Father John Misty’s “Pass”

Lacan and Zizek once asked if it is possible to break out of today’s “capitalist discourse” without becoming a “Saint.” I am increasingly of the opinion that it is not possible. However, Lacan and Zizek are here referring to a particular type of Saint — not the depressive Saint who has to live up to the superegoic imperatives of their supposed God — but rather a Saint who identifies with his symptom. Lacan’s word for this fundamental identification with the symptom: “Saint-homme,” a homophone of the more archaic word for symptom, “sinthome.”
 
I’ve been asking myself if it is possible to perform a “pass” outside of the clinical psychoanalytic consulting room, without the analyst positioned as objet a. And I’m am considering the possibility that it is, in fact, entirely possible. For example, this week I’ve been thinking about Father John Misty’s “pass” in his song “Leaving LA.” If we analyze the lyrical content as a discourse then we can find the key variables of the master’s discourse: S1, S2, a, $:
 
“I was living on the hill
By the water tower and hiking trails
And when the big one hit I’d have a seat
To watch masters abandon their dogs and dogs run free
Oh baby, it’s time to leave
Take the van and the hearse down to New Orleans
Leave under the gaze of the billboard queens
Five-foot chicks with parted lips selling sweatshop jeans”
 
The big one hit. He doesn’t say what the “big one” is — we just know that it is a disaster and that it interrupting the pleasures of living on a hill by the water tower and hiking trails. The landscape is literally cut here by a non-sensible signifier, an S1. What happens next is that “its time to leave,” that is, to leave the jouissance of the hills and water tower, to leave “under the gaze of the billboard queens.”
 
The song continues:
 
“My first memory of music’s from
The time at JCPenney’s with my mom
The watermelon candy I was choking on
Barbara screaming, “Someone help my son!”
I relive it most times the radio’s on
That “tell me lies, sweet little white lies” song
That’s when I first saw the comedy won’t stop for
Even little boys dying in the department store”
 
This seems to me similar to what Freud names a “primal scene.” He was there with his mom and something happened in the oral register: he was choking, or, rather, suffocating, on the Other. He describes the moment as if it were one of alienation: “little boys dying in the department store.” Subjectivity emerged here in its empty form as $, and, his mother became something separate: “Barbara.”
 
Next he attributes his musical genius, or what there is of it, to that moment when the S1 robbed him of jouissance:
 
“So I never learned to play the lead guitar
I always more preferred the speaking parts
Besides there’s always someone willing to
Fill up the spaces that I couldn’t use
Nonetheless, I’ve been practicing my whole life
Washing dishes, playing drums, and getting by
Until I figured, if I’m here then I just might
Conceal my lack of skill here in the spotlights
Maya, the mother of illusions, a beard, and I”
 
This is the moment of the “pass,” when the agent of the discourse shifts from $ to objet petit a. He acknowledges and identifies with music, the beard, and all of it, as a way to “conceal [his] lack of skill here in the spotlights.”
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How to be Secretly Lacanian in Qualitative Research

If I had more time I’d write a report about most Qualitative Research Methodologies as inherently “obsessional,” that is, as a discourse of obsessional neurosis (i.e., what Lacan names “university discourse”). One of the biggest problems with Qualitative Research Methodologies in the social sciences today is that they are focused increasingly on iterative, recursive, and largely inductive research processes that leave the researcher endlessly repeating and rewriting their research design until it “coheres.” The idea is to identify gaps (e.g., “lack,” objet a) and to keep filling them in over and over again. Knowledge (S2) here engages with the gap (a) to produce the alienated researcher ($) without realizing the truth: this serves discourses of mastery (S1). Qualitative Research is the discourse of the university par excellence!

I’m only familiar with one major intervention into Qualitative Research that attempts to push it out of University Discourse (but also out of the Hysteric’s Discourse, which is exemplary of participant action projects where the split subject engages or sets itself up against mastery, S1) and that is Christian Dunker‘s and Ian Parker‘s remarkable “How to be Secretly Lacanian in Anti-Psychoanalytic Qualitative Research.” A limitation of that article is that it is uniquely situated within the context of Psychological Qualitative Research rather than Social Science Qualitative Research more generally.

