NLS Minute – 10

– 10 –

Discreet forms of passage to the act

Luc Vander Vennet


The study
of the 'passage to the act' [passage
took an important place in the teaching of Lacan from
the beginning. At the time he wrote his doctoral thesis, psychiatrists were
involved in a discussion about the question of ‘responsibility’, for example in
cases of unmotivated murders.The study of these unmotivated acts were at the heart
of his thesis on the case of Aimée, as was the unmotivated murders by the Papin sisters. In his article on psychosis in the Ecrits Lacan mentions that it was this
study that brought him to psychoanalysis. What is at stake in the passage to the act is indeed the question of jouissance and its regulation and this is indeed
what psychoanalysis is about. So, as Zenoni(1) says, the strangeness or the ‘unmotivated’
character of the passage to the act is not a kind of anomaly, something exterior
to humanity, but on the contrary something that reveals the fundamental
elements that constitutes the human being itself.

As the
paradigm of jouissance changes, the point of view about passage to the act changes too. From a breaking through the mirror, to a wild form of castration, separation
or extraction. So this phenomenon takes on different forms from all kinds of
suicide, to all kinds of self- mutilation or of striking the kakon in the Other.

introduction of the term ‘ordinary psychosis’ permits us to read a range of
‘discreet’ forms of passage to the act that are not so explicit but are much more
‘ordinary’ so that we need to ‘read’ them. The nature and frequency of the
passage to the act can be an index of this structure.

“I feel like having fallen out of the scene to be”. The way this subject
introduced himself at the beginning of the cure reminded me of the pair of
concepts Lacan uses to explain the phenomenon of the passage to the act in his
seminar on anxiety. He speaks there about the scene and the world. He
studies once again the mirror phase, but now he no longer points at the image
but at the border of the mirror that marks the limit of the illusionary world
of knowledge which he calls the scene. He distinguishes this scene from the world of the real. He then describes the
two fundamental characteristics of the passage to the act. First as a falling out of
the scene to join the world, a passage
from the scene to the world. And secondly, this passage to the
real has to be considered as an absolute identification with the object to
which the subject reduces himself. This is the key that permits to read several
forms of passage to the act: the defenestration as a falling through the frame of
the window, the suicide as leaving the scene of life, the fugue as a wandering
around in the world as a vagabond.

passage to the real is the common point between the passage to the act and the
clinic of psychosis that takes discreet forms in the ordinary psychoses. The
fine examination of their frequency and nature can permit us to read and
distinguish them.

“I feel
like having fallen out of the scene to be.
Although my friends are still friendly with me and keep inviting me, its feels
as if I’m absent when I’m present, as a kind of fundamental exclusion”, is a
discrete form of this passage from the scene to the world. Especially when we
discover its repetitive character and
the number of scenes to be that he
has set up throughout his life, falling out of them every time again.

We read
these forms today in all kinds of discreet forms of disappearing, of isolation
or not participating. What is more ordinary today than an interruption of work
or study for a trip around the world? The repetition of this interruptions and
their abruptness can reveal something different. Even as the different changes
of work, of interests, of activities. That are, at the same time, the most
ordinary phenomena in our modern world.

Or, what
about the girl that asks my advice about how to deal with her parents? They
have a conflict and each time she tries to discuss about it she’s thrown out
once again. “What is it that I’m doing wrong? Should I speak to them in another
way?” This apparently questioning of her subjective implication will reveal a
series of passages to the act. Where a symbolic separation is impossible a
separation in the real is realized by an endlessly making herself throw out of
the family scene.

conclude: all these kinds of discreet forms of passage to the act may serve as
discreet signs of ordinary psychosis. Although this seems to me not to be the
most important point. In all these cases the very moment they appear, the way a
subject tries to remediate them, the very specific kind of object they ‘real-a-lize’ are very singular. Instead of
being discreet signs of psychosis, they will reveal themselves in the cure as
the sign of their psychosis. That’s what psychoanalysis is really about.

1.     A. Zenoni, L’Autre pratique Clinique, érès, 2009

2.     J. Lacan, Séminaire X, L’Angoisse, Seuil, 2004, p


NLS Congress 2016
Dublin, 2nd and 3rd July 2016

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Congress Time: Saturday 9am – 6pm / Sunday 9am – 3pm.



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