TUCHÉ: The “Root of the Symptom”

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« Le sujet est heureux(…) tout heur lui est bon
pour ce qui le maintient, soit pour qu'il se répète
— Télévision, Autres écrits, 526



The ‘Root of the Symptom’
Véronique Voruz

This is a slightly revised version of a paper presented on 12 February 2022 at the Kring voor Psychoanalyse
In this paper I decided to take a rather specific path – that of reconstructing Miller’s recent orientation, an orientation that is leading us to situate the Freudian concept of fixation at the core of our theory and practice, albeit as considerably revisited over the past ten years. It is, I think, also of particular relevance in today’s context, a context that has been termed a ‘crisis of the pass’: we need to situate the stakes and paradoxes at play in the current debate around what constitutes the end of an analysis, with regards notably to what Miller has termed the outrepasse, an oft-misunderstood concept loosely, and inappropriately, used to refer to what happens after a passant has been nominated in the procedure of the pass.
My text includes many quotes, because I am trying to bring several moments of Miller’s teaching in resonance with one another, and also to highlight Miller’s reliance on Freud when he is trying to push psychoanalysis yet one step further towards the real. Indeed, just as Lacan always returned to the Traumdeutung when he was stuck in his own elaboration, it seems to me that in the last part of his teaching Miller has consistently returned to Freud, and especially to the 1926 book Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, for inspiration. It is not easy to reconstruct Miller’s trajectory, particularly in the English-speaking world, because not all his published texts or unpublished seminars have been translated, or well translated, or they have been translated in a piecemeal, disjointed fashion.

The Root of the Symptom
My title comes from the quote that we all have become familiar with:
 "Addiction lies at the root of the symptom which is made from the reiteration of the same One[1]."
This expression condenses what Miller has been aiming at, in my opinion, for the past decade of his teaching, in terms of the end of an analysis, which he argues is a logical, demonstrable one. This is a very topical question in the Schools of the WAP at present, and as we know, the theory that we have of the end of an analysis (politics) also determines both the strategy and the tactics of the analyst in the direction of the treatment[2].
If we read this phrase closely, we see that it contains several propositions:
1. The symptom has a root. The word root is well chosen to indicate the physicality of the symptom’s hold on the speaking being (enracinement in French). The corporeal dimension of the symptom is also well illustrated by the conjunction that Miller makes between the symptom and addiction;
2. The symptom is made from the repetition of the same, so there is an affinity between symptom and repetition – but as we will see, and as Stevens has shown in his argument for the Congress, this repetition is distinct from both automaton, or the automatism pertaining to the signifying chain, and tuchè, the repetition of a failed encounter with jouissance, a trauma. This is how Alexandre defines tuchè, and I quote him here in full because the distinction tuchè/iteration isn’t easily graspable:
"[T]uché is the irruption of a real, a chance encounter, which does not obey the symbolic order. It is the missed encounter, the one that is not inscribed in signifying repetition. It is what gives the object little a its place and thus opens up a new meaning for the real: the irruption of bits of the real, as bits of jouissance."
We will see that iteration isn’t, for Miller, connected to object a or bits of the real, but to the sinthome as system. I won’t say more here but am leaving this as a landmark for later. This provides a first way of reading the title of the Congress: Repetition and Fixation, iteration pertaining to fixation, albeit revisited.   
3. The same in question, that which is being repeated, is the One. It is distinct from it ‘always being the same story’ or the production of always the same surplus-jouissance. Let us simply say here, quoting from Miller’s final Course, that “the repetition of the One commemorates an unforgettable irruption of jouissance”[3], and note that it has to do with a positivity. On the question of this positivity, I remind you of the radical proposition that Miller makes in this Seminar with regards to feminine jouissance:
"What Lacan glimpsed through the lens of feminine jouissance, he generalised to the extent that he made it into the regime of jouissance as such. He saw that up to this point in psychoanalysis, one had always conceived of the regime of jouissance from the perspective of the male side, but in the last teaching, the perspective of feminine jouissance conceived as principle of the regime of jouissance as such opens up[4]."
Taking these three comments together allows me to pose that what we are witnessing, in the concluding moments of Miller’s life-long teaching, is a re-definition of the symptom in terms of the iteration of the One, which Miller is now situating at the core of analytic theory and practice, even leading him to claim that the pass is now dépassée [overtaken, obsolete], this being the excellent title chosen by the editors of Quarto when publishing the eleventh lesson of Being and the One.
What I want to continue doing today is to try and elucidate the stakes of Miller’s lengthy trajectory and renewed orientation, as well as to highlight a few landmarks in his construction of a psychoanalytical theory perhaps more adapted to the speaking bodies of the 21st century. It will not be possible, of course, to be exhaustive.
I will now situate my claim that we are engaged in a profound reorientation of psychoanalysis with regards to Miller’s own elaboration.          

