Report on ICLO-NLS Study-Day
“How Do We Suffer? The Symptom in Psychoanalysis”
Dublin, May 12th 2012
The Study-Day punctuated the ICLO-NLS 2011-2012 calendar of events – a programme that included the work of cartels, reading groups, seminars and clinical conversations – and whose thrust was guided by the forthcoming XthNLS conference, Reading a Symptom, in Tel Aviv on Saturday June 16 and 17, 2012.
The Study-Day set out to interrogate the crucial notion of the symptom from a psychoanalytical perspective and certainly achieved this through a series of engaging and questioning papers which explored the topic theoretically alongside rich clinical vignettes. As the papers unfolded throughout the day, lively discussions ensued, sparking an array of questions and providing an engaging atmosphere from what was certainly a diverse audience. Anne Lysy drew the day together in her closing remarks after hearing papers from Claire Hawkes, Alan Rowan and Marlene ffrench Mullen, case presentations from Susan Mc Feely, Joanne Conway and Florencia Shanahan, with Anne herself, Rik Loose and Carmel Dalton chairing throughout the day.
Alan Rowan introduced Study-Day and welcomed everyone, most especially guest speaker Anne Lysy, current President of the New Lacanian School (NLS), current Analyst of the School (nominated after undergoing the Pass in 2010), member of the Ecole de la Cause Freudienne (ECF) and of the World Association of Psychoanalysis (WAP) and a psychoanalyst in Brussels.
He remarked how this Study-Day was an important first for ICLO-NLS, and how it was hoped it would become an annual and pivotal event for ICLO members and associates, adding that the Irish Circle had its status confirmed recently as an Affiliated Group of the NLS (having been “recognized as significant pole of Lacanian Psychoanalysis in the English language”).
Alan went on to remind us that society today is more symptomatic, with, for example, depression described as an “epidemic” with current figures of 121 million worldwide and a World Health Organisation prediction that this master signifier will affect 0.5 per cent of the population by 2020.
We can, Alan continued, see that the world is full of addiction -with people consumed by the Internet, fashion and television, etc., leading to a range of new symptoms, thereby eliciting a range of responses with advice on how to cope evident across the media on web sites, TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. Indeed, Alan concluded, how to manage is, in itself, a symptom.
Rik Loose posed some questions ahead of the first presentation: how can we identify the analytic symptom and how do we decipher the symptom? The symptom has to be read and has to do with the body, being a reading based on a written in or on the body as in, say, addiction where we see the symptom naked treating the real of the body with jouissance.
These questions were addressed in “Deciphering the Psychoanalytic Symptom” where Claire Hawkes talked about patients presenting with many difficulties and demands that mask identifying symptoms from inhibitions. Claire’s research drew support from an array of papers (Freud, Lacan, J-A Miller and others) into what constitutes the psychoanalytic symptom and how the analyst via the transference is implicated in this process. The paper explored how psychoanalysis uses speech and how revelation, not expression, is produced for the subject by interpretation. The symptom can only acquire meaning after interpretation by the Other, which transforms suffering into truth and has an effect on organising and regulating jouissance. Claire concluded that it is through the symptom that the subject has access to jouissance and that psychoanalysis does not aim to eliminate the symptom, but to transform it.
In the morning’s second paper, “Symptomatic Love”, what can we garner from the findings of Alan Rowan’sdetour onto the Internet to glimpse some of the 100 best quotes on love, where Dr Seuss is the top man in at No 1 and Benjamin Disraeli is relegated to 100th? We can be struck by one fact: four million people were curious about this enigmatic state and landed on the site to find the words to say it with. Alan went on to say that love has a social dimension and is tied up with the social bond, but can we talk about love as a symptom? What is this wanting to form a ‘we’ with a shared and new identity? As a Freudian symptom, love is born of conflict and a cipher for a mode of jouissance/enjoyment and is a mode of satisfaction, whereas for Lacan, one gives what one does not have. Freud stated that in love one re-finds an object, that one falls in love with someone who reflects us and is similar but there are preconditions for love that are unconscious. Love and the sexual drive are not the same thing, and in men there is a separation of sex and love. For Lacan, love is a semblance through which jouissance can flow, but a man can become a ‘ravage’, an affliction.
