Report on the Knottings Seminar – London Society of the NLS

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Report on the Knotting Seminar of the NLS

London, Saturday 12th January 2013

The Knotting Seminar of the NLS took place on Saturday 12 of January 2013 in London. It was preceded by the AGM of the LS-NLS.

Key speakers at the seminar were Yves Vanderverken, (for the Executive Committee of the NLS); Anne Ansermet (for ASREEP) and Natalie Wulfing (of the LS-NLS).  

The seminar took place both in English and French (with simultaneous translation) and the speakers offered remarkable clinical presentations on the theme of the forthcoming XIth Congress of the NLS.

First, Yves Vanderverken spoke about the function of the Knotting Seminar; since it is a seminar that operates across the different societies and groups that form the NLS and as such makes it possible for members of different societies to meet and get to know each other, sharing their work in preparation for the coming Congress.


In this sense the clinical presentations offered by the speakers highlighted some of the key issues that psychoanalysts face when working with psychotic subjects today.  

They invited us to reflect on and to delimit the coordinates of the Lacanian clinic in contrast with an organicistic scientific clinic that relies upon ready-made solutions to subjective suffering.  Similarly, and in order to formalize the specificity of our clinic, we need to discuss the question of what it is that we call psychosis today.

To elucidate this question, Yves proposed placing the three different case presentations in a series. This series demonstrates that analytic intervention is not regulated by a standardized clinic, which aims at reducing or getting rid of symptoms. On the contrary, the cases presented on the day are evidence that the analyst works with the symptom rather than against it.

As we will see in the cases discussed the work with the symptom creates the conditions of possibility for the emergence of a subjective invention. This subjective invention often makes it possible for the subject to somehow inscribe him/herself in the social bond.



Reformulating the Question of Psychosis

Yves Vanderveken discussed the case of a ten-year-old schizophrenic child, whose main anxiety refers to experiences of rejection by the other.

The little boy fails to make friends and often presented himself to the analyst with a bruised body (he was le bleu: the new boy).  Yves reads the symptom – he is Le bleu, his naming designated by the marks in the “real” of his body. Yves conceptualizes this as this child’s way of claiming an identification for himself: I am bleu, the bleu is me.

Interestingly, there was no anguish associated with these bodily marks and bruises. However, the analyst registered these marks as indicating that the child was at a high level of risk to himself.

Later on in the analysis this child, through drawings of robots that usually fell apart, finds a mediated way to elaborate and take some distance from his initial identification –Le bleu- as described above.


I am not going to report exhaustively on the different moments of the treatment. However, it is important to say that the different phases of the treatment show a mutation of the initial identification and that little by little the issue of the semblant comes on the stage.

During the treatment the child finds different ways to make a name for himself and to move away from an enigmatic jouissance. One may say that initially his names function as a conductor that carries and reflects his position as a rejected object (on the side of melancholia).

Similarly, it’s interesting to pause for a moment and consider the analyst’s calculated interventions. On one hand, the analyst supports the different declensions/ transformations of the names or significations that this child comes up with. He selects his affirmations, refuses to affirm others; because of negative connotations for example, the signifier rat (TEDE).

He not only function as the secretary of the psychotic subject but at a key calculated moment that takes its bearings from the boy’s discourse, Yves places the subject before the mirror and facilitates the unraveling and affirmation of a signifier that will place this boy in a linage.

On the other hand, and in an attempt to inscribe the marks on the body, the analyst always queries the child on his bruises. The signifier rat is later on transformed into the signifier elephant. This introduces the topic of filiation since the boy can trace his large ears, seen reflected in the mirror, back to his family members, allowing him to inscribe himself in a familiar structure.  Moreover, this body trait is associated with the signifier beautiful since his mother used to call him “beautiful ears”.


In summary, the analyst’s intervention and facilitation or not of the original signifier declension [as it is transformed] creates a new place for him in the world. He was later on given the name OCELLE and is able to put his sense of irony and invention to good use. This new place lies in between the original rejected object and being the animator. Finally, the different permutations engender a displacement of the originary jouissance and a finding of a place (even if a fragile one) in the social bond.


An Enigmatic Certainty

The second case in the series was presented by Anne Ansermet, who very sensitively and eloquently conveyed the impossible conundrum presented by a girl who she saw at two different ages first when she was 8 years old and later on at 18.

This rather joyful and theatrical girl tests the limits of the understanding of the links between mind and body when she expresses with certainty her conviction of being a boy. This little girl has little to say about this certainty and this isolates and saddens her.

She feels trapped in the wrong body, a body that is not coherent with her internal image “a body in which she is enclosed today and which doesn’t belong to her”. A search for the right body brings her in her teenage years to hormone therapy. She gives this the status of a rebirth. After the operation she will be able to be recognized as a boy. It is interesting to see that in this case, the way to operate with this certainty is through a real operation, hormone replacement, rather than a symbolic one.

In the meantime it is interesting to notice in her discourse the interventions that have a pacifying effect. On the one hand is the intervention of her father who is able to relate to and recognize her sadness. He offers hope and trust “for every problem there is a solution”. He adds that he “would always love [her]” she felt grateful to him for this.

On the other hand, the analyst interventions rather than attempting to reeducate or reduce the question of sexual certainty to a malfunction, seems to suggest that there may be a different path toward understanding the ultimately unique sexual experience and aim at opening up a space  where this certainty can explored and tolerated.


What the Organs are for

The third case presented by Natalie Wulfing pointed us to Lacan’s “L’etourdit”: “The function of each organ poses a problem for the speaking being. This specifies the schizophrenic, on account of his being caught without the aid of any established discourse”

Natalie discussed the case of an analysand whose body is not supported/held by a fantasmatic screen but resorts to different bodily treatments (holistic therapies) as a way to inscribe herself in the semblant. This seems to be for her a way to “treat” or represent her body.

In a singular way and making use of the contemporary offers this lady attempts to inscribe herself in the social other. There is the desire to align body and language as an attempt to name or do with the impossible of the sexual relationship. Similarly, her speech in the context of analysis is a treatment of this.


The three cases presented on the day show the impossibility of wedding the signifier and matter. However, it is through singular invention and not through readymade solutions that this disjunction can be treated.

From the discussion and the different case presentation we could begin to grasp and formulate the different ways in which the practice of Lacanian analysts unfold and takes its orientation from the subject’s symptom. This is in stark contrast to standardized approaches oriented by readymade solutions. 




Reporter: Gabriela van den Hoven (LS-NLS)


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