Find their article here:
https://discourseunit.com/annual-review/7-2009/

Black Panther as Empty Container

I went out last night with my family to watch the film Black Panther. I was entertained, and that was the problem.

The Wakandans – a nation of tribes in the African continent – isolate themselves and pretend to be a third world country. However, they hide immense riches, technologies, and infrastructure, from the rest of the world. They seem far superior to Western capitalism as we know it today, and yet, the contradiction is that they have left so many people outside of Africa to suffer at the hands of oppressors. This already poses an interesting question: is the Wakandan nation not meant to represent the prospect of Western rational-bureaucratic capitalism after a dialectical integration of African culture?

Prince N’Jobu wanted to abolish the oppression of Africans internationally so that he might adopt a sort of cosmopolitan or egalitarian international community. The result was that some people were killed and a young boy was orphaned. That young boy grew up outside of Africa for all of his life, in the land of the oppressors and colonizers. He described his ancestors jumping off of a slave ship because it was better for them to die than to give in to the slave owners. His conviction is, like Prince N’Jobu, that one must confront one’s oppressors rather than develop an isolated nation alongside them in some sort of quiet and postponed revolution.

This brings me to what I find most interesting about the film. There are four perspectives that I want to highlight. The first two are from the alt-right and the last two are from the ult-left.

The first alt-right perspective: you will find stories online that celebrate Black Panther as an “alt-right film.” Why? Because it is explicitly nationalist, it celebrates pride in homogenous culture, is offers an anti-globalist vision, and so on. For example, one article is titled “The Alt-Right has a new hero and it’s black panther.” This was published June 26th, 2017 by Carl Perkins in the International Policy Digest. I’d like to quote a sentence from that article: “what many conservatives will quickly realize upon closer inspection of Wakandan culture is that the character of T’Challa [the King of the African nation] resembles the socio-political worldview of the alt-right.” The article continues: “Black Panther is anti-globalist. Black Panther’s moral coda is steeped in a strong nationalistic conviction that constantly places the wellbeing of his people’s history, culture, and identity over any external attempts at opening up the culture and economy of Wakanda, the fictional African country in the Marvel universe. Wakanda is a hierarchal society that’s intentionally racially homogeneous, and its immigration policy is essentially isolationist. Other cultural influences are not permitted within Wakandan borders, as Black Panther believes them to be harmful to the wellbeing of his people. The Wakandan King enforces these policies through a culturally entrenched military, the Hatut Zerzae (a former secret police force turned mercenary group) & the Dora Milaje (the King’s all-female Praetorian Guard). In this sense, T’Challa expresses strikingly neo-Nazi tendencies.”

There is another more popular version of the alt-right narrative concerning Black Panther. This is a version that rejects the worldview of the film Black Panther. In an article published by the Huffington post one author wrote that “[a] Facebook group called Down with Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and Its Fanboys, whose moderator describes himself as ‘alt-right,’ recently announced its plans to intentionally tank ‘Black Panther’s’ Rotten Tomatoes score once the movie starts showings on Feb 15.” The group was apparently “white nationalist” and did not like the fact that the film had a near all black cast, etc. This section of the alt-right, then, cared about nationalist values but principally white nationalist values.

What we notice is that the alt-right is here split on the question of the significance of the film Black Panther.

On the the side, there is the ult-left narrative of the film. The predominant response has been to celebrate the film. One article, titled  “The Liberating Visions of Black Panther,” described the film in relation to the work of Frantz Fanon. I’ll quote it: “In 1952, the psychoanalyst and revolutionary Frantz Fanon observed that in comic books, ‘the wolf, the devil, the evil spirit, the bad man, the savage are always symbolized by Negroes or Indians.’ Things have changed since then […] Fanon believed that colonized peoples had the right to pursue their liberation by any means necessary. But Wakanda has never been colonized, […] [and it desires] to foment a revolution from below.”

I want to quote the rest of the article in full because it will help us also get some insight into the film:

“Killmonger, the orphaned son of an expatriate Wakandan, grew up in poverty in the United States, his life shaped by the privation of the American inner-city and his experiences inside the U.S. war machine. He both desires to locate a home, a place he truly belongs, and yearns to correct at the point of a gun the injustices of a world order that so often exploits people of African descent. Jordan expertly communicates these conflicting motivations, tapping into the same angst and longing that lent pathos and an unusual depth to his portrayals of Wallace in The Wire and Oscar Grant in Coogler’s debut film, Fruitvale Station. In one scene, he has a bristling exchange with a curator at a British museum that holds dozens of expropriated African artifacts, his mocking inquiries into the provenance of each finely wrought mask communicating a sense of injustice that stretches back centuries and across the Atlantic.

