When they poured across the border
I was cautioned to surrender
This I could not do

(Leonard Cohen, The Partisan)

View this email in your browser

28th October 2021


20th Study Days: "Marks of Trauma"

27-28 November, 2021 | Virtual

"Trauma", "traumatic effects", "trauma prevention", "post-traumatic stress" (DSM)… The explanation of trauma is lost in the generalisation of its definition and its modes of treatment.

How can we deny trauma in these times in which we are living with the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic? It is urgent for us to intervene as analysts by asserting our political and ethical competence in responding to the use of this concept in the social Other, in the Other of healthcare or in the political Other.

The term "trauma" has been linked to the history of psychoanalysis from the start. Events similar to this pandemic that took place at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century helped Freud to pursue his investigation into trauma, which he had already begun some time before in relation to its sexual origin.

For psychoanalysis trauma is the name of the encounter with a real that unexpectedly intrudes. It is a sign, a mark, a wound provoked by an inevitable injury to the speaker-being: "Because the body, if we take it seriously, is the first to bear the mark which orders it in a series of signifiers."(1)

The marks of trauma thus take on value as a support for the subject's relationship with the body, which bears them despite the fact of subtracting itself from them. These marks at times signal a before and an after in the life of an individual, because they will remain inscribed forever. For this reason, during an analysis, the subject is invited to explore these marks via the different life events that might or might not turn out to be traumatic, given that the traumatic effect is produced to the extent that the contemporary event touches on an earlier real.

The reading and the treatment of trauma in psychoanalysis of the Lacanian orientation therefore differs from other practices that we find in common discourse which aim to eliminate, anaesthetise, forget, prevent, control, and so on. For psychoanalysis, the marks of trauma have an inaugural value and are related to existence.

For Freud, trauma refers to an enigmatic first experience of sexual excitation which remains repressed and could be symbolised in a second moment. Nevertheless, in both Freud and Lacan a subject's jouissance is always linked to a first event with traumatic value.(2)

But what is the status of trauma, of this "sexual wound", since that is what trauma signifies?(3) The classical approach in psychoanalysis consists in seeking out the old wound within the order of what has already happened. Lacan's approach – which refers back to Freud – towards the end of his teaching is to treat trauma as a trouma, a neologism that unifies trauma and hole. The ultimate version of sexual trauma is, according to Lacan, that "there is no sexual relation". This axiom says that in any case there is always a traumatic point and that the dimension of the sexuality of the subject advances "in fits and starts".(4)

When Lacan considered the unconscious structured like a language, he put the emphasis on the bite of the signifier on the living, a first effect of castration understood as traumatic. With the concept of the Unary trait, the "einziger zug", as the support of the primordial identification, Lacan will make the relation of the subject to the signifier his fundamental mark. Later on, there will be a shift in his teaching with regard to different concepts: from the subject to the parlêtre, from language to lalangue, and he will also formulate the axiom mentioned above, "there is no sexual relation", thus providing the synchronic formula of trauma.(5)

The immersion of the parlêtre in lalangue, the percussion of lalangue in the body, sinks its roots in the one-all-alone, which is a signifier, a mark, a trace, or a cut.(6) It thus produces a body event that corresponds to the order of traumatism, of shock, of contingency, of pure chance.(7) In the new clinical paradigm of knotting that inaugurates the last period of Lacan's teaching, trauma and its marks are that knotting between language and body, as opposed to trauma considered in the common discourse, which refers to an event that is supposedly traumatic for everyone.

Thus, faced with the different events of life, psychoanalysis offers to explore the marks of each person and their destinies, their troumatism(8), that is to say, that which made a hole where the subject has not found the words, and also what each one was able to invent with these marks.

Scientific committee:
Lucía D'Angelo, Blanca Fernández, Eugenia Insúa, Silvia Nieto and Ruth Pinkasz.

Translated by Roger Litten

(1) Lacan J., "Radiophonie" in Otros escritos, Paidós, Buenos Aires, 2014, p. 432.

(2) Miller, J.-A., "El estatuto de lo real", Freudiana nº 63, Barcelona, 2011, p. 28.

(3) Miller, J.-A., Causa y consentimiento. Los cursos psicoanalíticos de J.A. Miller, Paidós, Buenos Aires, 2019, p. 138 et seq.

(4) Miller, J.-A., Causa y consentimiento, op. cit., p. 139.

(5) Miller, J.-A., Causa y consentimiento, op. cit., p. 138.

(6) Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book XXIII, The Sinthome, Polity, 2016, p. 216.

(7) Miller, J.-A., L’Orientation lacanienne, L'Un tout seul, lesson of 2nd February 2011. Unpublished.

(8) Lacan, J., Seminar XXI, Les non-dupes errant, lesson of 19th February 1974. Unpublished.

Facebook Facebook
Twitter Twitter
Website Website

Issue # 11 The Lacanian Review
Click below to order a copy now!

Subscribe to The Lacanian Review

You can subscribe to LRO


Copyright © 2021 The Lacanian Review Online, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:


New Lacanian School

Désinscription – Unsubscribe
Le site de la NLS website
Inscription – Sign up for the Newsletter

Back to list