From “Lacanian Biology” to Being and the One
Being and the One provides much of the material for my paper, for two reasons:

  • Firstly, it is very much the inspiration for the title of the forthcoming NLS Congress, Repetition and Fixation. We note, of course, that the chosen title was not repetition and iteration, but repetition and fixation – it is however the Freudian concept of fixation which Miller will build on in order to extract that of iteration, and I will provide a few landmarks and comments on this point.  
  • Secondly, this course has played a fundamental part in re-orienting analytic theory and practice since Miller delivered it as the quilting point to his teaching in 2011.

Why do I call it ‘quilting point’? Because, in my opinion, it comes to complete a trajectory that had started 12 years previously with six lessons extracted from his 1998-99 Course and published under the title of Lacanian Biology. What happens in Lacanian Biology[5] that has been developed ever since, under many facets, by Miller? It has to do with the symptom in psychoanalysis, whether we write it symptom or sinthome. There are two lines of thought that we can follow from that course onwards in Miller’s work: first, as most of you know, it is there that we find the symptom redefined as a body event, an expression which Lacan himself only uses once, and second, it is Miller’s reference to Freud’s actualised metapsychology, which we find in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety [1926]. In this quote, we find both threads of thought presented together:
"[I]t is a logical definition of the symptom which we cannot avoid as soon as we grasp the symptom as jouissance, as soon as we grasp it in the terms that Freud proposes in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety, as a satisfaction of the drive. If the symptom is a satisfaction of the drive, if it is a jouissance conditioned by life under the guise of the body, it implies that the living body be prevalent in any symptom[6]."      
The reference to Freud is to chapter II of Inhibition, Symptom, Anxiety, in which Freud defines a symptom as “a sign of, and a substitute for, an instinctual satisfaction which has remained in abeyance”[7]. In my opinion, and I will continue to argue this point, Freud’s definition of the symptom as a modality of satisfaction is absolutely central to Miller’s redefinition of the aim of an analysis taken beyond the point of disbeing attendant upon the traversal of the fantasy as developed by Lacan in the Proposition of 67. As a preliminary indication of what I will continue developing, once we enter the perspective of a non-negativisable jouissance[8], the question of the quantitative factor has to be addressed in a creative perspective, for once the destinal articulations of the subject have been disinvested from their libidinal charge, where will the libido go, if not to accrue the symptom? The shift operated by Miller is therefore crucial in several respects:

  1. It re-centres psychoanalytical practice on the body and its experiences of jouissance;
  2. It gives renewed dignity to the once-deplored symptomatic residues as ‘root of the symptom’ that testifies to the singular mode of one’s existence;    
  3. It produces alternative renderings of knowledge and of the end of analysis.     

We note, before progressing further, than in lesson 9 of Being and the One, Miller reiterates more forcefully his definition of, this time, the sinthome, as a body event:
"The sinthome is defined as a body event which evidently gives rise to sense, a semantics of the symptoms develops out of this event, but at the root of the Freudian symptoms which speak so well and are deciphered in analysis, at the root of this semantic, there is a pure body event[9]."    

