Report of the Two-day Seminar of Thessaloniki with Hélène Bonnaud
By Thanos Xafenias
The annual seminar of the Hellenic Society of the NLS in Thessaloniki took place on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th February 2014 at Hippokrateion General Hospital. Our guest was Hélène Bonnaud, Analyst of the School (Ecole de la Cause freudienne).
In the opening presentation, under the title “How a Lacanian Psychoanalysis ends”, Hélène Bonnaud presented the process of her own analysis. Since Freud, psychoanalysis searches for the unconscious knowledge which had been written and was then repressed. The analysis classifies this knowledge which, in the end, can be transmitted. As a result, this knowledge –due to analysis- becomes solid. According to Lacan, what the psychoanalyst has to know is articulated in chains of letters which are so austere, so if he does not miss something, the no-knowledge is given as the context of the knowledge.[i] At the end of an analysis, the subject must be able to arrange the signifying chains prevailed throughout its history. The emergence of this logic is a part of the pass and it cannot be achieved during the analysis owning to transference. Transference constitutes a veil, an obstacle to this procedure.
During her first analysis, Hélène Bonnaud experienced a cessation of associations and dreams which was followed by an exit of the analysis. A feeling of inertia is the main feature when the analyst loses the value of the «άγαλμα», a state attributed to transference. The ensuing depression she felt was due to the decline of the Subject Supposed to Know. Throughout the analytic procedure, what is at stake concerns the field of the fantasy; when the subject does not rely on it anymore the real emerges. This real appeared as depression, is what Lacan calls “desêtre”. During her pass, she interpreted this exit of the analysis as an acting out. As Lacan says, when an acting out occurs in an analysis, it is always addressed to the analyst, and to the analyst insofar as he is not too badly placed, but is not quite in his proper place either.[ii] This acting out was a moment of ejection from the analytic scene and the subsequent significant depression was indicant of something which was not interpreted by the analyst concerning the real, a halt concerning the knowledge.
Years after, in her second analysis, she managed to confront her mother’s “lalangue” by separating two signifiers which were coincided, that of “birth” and “breast”. In doing so, she was able to separate the disgraceful side of her mother’s speech from her own being. This lalangue had casted a shadow over her and the unconscious was a way to deal with this. As a result, she had constructed her own symptom -during puberty- which was linked to the oral drive. Thus, the jouissance had been localized. In addition, she became an addict of speech. That kind of jouissance was somehow treated and she exited analysis. But she did not attempt to undertake the pass due to a specific body event which could not subside.
Later on, she felt the need to speak about the way in which the medicine deals with body. It was a time where she did not expect her analysis to come to an end. During the analytical experience, she announced that her parents had never talked about her before her birth. The analyst stopped that session. In the following one a certain phrase was occurred; a phrase excluded from the analytic discourse for thirty years. It was a phrase spoken by her father before her birth which was outside of meaning, as far as it has been excluded from the circulation of the signifiers. The resonance of this phrase had struck the body in its entity, contrary to her mother’s lalangue which had been localized at mouth. Thus, a certain fixation of her jouissance had taken place. All the signifiers of this phrase were present in her associations. What could not be said traversed her entire life. It was something with an awful meaning but at the same time was outside of the meaning as far as it was absent from her analysis. Furthermore, “what could not be said” was present in her exits of the analysis. On the contrary, it was the love for her father which supported her during puberty.
A presentation of a clinical case took place on Saturday morning, with the aid of Nouli Apazidou, member of the NLS and of the Hellenic Society. The clinical interview by Hélène Bonnaud was followed by a fruitful discussion, focusing on the slightest details of the subject’s speech, in order to construct the case. The presence or not of fantasy and desire were put under scrupulous investigation. At first glance the psychosis was not so evident.
During the afternoon session, entitled “The child’s unconscious and the psychoanalyst”, Hélène Bonnaud focused on childhood where the roots of adults’ neurosis can be found. Starting from Freud’s text “Inhibition, Symptom and Anxiety” Hélène Bonnaud pinpointed that -with this text- Freud conceived the symptom in relation with the drive; what Lacan later on would call “jouissance”. Consequently, there are two ways of studying the symptom. On the one hand we have the knowledge to be deciphered, the unconscious which reveals the meaning; on the other hand we have the drive, the unconscious which exhibits its way of satisfaction beyond the pleasure principle. The subject enjoys its symptom as repetition and “jouissance” is the name of suffering which satisfies the drive. Moreover, the fixation of jouissance takes the value of dependence.
In her lecture, Hélène Bonnaud elaborated on the difference between “the will to have a child” and “the desire for a child”. Desire and will are two terms which overlap in our society. People are inclined to believe –with the aid of technology and science- that these terms are the same, confusing the decision and the path which leads to it. What analysts are interested in is the unconscious desire. As a society we prefer the concept of “knowledge” from that of the unconscious. Using examples from her book, she elaborated how desire is related to knowledge and the performance at school. Hélène Bonnaud reckoned that education is important for the child but it does not secure one’s encounter with the real. Furthermore, the child constitutes a real for its parents as far as it has its “programme of jouissance” which is unpredictable and cannot be guided. In this sense, the child incarnates a real and its symptom is a representation of such a thing, a riddle to be solved for its parents.
Subsequently, Hélène Bonnaud discussed the case of a little girl, called Sarah, who was in treatment for 10 months. Far from being “autistic”, as she was characterised before, Sarah was marked by the signifier “separation” to the point of petrification. Her parents’ separation had a crucial effect on her at the time where she had no means to symbolise her mother’s absence. The presence of the analyst helped her, by the means of a play, to overcome her silence. Sarah was marked by her mother’s depression which had as impact the absence of exchanges with the child. Sarah was under the influence of this major signifier (S1- separation) isolated from an S2. What the analyst managed to do was to put in the circulation of the signifying chain an S2, which represented the mother- daughter relation. That unprompted card-game resulted in the symbolization of her mother’s absence. Particularly, Sarah’s question was how it would be possible for her to exist while her parents would be separated.
In the discussion that followed, the audience posed their questions giving Hélène Bonnaud the opportunity to clarify the distinction of “the will to have a child” and “the desire for a child”. Nowadays, she said, we do not believe in the real in the way we did before. Science tends to conceive the symptoms of a child as disorders separated from the Other. In this way, science does not give to the “unknown” its proper place. While the symptom of a child exists and it has been recognized, we would not want the child to be identified with this symptom. It is crucial to be a locus where the symptom could mean something and, thus, to be a place for the question to find an answer in response to the real.
The Hellenic Society would like to thank Hélène Bonnaud for this fruitful two-day seminar. Her remarks on “What cannot be said”, the real she was confronted with in her own analysis and the experience she shared with us concerning the clinic with children are very precious in orienting our work towards Paris and Gent.