A child of both privilege and lineage, T’Challa takes the long view, cognizant of the fact that technologies derived from vibranium could potentially disrupt the global balance of power. Killmonger welcomes this chaos, and looks forward to the day when “the sun will never set on the Wakandan empire.” This incongruous boast reminds us that the achievements of historical figures like Winston Churchill—currently enjoying a bit of a renaissance in the popular imagination thanks to The Crown and Darkest Hour—resonate differently in the provinces where his military often ruthlessly enforced colonial rule. The film repeatedly suggests that had Wakanda not hidden its advancements from the outside world, they would have faced a similar invasion from Western powers long ago.”

You see that what is celebrated here is a “revolution from below” — a “non-violent” and therefore non-confrontational revolution. I name this a “decaffeinated revolution,” or, rather, a capitalist revolution (to be distinguished from a revolution beyond capitalism). But here there is a subtle possibility to split within the ult-left on the issue of its interpretation. Here are some coordinates for doing so:

First, Frantz Fanon was a militant revolutionary. The aforementioned article claims that Fanon would have been “proud of the movie.” I don’t believe that Fanon would have be proud of the movie. Fanon wrote, for example: “And it is clear that in the colonial countries the peasants alone are revolutionary, for they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The starving peasant, outside the class system is the first among the exploited to discover that only violence pays. For him there is no compromise, no possible coming to terms; colonization and decolonization is simply a question of relative strength.”

We should ask ourselves who within the film was the “peasant,” the “outsider,” the “orphan?” It was most certainly Killmonger. And who, within the film, was the establishment leader/king of a wealthy nation?

Some more critical thoughts:

(1) When I google “Black Panther,” instead of generating hits relating to the Black Panther Party I am overloaded with hits about a box office (capitalist) film. Isn’t this a subtle form of “overcoding” black history? For example, the first hit for “Black Panther wiki” is a link to the film. 5 years ago it would have been to the Black Panther party. Today instead of finding links about militant conviction our children are finding links to a film produced by the American propaganda company, Walt Disney.

(2) I admit that maybe I’ve missed something, but the militant revolutionary figure in the film – the one with all the passion, the one who was willing to die for what he believed in – was the bad guy. The film staged an internal African confrontation – it was a story of internal divisions (instead of a solidarity campaign against an external enemy). This resulted in an alliance with the United States, with the C.I.A (and we should remember which side the CIA was on during the civil rights movement, etc). What would Frantz Fanon say about this internalization of vulnerability?

(3) The character of the “bad guy” made use of slang and gestures reminiscent of American black stereotypes. I found this striking, in fact. It made me consider the possibility that this was a cinematic version of Chris Rock’s controversial standup routine from the 1990s when he separated African Americans into two broad groups (the good and the bad).

(4) The film glorifies “the process” (i.e., rational bureaucratic authority). The victory is to keep the system as it always was, that is, to keep the system running along on the same track. Black Panther does not face his enemy because of courage but rather because he respects the rule of law.

(5) Finally, while Wesley Snipes was key in the film — and while it had a large number of African American cast members — in the final instance it was produced by Walt Disney. What would Edward Said have said about this?

It would seem to me that the film has opened up a space for the alt-right and the alt-left to agree and to disagree for exactly similar reasons. Is this not the perverse ideology of the film? It is similar to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” his ninth symphony, which, as Slavoj Zizek correctly demonstrated, has been used famously to signal ultra-conservative nationalism — it was used by the Nazis and it was used by the Soviet Union and during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. It also became the unofficial anthem of Europe. Zizek said the following: “the universal adaptability of this well known melody can be used by political movements which are totally opposed to each other.” Zizek continues: “this is how ideology has to work — its never just meaning. It has to work as an empty container, open to all possible meanings. […] The catch is that this neutrality of a frame is never as neutral as it appears.”

And is this not the function of the film Black Panther? 

