Lacanian Review Online: Embodiment

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LRO – COVID-19 #99
23rd May 2020


Two Brief Observations from this Pandemonium
Sergio Caretto


With regard to this pandemonium, two brief observations. The first is based on my analysis and, with a degree of certainty, I would sum it up it like this: My own analytic experience could definitely neither have started nor finished if I hadn’t had my sessions with my analyst in the flesh, to the point of yielding the bone[1] of the analysis: the objet a of my fantasy, to which  my body, stripped of any identifications, had been reduced; the object embodied by the analyst, who, only at that point, and not without horror and pain, I was able to abandon like a piece of dirty trash. It was a traumatic effect, an event of the body, in that, through renewing the encounter with the non-sense of my own lalangue and with the hole from which the act now took its support, in the place of the fantasy, I could glimpse, for the instant of a flash of lightening, how the fantasy had functioned as a stopper.

For more than twenty years words had flowed in analysis, but not the voice, which had remained as though nestled in the oral cavity; like the cherry that had remained locked in the mouth of my grandfather at the moment of his death, when I was one year-old, a grandfather adored by my mother and whose name and insignia the subject carried. Only at the end of the analysis could the voice, and with it the analyst, free itself like a vital breath, released from any speech, sense or signification. To put it briefly, it is possible to talk for a lifetime while still holding back the voice and remaining fixed to a “deadly” image, in which the subject erases itself, enjoying itself as an object, under the lovable/hateful look of the Other.

And the gaze? Well, it was peeping out, beyond the image and in a disturbing way, whenever the fantasmatic frame wavered under the cuts of the interpretations and the blows of the analytic act. In order for the analyst to become a waste object of the analytic work there has to be a discourse which places the object in the position of the agent, an object which the analyst is ready to incarnate in the treatment. Only in this way can such an object carve itself out in the discourse of the analysand, devouring itself as far as the bone in the time to understand, so as to fall at the moment to conclude, when “the real is approached.”[2] And that is not enough, it is necessary still to demonstrate it… The real comes in fact in the form of a sign even more than that of a signifier: “under the pretext that I have defined the signifier as no one has dared, [let] one not imagine that the sign is not my affair! Indeed, to the contrary, it is the first; it will also [be] the last. […] A psychoanalyst, it is by the sign that I am warned.”[3]

In an analysis, beyond the dimension of the subject represented by a signifier for another signifier, there also enters into play the effect/affect “sign” which, not articulated to a signifier, puts a stop to meaning and to sense.  It is a sign which is rather a precipitation and the mark of the lalangue on the body of the speaking-being. On this point, as Lacan states in The Third,[4] the unconscious, however mad it may seem, engrafts itself on the body, on the real of the body of the drives.

I will conclude this first “observation” on the necessity of the presence of bodies in analysis (if what is going to be at stake is the analytic discourse) with the following quotation: “The body, to take it seriously, is to start with what can carry the mark proper to range it in a series of signifiers. Starting from this mark, it is a support, not potential but necessary, of a relation, for it is still to support it to subtract itself from it.”[5]

Second observation. During this present situation I quickly agreed to the request from three patients for sessions via Skype. For others who were asking for them I instead recommended that they read poetry and dedicate themselves to their family and to practical matters. Two considerations here. The first is that, to my surprise, I am realising the importance and the opportunity which such a practice can develop, case by case, in maintaining a thread of subjective work within an analytic transference already established.  A sort of “conversation effect” which helps to maintain for the subject an anchoring to the Other of speech and of language, in a time in which the Other has gone belly-up, generating hurt, fear, anxiety and terror. I believe however that it is essential to question myself about this practice, or rather about the position which I occupy, in relation to a subject who is on the other side of a monitor.

This ties in with my second point which I would sum up like this: it is not from the position of the analyst, understood as the incarnation of object a, that I operate when “the encounter” takes place via a digital platform. I hold that this is neither a good nor a bad thing, and neither is the purpose I set myself in these encounters “for to use the technique he [Freud] instituted outside the experience to which it applies is as stupid as to toil at the oars when one's ship is stuck in the sand.”[6]

I would tend to say, even from listening to friends who teach at the University or who work in politics, that with computer platforms, none of the four discourses is actively produced, and that, precisely because of the absence of the body in which is incarnated the impossible, it doesn’t so much produce its own discourse as, rather, find its spring in the impossible.  Certainly the rise of the manonline, or of the man always attached to the machine, almost to the point of incorporating it, goes well with the discourse of capitalism. The voice and the gaze certainly enter into play more than ever in meetings held through technology, but I find in this practice that the absence of bodies makes impossible -fortunately- their localization and incarnation in the analyst, and suffer the risk that these in fact may be taken for the analyst, something different from playing the “trash”, as Lacan says.[7]

However, Lacan, in fact, in Television, did not hesitate to confirm the position of analysand from where he was speaking: “For there is no difference between television and the public before whom I’ve spoken for a long time now, a public known as my seminar. A single gaze in both cases: a gaze to which, in neither case, do I address myself, but in the name of which I speak.”[8] Lacan is indicating here how the scopic object is incarnated in the television. The gaze, which Lacan doesn't address, is rather that which is the cause of speech, to the point of succeeding in speaking in the name of a gaze. To speak in the name of a gaze, without referring to it, maintains in itself an impossible, which can perhaps orientate us regarding the place we lend ourselves to with the use of these computer platforms, in the contingency of this particular time and, more generally, in our epoch.



Translated from the Italian by Pauline O’Callaghan


Originally published in Rete Lacan, Torino, 25/04/2020. Available online.

[1] Miller, J.-A., L’osso di un’analisi [The Bone of an Analysis ], Milano, Franco Angeli, 2001.
[2] Lacan, J., Radiophonie, in Scilicet 2/3, Paris, Seuil, 1970. Unpublished.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Lacan, J., “The Third”, Transl. P. Dravers, The Lacanian Review, Issue 7, Spring 2019.
[5]  Lacan, J., Radiophonie, op. cit.
[6]  Lacan, J., “On A Question Prior to Any Possible Treatment of Psychosis”, Ecrits. The First Complete Edition in English, Transl. B. Fink, W.W. Norton & Co., 2006, p. 485.
[7] Play of words between “charity” and “waste” from J. Lacan’s sentence in Television: “A Saint’s business, to put it clearly, is not caritas. Rather, he acts as trash [dechet]; his business being trashitas […], Lacan., J., “Television”, in October, Issue 40, Spring 1987, MIT Press, p. 19.
[8] Ibid., p. 6.

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