleases him, as he says. But the Push-to-the-tattoo to which he devotes, is qualified by him as "a singular experience": indeed the smell of the burned flesh mixed in that of the ink as well as the proven pain procures him an infinite jouissance. Here the tattoo as "a joint brace to connect with his body"[5] has to be renewed in the infinity as the psychotic modality of the drive imposes. Ordinary psychosis thus, but what psychosis is in question? Because "the term of ordinary psychosis must not be a permission to ignore the clinic”[6]. I shall say that this body is not ballasted by the object as the rhythm of his frantic life shows as well as the occasional use of cocaine which deletes the circadian cycle of the life. Only anxiety badly subjectivated comes to indicate the neighborhood of the mania with the death.  

Such other feminine subject also at the exit of the adolescence chooses the tattoo as a mark of the link to the Other. She gets inscribed on her back the name of her father that she had lost during her early childhood. She had always been considered as 'the orphan'. "The lack of my father always pushed me towards the life during all these years", she says. By fixing this mark to the body in an indelible way, she tries at the same time to fix something of the cause which directs her love life. Here, the tonality is completely other, that is to say hysterical, and the body obeys the constraint of the castration.


[1] Miller J-A, « Effet retour sur la psychose ordinaire », Quarto 94-95, p. 40.

[2] Monnier J-L, « Psychose ordinaire et ‘présent liquide’ », Quarto 94-95, p. 34.

[3] La psychose ordinaire, La Convention d’Antibes, Ouverture, p. 230.

[4] Among other studies, cf Elise Müller, Une anthropologie du tatouage contemporain, L’Harmattan, 2013.

[5] Miller J-A, « Effet retour sur la psychose ordinaire », p. 46.

[6] Miller J-A, « Effet retour sur la psychose ordinaire », p. 45.