CPMS: A Note on its Classification

I have spent the last few years studying what some mental health professionals name “Complex Primary Motor Stereotypies” (or some variation of that name).

Increasingly, I believe that parents and researchers should begin to move away from that classification. The classification has the benefit of serving as a rallying point (what Lacan named an “imaginary”) but this can also be a serious limitation. The imaginary that the classification offers could in fact be a continuation rather than a challenge to the prevailing discourse which has sustained the behaviour. Moreover, the classification problematically helps direct parents and care-givers toward:

(1) cognitive behavioural strategies designed to increasingly obsessionalize the child,
(2) market-based solutions which intend to sell therapeutic approaches via DVD and specialized institutional care arrangements,
(3) potential bio-/neurological and drug-based solutions,
(4) reaffirmation of the parent child relationship rather than an interrogation of it.

It is absolutely crucial that psychoanalytic discourse intervene into this debate since it relates quite fundamentally to (1) the so-called new symptoms, (2) ordinary psychosis, (3) capitalist discourse.

Notes Concerning the Black Clothing Worn by Some Anarchist Men and Muslim Women

A performative/spontaneous talk I gave two or three years ago at the Modernist Studies Association. Recorded and transcribed, and uploaded here.

[special thanks to allan antliff and roger rothman]

St. John of the Cross wrote in his Ascent of Mount Carmel that “understanding can understand naught save that which is contained within.” This lesson was repeated three hundred years later when Jacques-Alain Miller claimed that “[o]ne only understands what one thinks one already knows.” I can not pretend to introduce anything new here except to claim that the function of understanding is also to make an advance on anxiety. There where anxiety seemed to be, within the work of listening, are formed certain casual “habits.” A habit is a bit like a schema or a heuristic in that it provides the subject with an interpretative framework for the utterances of others.

My claim is that the work of listening is directly implicated in the concerns of the aesthete. In other words, the work of listening is bound up with what Immanuel Kant referred to as the judgment of taste. Those who listen are not only passive receivers of an auditory exchange – the active construction of meaning by those who listen is of such significance that psychoanalysts have developed an ethics of listening with which to conduct their daily work. We might even claim that listening is precisely the mode of meaning production for the other who speaks; the speaker being reduced, in some sense, to the role of consumer.

The work of listening therefore rubs up against all sorts of aesthetic judgements, including those judgments made in the world of fashion. The word “habit” is closely linked to the Latin habitus and is not far removed from habilis. The former has to do with “clothing for the body,” clothing which, etymology reveals, introduces a logic of being “possessed,” “managed,” or “held.” “Having,” substitutes, as Lacan once put it, “one object for another;” “clothes” act as a substitute for the “body.”

On the other hand, the word habilis, which, like habitus, is rooted in habere, adds the association of “habilitation.” The habilitation is concerned with a type of recognition for those who demonstrate the appropriate understanding. What is most curious about the word habilis is that it carries a strong sense of being about “fit.” Habilitation ensures that we are recognized by the fit of our clothes as being or having some body rather than no body. This aspect of the function of understanding is so confirmed in our cultural vernacular that we have developed a special idiom which expresses that “if the shoe fits, wear it.”

Recall Marshall McLuhan’s claim that clothing is a direct extension of the outer surface of the body. In other words, it extends the skin’s tactility and insulation. His point was that clothing keeps us from seeing the “whole picture” of the nude body. This type of body is what clinicians refer to as “imaginary,” that is, the body envisioned as if it were reducible to that which is discernible, and not, as it were, as a limitation or excess. It also can not be divorced from the hidden body, which is no less imaginary, as I have found within my clinic, and which reveals itself often as a request for telephone analysis.

Colette Soler has claimed the Freudian concept of libido was invented to describe that movement “which pushes the human being towards […] the object […] [by] looking for a part of itself outside itself in some fashion, which assures you of an extension of yourself outside yourself.” Perhaps McLuhan’s thesis was perfectly aligned with today’s post-continental world of “category theory” and “extensionality;” a world where an object exists only because of its relationship to some other object. But Soler cautioned that this extension is always ‘only possible on the basis of a prior subtraction […] castration.’ Lacan’s early critique of “object relations” demonstrated that this understanding simply doesn’t ‘fit’ the Freudian doctrine of the unconscious. Freud’s discovery avoids the ossification of the object, it avoids, for example, the ‘identity morphism’ of category theory.