Society is obsessed by love as the lynchpin that permeates our daydreams and fantasy through film, novels and songs and the plethora of self-help books to find the real thing. But along with all that obsession, love relationships are the cause of much suffering and discontent, evidenced by current statistics of divorce rates in the US at 50 per cent and the staggering realisation that 50 percent of New York homes are categorised ‘singletons’, i.e., living alone. Sextainment is alive and well with 40 per cent using on-line dating. And what is changing with love and sexuality has consequences for our work.
After lunch, Marlene ffrench Mullen posed a series of searching questions in “The Symptom and the Body –What Body?’ Or ‘The Symptom and the Real – What Real?’”. Marlene began by drawing attention to how Lacan, because he revised many of his central concepts such as the Name-of-the-Father, truth and meaning, object a, jouissance and the real, changed his conceptualization of the end of analysis leading to, in latter years, to the forging of the sinthome. Why did he change the status of the object a and formalize it as a semblant? Why is it that the object a as real, as a jouissance extracted from the body through the signifier, is no longer adequate? Marlene spoke about how Lacan showed how, under certain conditions, the death drive may appear. At the end of analysis, one realizes the horror of what one is as an object. It was listening Pierre-Gilles Gueguen’s “Lacan’s Joyce: The Sinthome” (January 14, 2012) which drew Marlene to puzzle what is the difference between the realization of what one is as an object and the symptom as real that forces you to face your own masochism? Could this be a reference to Freud, when he states that the resistance due to repression, and the resistance contributed by the superego, may be conjoined in ‘need to be ill or the sufferer’? Perhaps there is a relation between the notion of primal repression and primal masochism? Marlene took these central questions and began her research to find answers but said that, despite her investigations at this time, she did not find a satisfying result. Nevertheless, for us listeners, the effect of such pivotal questions was an opening.
There were three case presentations, paired with and complementing the above papers. In “Is this a Ruse or a Rouse?” case study, Susan McFeely described a case of psychosis in a drug user, where the client could be described as adrift , but minded, in a place where things happen to him, and where the phallus does not operate but is produced via drugs. The object a is suspended and his many ‘slips’ allow him to disappear and so avoid the desire of the Other. Joanne Conway’s case study of “’You make me sick!’ Impasses, Obstacles and Invalidated Train Tickets” documented a neurosis, where meaning can paralyze and the signifier mobilises a symptom and a negative transference forges an impasse. The client fears being forgotten and questions “what am I for the others” and a demand to master the Other with a vacillation of the Other – the barred O.
And in “Impair’: Symptom, Letter and Psychosis”, the final case study of the day, Florencia Shanahan spoke about how the symptom in psychosis may be a body event, not a thought event, and elaborated on the status of the letter and the function of the symptom. In neurosis, the symptom is inscribed in a writing process between the body and the subject, and the jouissance included in it is ciphered, which gives it a meaning. It is the unconscious that ciphers; outside of meaning, the letter of jouissance repeats itself without saying anything to anyone. Finally this lead to the question: what is the place of the letter in psychosis?
The closing remarks were by the guest speaker, Anne Lysy, who said that during the Study-Day there was broad reference to Freud’s work and Lacan’s teaching, which are the tools with which we work. She said she was “very struck and happy” by the way in which these tools have been researched, with the speakers utilising that knowledge in the papers presented today. It was clear that through the enunciation of the ‘whys’ that the personal quests have implications for everyone’s own practice and with the formation of the analyst and the necessity of supervision and one’s own analysis. She described the psychoanalytic act as unique - a moment – that is always in the singularity of the case. She went on to speak about the symptom, which is not a given at the beginning of an analysis but has to be “put into form” (Lacan says) in the first sessions, and how the symptom is transformed from the beginning of analysis to the end of analysis - but not in a continuous line as it is a question. There is always a symptom and, as the first link of language and body, of course, it remains. A symptom, she continued, has a dimension of the real, it does not change. It is the position of the subject towards the symptom that changes, but a kernel of jouissance remains. Anne Lysy thanked everyone for their work and said she enjoyed the “very agreeable atmosphere”.
And we extend our gratitude and thanks to Anne Lysy for travelling to Dublin to preside over this, the first ICLO-NLS Study-Day, and for joining us as we mark the occasion of the closing of this year’s programme of events.