Commentary on Maurice Bouvet’s case of Obsessional Neurosis (Seminar IV) : a reconstruction of the case

by Julia Evans on June 15, 2017

These notes were presented to the Earl’s Court Clinical Group, on Thursday 15th June 2017 in Earl’s Court, London. It is intended that this is the first of three presentations on Maurice Bouvet’s description of a case named as Obsessional Neurosis. This case is examined by Jacques Lacan in Seminar IV, especially on 28th November 1956. The three parts are probably:

1) A reconstruction of the case from the given details.

2) How the case is viewed through object relation’s theory.

3) Jacques Lacan’s commentary.

Julia Evans 

References:

[JL] Seminar IV : 28th November 1956 : Jacques Lacan : Seminar IV : The Object Relation & Freudian Structures 1956-1957 : begins 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan : See here

[MB] Clinical analysis : 1956 : Maurice Bouvet : See here

Background

This case was incomprehensible to me when I first read it. As I persevered, I realised that most of the principles, I recognise, for a Lacanian analysis, have been broken. These include:

– the analyst judging the subject, including the satisfactoriness of their sex life, so the analyst’s normal or standard rules ok.

– the analyst knowing or understanding what the subject is not stating, interpreting from a knowledge of the subject’s structure or what ought to be the subject’s structure.

– the analyst knowing what position the subject ascribes to them in the transference.

– regression to a previous stage interpreted as an interrupted normal development.

– separation of emotions from rationality.

– reality being objective & the analyst can judge if in need of correction.

– the analyst’s ego being the standard against which all is judged.

A reconstruction of the case.

Presenting symptoms (all reference to judgments based in object relation’s theory have been removed):

[p43 of MB] A man in his 40s suffering extremely painful religious obsessions. [p46 of MB] He could see no connection between his conscious religious ideas and his religious obsessions, which seemed to him a foreign thing.

The obsessions [p43 of MB]

Obsession A. A religious image, such as that of Christ or of the Virgin, was often present in his mind at the same time as curses.

His reaction to this presence

1) He was accustomed at such moments to utter a short prayer, such as, “O God, I am a miserable sinner,” which is described as a logical thing for a Catholic to do.

2) Soon, however, he found himself using words without any apparent meaning, neologisms that took the form of an incantation (described as magic) intended to erase the thought that accompanied the vision (described as undoing).

3) These mechanisms continued to be effective.

Others were less so.

Obsession B. He had at the same time what he called motor obsessions.

He was always thinking he saw consecrated wafers under his feet and he was afraid of walking on them.

1) The easiest way of avoiding this sacrilegious possibility was not to tread on anything resembling a white patch.

2) This calmed him, but very soon he got the idea that a host had slipped in between his foot and his shoe.

3) The mechanism, simple and logical, was to check whether the sacred object was in fact touching his foot.

4) This at first he did, successfully, then, as in all similar cases, the checking process had to be repeated over and over again.

5) [p44 of MB] The action that was a response to his motor obsessions became the subject of a real obsession in itself. The original purpose of the action was not forgotten.

6) The action kept its meaning while losing its effectiveness, so that, in the end, when the repeated checks proved ineffective as a means of stopping the obsessive thought of sacrilege, they had to be supplemented.

7) So recourse to a parent, the mother was put in place.

8) The patient thought or said, to overcome his anxiety: “Your mother told you to behave as though nothing were wrong and not to pay any attention to such silly ideas.” This restored his calm.

Relationship to his father

p47 of MB] His father had had a simple faith,

and when the patient was a young man he had systematically opposed his father on matters of doctrine.

He could not bear his father interfering in his studies, and he had been a very poor student.

He complained of discouragement and loss of heart at his comparative failure in analysis, much as he had retained extremely disagreeable memories of his scholastic studies.

A defenestration?

[p45 of MB] Toward one person in his environment, a very important person to him, he one day had a violent outburst of anger which he concealed. He then experienced, by his own admission, for the first time the horrors of depersonalization [MB’s description]. Everything was different. He was no longer himself. He felt himself changed. His thinking lost consistency, and he felt himself on the edge of madness. His ideas were incoherent, irrational, and aimless. A painful feeling of strangeness clouded his perceptions of his surroundings. He could not have said exactly what was happening but it was all very strange.

[p48 of MB] This patient suffered a depersonalization phenomena when he suppressed an attitude of violent rejection toward his wife. At least, this has been so in my observation.

[Julia Evans  notes that an outburst of anger becomes an attitude of violent rejection which seems different. Is this an acting out in which case what is being put on the stage? Or is it a passage á l’acte?]

[p47 of MB] … eventuated in a need for destructive love, in the most literal sense since it was expressed by tearing and biting.

[p48 of MB] I knew that he had an ambivalent relationship with his two parents, on the one hand, and a relationship of the anal-sadistic type with his wife, whose beauty caused him worries that he himself thought nonsensical and unhealthy. His sexual relations with his wife were a matter of form, embarrassed and very restrained, although he seemed quite unaware of this. [Julia Evans : this to me is an extraordinary judgment by a third party who was not present.]

… This patient dissociated his emotions and feelings of love from his sexual pleasures. He had noticed before marriage that his few amatory adventures had all followed the same pattern. At first he was madly in love, extreme in happiness or unhappiness, but the storm of emotions, which he remembered with distaste, faded away as soon as sexual intercourse had taken place .

So what can we do with this material? Some preliminary thoughts:

So may be the underlying symptom is that curses are present at the same time as the Virgin & Christ. So the curses underlie a mother, who is immaculate and has never sinned and a son who is a God and also without sin.

Treading on wafers is sacriligious. So encounters with wafers are not allowed, indeed sinful, and have to be guarded against.

His wife is very beautiful may be to the point that he is unworthy, sinner that he is.

His father interferes and he opposes his father in matters of doctrine. He is opposed to his father’s religious position.

It is by invoking his mother, that the motor obsessions can be quelled.

There is no relation between his religious obsessions and conscious religious ideas. So the religious obsessions and the depersonalisation may come from somewhere else. They are bound up in primary processes, not secondary ones.

So it may be in relations with a woman, rather than with the ideal woman, are not possible and this is where the depersonalisation comes from. He can only replace the woman, the Virgin, with another ideal. Once this relationship fails, after the initial sexual encounter, then nothing emerges in its place.

Next time I will try and decipher what Maurice Bouvet makes of this case using object relation’s theory.

Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Earl’s Court, London

Further texts

Of the clinic : here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud : here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here

Jacques Lacan in English or here

Translation Working Group here

Texts written by other members of the Earl’s Court Clinical Group

Bruno de Florence (See here or www.deflorence.com )

Owen Hewitson (See here or www.lacanonline.com)

Greg Hynds here

Julia Evans (See here or www.LacanianWorks.net )

Texts presented to the Earl’s Court Clinical Group meetings

Greg Hynds : Reading the Recommendations : London, 1st April 2017 (Open Meeting) : See here

Julia Evans : What makes the initial interventions by an analyst work? : 1st April 2017 (Open Meeting) : See here

Commentary on Maurice Bouvet’s case of Obsessional Neurosis (Seminar IV) : a reconstruction of the case by Julia Evans  on 15th June 2017 or here

Commentary on Maurice Bouvet’s description of Object Relations Theory (Seminar IV) by Julia Evans  on 27th July 2017 or here

A preliminary engagement with ‘Psychoanalytic Violence: An Essay in Indifference in Ethical Matters’ by Dany Nobus by Julia Evans on 30th July 2017 or here

See also

Julia Evans : Notes & references for Seminar IV : 28th November 1956 : 2nd July 2017 : See here