ICLO-NLS Report on the 2013 Study-Day

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Dublin, 8th June 2013


By Carmel Dalton




In her opening address, the Chair of ICLO-NLS Florencia F.C. Shanahan welcomed all attendees and in particular Dominique Holvoet, President of the New Lacanian School, who travelled to Ireland to work with us.  She reiterated the function of the event as an occasion for the group to expose, question, and bear witness to their engagement with the psychoanalytic discourse.



The Lacanian conception of psychosis is very different to that of any other approach; for Lacan psychosis is not the name of a class. Nor can psychosis be reduced to a structure, in deficit with regards to others. However, the psychotic has to order his world without reference to established discourses.In this hyper-modern time, the question arises as to where delusion begins and ends. Florencia then made mention of two references to delusion which she urged be kept in mind throughout the day. The first one by Freud, in ‘Psychoanalytical notes on an autobiographical account of a case of paranoia’ and the second one by Jacques-Alain Miller, in ‘Ordinary Psychosis Revisited’, where he states that to be an analyst is to know your own phantasm is a delusion and to attempt to abandon it so that you may perceive the delusion of your analysand. The subtitle of the Study-Day, namely ‘Belief, Certainty, Invention’ refers less to the psychotic and more to the transmission of the psychoanalyst, to what is at play in each individual’s singular encounter with a speaking-being.



The first session entitled “Psychosis Today”, was chaired by Linda Clarke who introduced Marlene ffrench Mullen and Alan Rowan. In Marlene’s paper ‘Life has no meaning…’ her underlying question, arising from the last Congress ‘What do we call psychosis today?’ is what does it mean to say that the Name-of-the-Father (NOTF) does not operate? We need to know what we are referring to when we speak of the NOTF- the No of the father. If the paternal metaphor operates, it names ones being, keeps the jouissance of the other at bay and installs the capacity to love. According to Lacan, in relation to how women love, how they come into being, he asserted that they are spoken into being. They demand that men speak about them and it is in this way that a woman, if language is incorporated, receives being from the other. Language issues a subject being and having- that is, a body. A symptom starts with two people and is spread out over the four positions of the discourses, where the subject is represented by S1 for S2.Language does not necessarily house jouissance but the body can. Compensation and substitution can enable a subjective soldering of the psychotic hole. The sinthome is more stable than imaginary mechanisms.



Alan in his paper ‘Dreams in Psychosis’, began by saying that while for Freud dreams were the royal road to the unconscious, they are not spoken about as much now. Lacanian analysts work with a differential clinic, that is, treat psychotic and neurotic analysands differently. With his language the psychotic attempts to name an unnameable jouissance and in this way to make a name for himself. The question of how to work clinically with dreams was then posed. Primary process thinking is evident in both dreams and psychosis. One difference however is that dreams allow a temporary withdrawal of external reality while in psychosis there is the real of experience, no withdrawal possible and a struggle to find relief. In psychotic patients there is a loss of dream associations, what is being dealt with is the real unconscious, the unconscious of jouissance, dream images are primitive attempts at representation and the dream simply is what it is, an experience. Alan proposed three answers to the question of how to work with psychotic dreams in general- treat them as a direct representation of the psychotic preoccupation of the subject, understand them as a symbolic frame and a way of allowing another relationship to knowledge to emerge away from the certainty of delusion, appreciate them as offering the possibility of an alternative construction of the subject’s history, his narrative.



The second session entitled “Belief in the Other”, was chaired by Lorna Kernan who introduced Caroline Heanue and Claire Hawkes. Caroline’s paper ‘An Inquiry. Ireland’s scandalous brutal silence’, referenced Peter Tyrrell, a man who set himself on fire in London, was in Letterfrack Industrial School since age 8 and was quoted as saying that his story, which is true, should be written in his own name. His story was published but not until some 40 years later. In the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse 2009, revelations were exposed which ruptured the social bond and made clear the failings of Church and State. The remit of the Report was to investigate abuse but much was excluded. Following it the Redress Board was set up and generic apologies were given. The national reaction was shock and disbelief -we did not know. This is representative of the discourse of Ireland which wants to know nothing. In Letterfrack supposed juvenile delinquents were separated from peers and inserted into the Real of abuse. The institution was the embodiment of a totemic father where there was no love, protection or phantasy. Locals were mute. The Report refers to two matters not previously spoken of – the enjoyment by locals of both School events and of the boys themselves. Silence continues to deny the past, there is a knowing without knowing, it is a discourse not yet concluded, a past with effects that can only be spoken of singularly.



Claire’s paper ‘The repercussions of psychosis on the subject and the other’, opened with two vignettes. In each, there is devastation for the spouse when something of a psychotic structure is revealed in their partner upon marriage, in the first case, and after marriage but upon signing for a new house, in the second. Two questions come to the fore – what kept the couples together before these events, and what triggered the psychoses and destruction of their relationships thereafter. In expanding these points, reference was made to aspects of Freud and Lacan’s work and also that of Francois Sauvagnat and his comments on elementary phenomena. These are delusional phenomena which the subject can often manage until such a time as they develop fully – if this is to occur- into a delusional or hallucinatory experience. The study of elementary phenomena is thus crucial. Clinically, the diagnosis of psychosis is based on the presence of these phenomena. A potential answer to the question of what held the couples together is that this pairing served as an imaginary identification – a mechanism which functioned but was devoid of symbolic consistency. In response to the question of the triggering of the psychosis/collapse of the relationship, one notes both a structural and contingent elements. In these cases the signing of the marriage register, and the paperwork for the house respectively, each of these being a symbolic act.