Why fixation?
My next stepping-stone in retracing Miller’s trajectory concerns his extraction of the term of “fixation” in Freud. The term of fixation occurs in three distinct contexts in Freud’s work. First, and this is the best-known occurrence, if refers to the fixation of a drive arrested upon its developmental path. In his argument for the Congress, Alexandre Stevens has retraced the occurrence of the term ‘fixation’ in this perspective in the “Three Essays on Infantile Sexuality”, in Introductory Lecture XVIII[10] and in Analysis Terminable and Interminable. Stevens summarises what is constant in all three texts for Freud in his Argument for the Congress, stating that:
"For Freud, fixation is always linked to the repetition of a particular libidinal trait that has been traumatic, in other words, that has involved the irruption of a real[11]."    
What I think is interesting with regards to the Freudian libidinal fixation is that we know that for Freud libido is characterised by its utmost plasticity, by its capacity in constantly displacing itself and invest a multiplicity of objects. A libidinal fixation is therefore pathogenic in and of itself because it prevents the free movement of the libido and builds dams in the body where the libido remains entrapped.      
I leave this remark aside for now and add two other occurrences of the term fixation in Freud. The first can be found in the Metapsychology, in the text 1915 Repression. It is the passage that distinguishes primal from secondary repression, or Urverdrängung from Nachverdrängung.
"We have reason to assume that there is a primal repression, a first phase of repression, which consists in the psychical (ideational) representative of the instinct being denied entrance into the conscious. With this a fixation is established; the representative in question persists unaltered from then onwards and the instinct remains attached to it… the second stage of repression, repression proper, affects mental derivatives of the repressed representative, or such trains of thought as, originating elsewhere, have come into associative connection with it… moreover, it is a mistake to emphasize only the repulsion which operates from the direction of the conscious upon what is to be repressed; quite as important is the attraction exercised by what was primarily repressed upon everything with which it can establish a connection." (SE 14 p. 148)
Here fixation is no longer presented as arrested development but as a structural necessity. For there to be repression, a first signifier has to be repressed (a mythical or logical hypothesis), to which the drive remains attached, and that will subsequently attract other elements to itself. This structural moment can also be rendered with the idea of the navel that Lacan presents as the exclusion from one’s origin in his “response to Marcel Ritter”. It is at the point of this exclusion that the signifying chain begins to unfold itself in an attempt to elucidate the mystery of one’s own origin.        
I think it is to this point that Miller refers in lesson 9 of Being and the One when he states the following, with regards to the outrepasse as what happens after the pass:
"[After the pass] the analytic experience opens to what is prior to repression, which to say precisely there where Freud situated fixation, the fixation of libido, the fixation of the drive as the root of repression. I henceforth will call ‘pass’ the moment at which the root of repression is laid bare. And in this space, everything remains to be constructed."      
The third Freudian reference to fixation can be found in ISA with reference to the secondary gain from illness “which follows a neurosis”:
"This gain comes to the assistance of the ego in its endeavour to incorporate the symptom and increases the symptom’s fixation[12]."
In my opinion, this third occurrence is the most interesting for what Miller is trying to accomplish with his use of the Freudian term of fixation. Note here the notion of incorporation of the symptom, a lead we will continue to follow. In any case, I will now quote two statements by Miller that can act as two further landmarks on our reading of his trajectory:   
"What Freud identified is what we formulate as the conjunction between the One and jouissance, a conjunction that makes libido not susceptible to transformation, metamorphosis, displacement. What we mean by point of fixation is that there is a One of jouissance that always returns to the same place, and it is on this account that we qualify it as real.[13]"
To comment this first proposition, we see that what Miller finds with the Freudian concept of fixation is an equivalent of the Lacanian real, to the extent that, in the context of the plasticity of libido and the displacements that specify the signifying chain, there is nonetheless something that always returns to the same place. This conjunction of the One and jouissance, which Freud interprets as pathogenic, as something which disrupts the flow of vital energy, is given another status by Miller, for he will argue that these fixations point to the real status of jouissance as distinct from libido: 
"This is in fact the great difference between jouissance in Lacan’s sense and Freudian libido: in every case, jouissance relates to an encounter, a factual semel [once-off] which preserves itself as untouched behind all dialectical operations.[14]"
As we know, this will then lead Miller to claim that it is jouissance which is a body event, and that it results in a new definition of the sinthome as “way beyond the bit of real. The sinthome is the real and its repetition”. We credit the real with the repetition whose mainspring it is. And thus, in this way, the real appears itself as principle and mainspring of the symbolic.”[15] We begin to see that a logical end to an analysis would involve discerning, reading the system of the sinthome which occurs prior to the fictionalisation of one’s existence, its translation into the register of being. But what are we to do with such a system? Here I will share with you a sentence which I encountered a long time ago when I was reading some lessons of the TDE published in LCD 91, and what I did with it.      
An enigma
"It is instructive to observe that Lacan brings back here [lesson 16 May 77 Sem. XXIV] the pleasure principle, he recognises a place for it at the level of the One. This quasi-animalistic principle, this a-cephalous principle, if it is to be defined merely in terms of a being subjected to [pâtir], suffering, to the least possible extent, this pleasure principle of which Lacan says that “it never ceases for one instant”, is truly the only law that he recognises at the level of the One, the only law that he recognises as the principle of the sinthome.[16]"   
I was curious when I first read this phrase, and asked Miller about it. He directed me to reading chapter III of ISA, which I did. In this chapter, Freud presents the symptom as a “foreign body”[17], but argues that in fact, the symptom can be incorporated into the ego that will include it into its organization – if the id is without organisation, in this text Freud posits that the ego is “the organised portion of the id”[18]. Freud argues that one of the outcomes of repression can be that the “struggle against the instinctual impulse is prolonged into a struggle against the symptom.” Defending against the symptom is therefore what is onerous. But the ego can, argues Freud, use
"every possible method to bind [symptoms] to itself in one way or another, and to incorporate them into its organisation by means of those bonds… the ego now proceeds to behave as though it recognises that the symptom had come to stay and that the only thing to do was to accept the situation in good part and draw as much advantage from it as possible. It makes an adaptation to the symptom – to this piece of the internal world which is alien to it just as it normally does to the real external world."
It is this incorporation that increases the symptom’s fixation, as in the previous quote from this chapter of ISA.
It seems that here, Miller is referring to Freud in order to show that it is not so much the symptom that it nefarious as the defence against it, which continues to consider the symptom as a foreign body. On the contrary, consenting to the symptom – in the guise of acquiring a know-how-to make-do with it – would free the speaking being from the burden of defending against something perceived as alien to itself.
As a concluding point, I will here make two further references to lesson 11 of Being and the One.   
The first summarily outlines the trajectory of an analysis as eventually leading to the recognition of the symptom as self-similar:
"Once the symptom is interpreted, the fantasy traversed, dis-being conquered, there remains a non-dialectical symptomatic residue, and which resonates with the “only once”. When it is circumscribed, grasped in its purest form, it appears, as one says in mathematics, as self-similar, which is to say that one realises that the whole is similar to one of its parts, and for this reason it is fractal. Beyond the pass, when one attends to what is left, this is what one encounters, the symptom as self-similar which allows to perceive in what way everything that one traversed resonated with this same structure.[19]"
This also leads to the recognition that there can be another definition of knowledge, “knowledge as the mere iteration of S1, of an identity of self to self which is preserved, and constitutes the very foundation of existence.”[20] It also implies that an analyst should listen both at the level of dialectics [lying truth], and at the level of iteration [sinthome].
Secondly, the outrepasse would involve laying bare the root of one’s symptom, in order to then observe the system of one’s sinthome no longer concealed by the fictions that one had woven in order to try and recapture one’s origin. Being able to testify to the lying truth deposited in the place of S2 [in the matheme of the analytic discourse] in the course of analysis is no longer evidence that one has reached the end of analysis, which is why Miller claims that the pass is outdated/overtaken [la passe dépassée]. How would one testify to such an end to one’s analysis? The current practice of pass testimonies may have occulted the dimension of sinthomatic singularity that gives consistency to the passant without there being any reliance on the mediation of the Other.   