It was written in a holy book that “Adam and Eve were both naked and were not ashamed.” My first mistake was to presume that the Hebrew word “ashamed” necessarily carries the sense of being embarrassed over the exposition of the body or its genitals. I learned that the Hebrew word “ashamed” is actually closer to “not being covered,” which implies that the two were not being not covered.[2] To my pleasant surprise, my discovery was confirmed already by Pope John Paul II, who said that “‘they were not ashamed’ [does] not express a lack, but, on the contrary, [it] serves to indicate a particular fullness of consciousness and experience.”[3]

It was after the digestion of a crucial signifier that they made clothing for themselves and they became “ashamed” only in the sense of being “not covered.” It is because of the relative ease of imagining not being covered (as opposed to not being not covered) that Lacan introduced anxiety as a moment of not being without an object. Not being not covered, or, put another way, not being ashamed, indicates not a return to a positive proposition but rather that the object relation was much more obscure. I invite you all to read the Catechism on the meaning of original human experiences by Pope John Paul II as a confirmation of this view.[4]

This may all seem as if it were debauchery, and Lacan claimed as much when he stated that “clothes promise debauchery when one takes them off.”[5] After all, before the loincloths, Adam and Eve had a perfect sexual relationship. Debauchery, by the way, is a type of excessive enjoyment; excessive in the sense of destruction. Bakunin, in one of his political letters, claimed that destruction is a creative passion, and, I find this confirmed by the clinical evidence which suggests that the suffering body creates. Adam and Eve fashioned for themselves clothes out of fig leaves – a truly creative act! The imaginary body is not the only body, there is also the real body of the objet petit a, the body which one is not without: the real body is what remains. Lacan once said that “what lies under the habit, what we call the body, is perhaps but the remainder.”[6] This shines some light on the insistence by some theologians that the Hebrew word for “ashamed” must be translated as “remainder.”

Lacan, in his fourth seminar, said: “[c]lothing is not only made to hide what one has […] but also precisely what one does not have. […] It is not a matter, essentially and always, of hiding the object, but also of hiding the lack of the object.” Note, then, that the holy text has highlighted very nicely that clothing was to hide “nakedness” and not, as it were, to hide the substantial genital organs. The Hebrew word used in the book עֲרוּמִּים (`arummim) expresses a lack of something, as in, for example, the book of Job when the word was used to express that “destruction hath no covering.” We could claim that clothing, as a type of “Urverdrangung” or “primal repression”)[7] hides the fact of lack, but we could also claim, since destruction hath no covering, that clothing is the result of a self-fashioned body from the excessive ‘real.’[8]

Why shouldn’t we use this as an opportunity to think about the function of the veil for some Muslims?

Muslim women patients frequently explain to me that the burqa or niqab is a way for them to “be” recognized as a proper woman under Islam. I have found in my practice that there is a sort of masquerade here, demonstrated to me often by the reoccurring claim that when they were young their fathers might have wanted them to be a boy. These women discover what many little girls come to discover which is that one possible solution to trauma of the real body is to “dress up like a boy and do boy things.” In other words, clinical evidence suggests that sometimes a woman dresses herself up in the fabric of a proper body, so as to conceal, finally, the dark secret of her real body. However, they do not introduce an imaginary body – the figure is obscured in the clothing – but rather a symbolic body. They build one for themselves out of the raw materials of their clothing.

Many Muslim patients express to me that they find themselves at odds with local men after moving to the American continent. There is even a case of a woman suddenly discovering, after 35 years of wearing her hijab, that she was wearing it improperly. This was a consequence of her new found interest in the subtleties of her religion. I am sharing this only to demonstrate that the way men looked at her was absolutely bound up with her new habits. To some extent, they were the reason for her body. So, her hijab was tightened, and the symbolic body was perfected. The symbolic body of the woman is self-fashioned through an active interrogation of the desire of the Other. Thus, for the woman, the self-fashioning involves, on the one hand, an invention of the desire of the Other so as to secure for herself a consistent habit of the self.