The third session entitled “Certainty of the Object”, was chaired by Gerard Power who introduced Rik Loose and Susan McFeely. In his paper ‘Mania’, Rik commented that many patients he has received have come with diagnoses of mood disorders. It is reductionist to state that melancholia is the polar opposite of mania. The question arises as to how to understand mood disorders psychoanalytically? A vignette showed how the one particular analysand equates language with jouissance– it runs away with her and disconnects her from the Other. The analyst must treat the world the melancholic inhabits; to confront the truth that life is a semblance. The melancholic despises himself, enraptured by the pure culture of the death drive. Mania, within the context of depression and modern subjectivity, sees the subject set adrift, susceptible to the contingencies of modern life, the signifier has lost some traction. Mania is not the opposite but the other side of depression. In melancholia, it is not the object but rather the ideal that is lost, and once lost it is introjected as compensation into the ego. All identifications with the ideal object have their shadow side – I am nothing. In melancholia, jouissance is unlimited and internalised within the ego. In mania, the object does not provide an anchoring, there is no object cause of desire. The non- functioning of the object in melancholia has a very particular effect.



In her paper ‘Heroin or Heroin(e)?’, Susan indicated her intention to chart the movement from Freud to Lacan in relation to addiction and toxicomania, in response to the question of the function of heroin in the clinic of psychosis. Tension exists between pleasure and non-pleasure. Intoxicating substances allow the individual to take refuge in their own world which is detrimental to the subject. Subject must find for himself the particular way he can be saved. There are two outcomes for man; consolation in yield of pleasure afforded by substances or, psychosis. The psychotic can’t articulate jouissance to the law. Language is the treatment for jouissance. While three mechanisms for treating it are possible, substitution was focused on. In the clinic a new symptom is evident in toxicomania, a new organisation which defers a triggering. In one case, the triggering was around becoming a father. Heroin was this man’s solution, one which saved him but is deadly. Psychosis is not being for the Other, toxicomania is something different – it precludes the Other, severs the social link. Drugs govern, regulate and manage jouissance. Being clean is unbearable for this man and so he goes back using. The psychotic’s use of drugs is different to the neurotic’s; the command to abstain can be detrimental. Analyst knows wish to save this analysand must cease, her hope must be given up to facilitate something else to emerge.



The fourth and final session entitled “Inventing One-self” was chaired by Florencia who introduced Joanne Conway and Tom Ryan. Joanne clarifies that the name of her paper “Limitless” is that of a film and also a signifier that has emerged in her work with analysand. The film’s character, Eddie, is a struggling writer who has great plans which can never come to fruition until he discovers a pill that enables him to do anything. Soon however he is confronted with his own limit; when his body breaks down from the drug and when he cannot live up to this version of himself for the Other. The opening scene shows him on a balcony- it’s time to pay the price- but he doesn’t jump, he has one more game to play with the Other. The analysand in question, however, did jump from the roof. For him, the voice takes up the place of the vacillation between mania and melancholia. In jumping, he sought not death but the imposition of a limit, a solution to his limitlessness.



In his paper, ‘Ordinary Psychosis in Paul Thomas Anderson’s film The Master’, Tom spoke of the film and its central character, an oiler in the Navy, named Freddie Quell. He is an alcoholic, a man with a difficult relationship to language. The concept of being pinned down is pervasive. For a time, he becomes attached to the Master, Dodd, the leader of cult who peddles his theories nationwide. Freddie struggles with the social bond, always on the periphery of a group. In one particular moment there is potential for a triggering- when taking a picture of an older man a child is heard crying in the background- in this instant the gaze and voice intersect and there is an encounter with the Real father. Dodd’s wife is threatened by Freddie as she recognises that the men love each other at the level of substance and lalangue. Perhaps Freddie is less an ordinary psychotic and more a man surrounded by ordinary psychosis. The Master and his followers could be ordinary psychotics. On board the yacht, there are many examples of what Marie-Helene Brousse describes as super-social behaviour – the group are compliant and obedient, diligently listening to the Master. When the time comes for the men to go their separate ways, Dodd wishes Freddie luck in finding a means to live without serving a master, a feat that he believes has been attained by no other. Alone again, Freddie seeks other ways of being pinned down, anchored.



Throughout this most enjoyable day, discussion was plentiful. Comments were made, and questions asked, of each speaker and after every session. Contributions were forthcoming from many of the attendees and those from Dominique showed clearly both his careful reading of, and attention to, the material as well as his undoubted engagement with the work itself. In particular, he noted the quality of the papers and the myriad of themes and concepts being worked on.



While it is impossible to capture fully the richness of the issues raised, among them were the following: the operation and potential disappearance of the NOTF today, determining how to work with the dreams of a psychotic subject, abuse of boys in Letterfrack as a voiceless trauma, the functioning of imaginary compensations in the stage of pre-psychosis, the chiasm through which a melancholic subject can fall, toxicomania as a symptom of the 21st century and evidence of the constant connection between the object and the surplus of jouissance, the psychotic subject possessing the knowledge that the problem is language,and the status of the master and the ideology of freedom.



In her closing address, Florencia thanked all attendees and then announced a number of upcoming local and international events before wishing everyone a good summer break.





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