[1] Miller J.-A., “Reading a Symptom”, Hurly-Burly vol. 6, September 2011, p. 143-152, at 152. 
[2] On this, see Lacan J., « The Direction of the Treatment”, and Miller J.-A., Le banquet des analystes.
[3] Miller J.-A., “L’Un est lettre”, La Cause du désir no107, p. 34.
[4] Being and the One, lesson 2 March 2011, p. 3.
[5] Miller J.-A., “Biologie lacanienne et événement de corps”, La cause freudienne no 44, p. 7-59.
[6] Ibid. p. 18.
[7] Freud S., “Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety”, SE  20, p. 91. 
[8] As already developed by Miller in the series of conferences contemporary to “Lacanian Biology” and published under the title of L’os d’une cure, Navarin 2018, p. 64-70. 
[9] Lesson of 30 March 2011, p. 8-9 in online version.
[10] Freud S.,“Lecture XVIII: Fixation to Traumas – The Unconscious”, SEXVI, p.273-285.
[11] Stevens A., “Fixation and Repetition – Argument”, NLS Congress 2022. 
[12] Freud S., “Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety”, SE  20, p. 100. 
[13] Being and the One, lesson 9, 30 March 2011.
[14] Being and the One, lesson 9, in Quarto no 124, p. 12.
[15] Being and the One, lesson 4, 9 February 2011, p. 7 in online version.
[16] Miller J.-A., “En-deçà de l’incscient”, La Cause du Désir no 91, p. 105.
[17] Freud S., ISA, op. cit. p. 98.
[18] Ibid., p. 97.
[19] Being and the One, lesson 11, in Quarto no 124, p. 12.
[20] Being and the One, lesson 11, in Quarto no 124, p. 11.


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