In any case, the skin beneath the hijab is only further clothing, and the muscle beneath the skin is further clothing, and the bone, etc. Until we finally reach the limits of clothing, the inaccessible real body – which is also the limit to understanding. This is why the real body is neither the discernible nude body nor the body in extension; the real body is irreducible, inconsistent, and, for that reason, it has a strange relation to our clothing and to our habits of listening. We therefore come to recognize why, in Ecclesiastes, it was written that scholastic habits are “a weariness of the flesh.” McLuhen’s thesis is here supplemented: clothes are extensions of the skin, but, only insofar as skin is not reducible to the real body.

In any case, there comes a moment in analysis when the analysand discovers that her clothes do not fit as originally thought.

The analyst has been put in the position of making them fit better, in other words, of offering an acceptable interpretation to the analysand.

The psychoanalyst is made an expert in matters of fashion.

I want to turn now to the anarchist black bloc. Those who participate in the black bloc tactic dress in black clothing from head to toe. This offers certain tactic advantages for an individual to rush outside of the group, toss a brick, and return back into the group without being recognized. If a bit of colour is worn then the individual can no longer remain submerged within and thereby protected by the others. What becomes recognized, effectively, during these moments, is the lack within the consistency of the black clothing. The consequent anxiety generates a situation in which members of the bloc rush in to act as a shield for deviating members of the bloc, or so as to administer medical attention to the injured, etc.

The body must remain consistent – this is the rule for the black bloc!

The signifier of “black” masters the debauched real body. If one can be-lack, that is, wear the signifier of lack, then one can have lack. This explains why one anarchist author wrote that the black clothing of anarchists “is simply black fabric with nothing on it […] [it is an] anti-colour swallowing all the others.” This anarchist did not write that black clothing is the absence of clothing but rather that it is the presence of clothes with nothing...

This difference is absolutely crucial.

It is not well known that Lacan added to the list of partial objects, “the nothing.” This changed the clinical understanding of anorexia, the trademark of which was no longer the rejection of food but rather the eating of “the nothing.” To eat the nothing is to digest the desire of the maternal Other. Lacan said that “the gift of love […] is a gift of nothing.” The mother issues the demand to eat, and the anorexic swallows only the remainder, only the love.

“Love,” claimed Lacan, “is what appears in the form of bizarre signs on the body.”

When the bloc speaks, what we end up hearing is that they “demand nothing.” The demand for nothing reveals a desire to be loved for the body which it has, the body which, in a most clever way, it has fashioned for itself as an attempt to master the problem of lack. In one anarchist periodical it was written that “[i]n demanding nothing, [we] can stay continuous throughout the many shifts and transformations within the movement.” In another, Fire to the Prisons, somebody wrote that “[t]he demand is a tool for self-organization. It unifies separated individuals against a common enemy […].”

The body of the bloc marches under a black flag, which is to march with a non-sensical anchoring point – best expressed by the signifier, “nothing.” I see no reason why we can not refer to this as a master signifier: anarchy, after all, is, as Proudhon boldly claimed, order.

This is how a body is formed when there is no authority. When there is no prohibitive symbolic function then this symbolic function must be fashioned on one’s own as a defence against the traumatic encounter with the real body, the real nothingness – a nothingness which is never reducible to the partial object. This consistent and self-fashioned partial object is what Lacanians refer to as a semblant.

The master signifier is the semblant par excellence! The signifier of “black” or “nothing” introduces a much needed body, as well as a boundary between bodies. This explains why Jacques-Alain Miller once claimed that the semblant is a way to “convert nothing into something,” that is, by “phallicizing the body,” or, put another way, of making a traumatic nothingness perfectly consistent.

We know that the black bloc do not present themselves as following the law – often it is quite the opposite. We also know women who wear the black burqa or niqab often believe themselves to be strictly obedient to Islamic law. This difference is extremely important because it demonstrates that the masculine logic of black clothing is to present oneself as having mastery of lack, while the feminine logic of black clothing is to present oneself as being no-body, symbolically.

I want to conclude with these threads – I did not offer you much clothing! – simply to highlight, there within the respective masculine and feminine registers, the logic of having and being with respect to the real body with nothing on it.

[2]http://jbqnew.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/421/JBQ_421_1_wordplay.pdf

[3]https://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/jp2tb12.htm

[4]https://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/jp2tb11.htm

[5]Seminar XX. p. 6.

[6]Seminar XX

[7]Freud, 1915 – Repression: “We have reason to assume that there is a primal repression [Urverdrängung], a first phase of repression, which consists in the psychical (ideational) representative of the drive 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.”

[8]The first position begins with the symbolic and finds there a primary repression of the encounter with the name/no of the father. The second position begins with a first real which, precisely through the introduction of a body, produces a second order real of lack. For example, Paul Verhaeghe wrote that “the idea of primal repression is the most interesting one because we can situate there the drive root of the symptom, the Real. It is only with the after-repression that the Symbolic component comes into being. For Freud, this is always a “faulty connection” (falsche Verknüpfung) between a drive component and a representation.

Complex Primary Motor Stereotypies – Update

It has been a few months since I wrote a blog wherein I claimed that my son’s motor stereotypies have pretty much disappeared. Though, it seemed to me, new hyperactive behaviours were emerging. I hesitated writing this blog for a number of personal reasons. However, for the sake of understanding my son’s condition – and for the sake of being absolutely honest about the situation of his parents – I have decided to write this short update.

I have had my son full time for the last several months. During this time, with some coaching, I have been able to completely eradicate my son’s shakes. However, within the last few weeks I noticed that they were emerging again in some very minimal form. The shakes are nowhere near as intense as they used to be, and they occur very rarely, if at all within the day. But, nonetheless, I have noticed them.

So, what has changed?

Since the shakes started reemerging while I was still working, I can not conclude that it has to do with my greater absence or presence. However, there does seem to be a correlation with his impressions concerning his mother’s presence or absence. It was within a few days of learning that his mother will be returning from another province that his shaking began again during playtime. The shakes began to occur again during isolated play time while he began counting down the days until he will see his mother again.

Now that his mother has returned for the holidays and my son has been spending most of his time with her over the break, I can say without hesitation that his shakes have increased.

What conclusions do I draw from this?

I am afraid that I can not draw any real conclusions at all. However, I have claimed that there was a difficulty with the paternal signifier – a difficulty separating the mother and the child during a formative process, wherein both mother and father were in depressive states. A compensatory mechanism was installed later which seemed to produce relative stability but did not provide for a solution with my son’s difficulties focusing, etc. His grades in school have increased dramatically during the period of stabilization. He was no longer a ‘picky eater’ and was open to trying new foods, etc.

All I am able to conclude from this is that my previous analogy of the ‘bubble within a bottle of water’ continues to be my model. In other words, the bubble can be moved around but it can not be eradicated. The behaviour can and will remerge in different ways but it will never be removed. He is, though, capable of living with it.

“He who interrogates me also knows how to read me” -Lacan

It has become fairly popular to quote the following passage from Lacan: “He who interrogates me also knows how to read me.” The quotation is derived from an epigraph to Television, a book edited by Jacques-Alain Miller. Miller would become the “at least one to have read [Lacan],” according to Lacan’s own mouth. As for the quotation (e.g., “he who interrogates me…”), I can not find the original context from which it was spoken. But one thing is for certain: the quotation has been used to support a sort of critical attitude vis-a-vis the grand master’s words.

It is as if the question or the interrogation aimed at the master is the last word on Lacanian discourse. But it is not. Those who question Lacan know how to read him, certainly, but they have not advanced any further.

The problem is that the quotation has been transformed into a little piece of wisdom, picked up by all sorts of critical theorists.

Those who interrogate always do so from a particular vantage point, and if the interrogation is directed at a master, then it is from the vantage of the split-subject, $. To give it its full expression: $->S1. The result, of course, is the production of some knowledge, S2. Those who interrogate the master know something.

This is nothing more than the hysteric’s discourse.

But this is not the last word on Lacan since those who know how to read Lacan remain confined to the master discourse. The only counterpoint to the master’s discourse is the analytic discourse, the analyst discourse. This was Lacan’s claim. It is not therefore the last word on Lacan to find oneself situated within the hysteric’s discourse, $->S1/S2. Since this effectively brackets the truth of desire, objet petit a.

The least we can say about this statement, until I might discover its originating context (e.g., discourse) is that Lacan used it to situate himself as a master. The hysteric steps but does not enter-a-gate.