On the origin of the Other and the post-traumatic object : 6th November 2004 (Lyon) : Éric Laurent

by Julia Evans on November 6, 2004

This is the text of a lecture delivered at the Institut des Sciences Cognitives in Lyon on 6th November 2004 and was later published as “L’origine de l’Autre et l’objet post-traumatique” in the Bulletin de l’ACF Rhône-Alpes, issue 88/89, November 2006. It was included in a collection by Éditions Cécile Defaut in 2008.

Translated into English

Published p97-118 of Lost in Cognition : Psychoanalysis and the Cognitive Sciences : Karnac : 2014 : : See here for details

Translated by Adrian Price

Available here

References to Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan

P99 : in 1895, Freud understood neurosis and the syndrome of traumatic repetition as being bound together  … :  Possibly point 2 Anxious Expectation, Part (I) Clinical Symptomatology, of Freud, 1895b. : On the Grounds for Detaching a Particular Syndrome from Neurasthenia under the Description “Anxiety Neurosis” : 1895 : Sigmund Freud : SE III : p85-115 : quote : Anxious expectation is the nuclear symptom of the neurosis. It openly reveals, too, a portion of the theory of the neurosis. We may perhaps say that here a quantum of anxiety in a freely floating state is present, which, where there is expectation, controls the choice of ideas and is always ready to link itself with any suitable ideational content.

P99 : In his (Freud’s) description of anxiety hysteria he mentions night waking followed by a syndrome of repetition and nightmares. Footnote 3 : 3. The pavor nocturnus  of adults that Freud outlines in point 5, Part (I) Clinical Symptomatology, of Freud, 1895b. : On the Grounds for Detaching a Particular Syndrome from Neurasthenia under the Description “Anxiety Neurosis” : 1895 : Sigmund Freud : SE III : p85-115 : Quote : (5) Waking up at night in a fright (the pavor nocturnus of adults), which is usually combined with anxiety, dyspnoea, sweating and so on, is very often nothing else than a variant of the anxiety attack. This disturbance is the determinant of a second form of sleeplessness within the field of anxiety neurosis. I have become convinced, moreover, that the pavor nocturnus of children, too, exhibits a form which belongs to anxiety neurosis. The streak of hysteria about it, the linking of the anxiety with the reproduction of an appropriate experience or a dream, causes the pavor nocturnus of children to appear as something special. But the pavor can also emerge in a pure form, without any dream or recurring hallucinations.

P99 : would speak, with respect to the syndrome of traumatic repetition, of a failure of neurotic repetition, a failure of the defences, and a failure of the “protective shield against stimuli” (Freud, 1920g)

Beyond the Pleasure Principle : 1920 : Sigmund Freud : SE XVIII p1-64 : p27 :  None the less, this speculation will have enabled us to bring the origin of consciousness into some sort of connection with the situation of the system Cs. and with the peculiarities that must be ascribed to the excitatory processes taking place in it.

But we have more to say of the living vesicle with its receptive cortical layer. This little fragment of living substance is suspended in the middle of an external world charged with the most powerful energies; and it would be killed by the stimulation emanating from these if it were not provided with a protective shield against stimuli. …  In consequence, the energies of the external world are able to pass into the next underlying layers, which have remained living, with only a fragment of their original intensity; and these layers can devote themselves, behind the protective shield, to the reception of the amounts of stimulus which have been allowed through it. By its death, the outer layer has saved all the deeper ones from a similar fate – unless, that is to say, stimuli reach it which are so strong that they break through the protective shield. Protection against stimuli is an almost more important function for the living organism than reception of stimuli. The protective shield is supplied with its own store of energy and must above all endeavour to preserve the special modes of transformation of energy operating in it against the effects threatened by the enormous energies at work in the external world – effects which tend towards a levelling out of them and hence towards destruction.

P99 : In 1926, when he modifies the sense of “the trauma of birth” first identified by his pupil Otto Rank, : from Inhibitions, Symptom, & Anxiety : 1926 : Sigmund Freud : Se XX p75-175 : from Section II (p245 in pfl) : Moreover, I do not think that we are justified in assuming that whenever there is an outbreak of anxiety something like a reproduction of the situation of birth goes on in the mind. It is not even certain whether hysterical attacks, though they were originally traumatic reproductions of this sort, retain that character permanently.

P99 : He dares to read the necessary loss of the mother as the model for all other traumas. : Footnote 4 : 4. Addendum C to Freud,1926d, p. 171:”In consequence of the infant’s misunderstanding of the facts, the situation of missing its mother is not a danger-situation but a traumatic one. […]Thus, the first determinant of anxiety, which the ego itself introduces, is loss of perception of the object (which is equated with loss of the object itself).[…] The traumatic situation of missing the mother differs in one important respect from the traumatic situation of birth. At birth no object existed and so no object could be missed.” : Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety : 1926d: Sigmund Freud : Addendum C, in the Standard Edition, vol. XX, p. 170

P99 : the 1925 article “Negation”, where the aim is “not to find” the object, but always “to refind such an object”. It is always to be found against the backdrop of a primordial loss (Freud,1925h) : from “Negation,” : 1925 : Sigmund Freud : in the Standard Edition, vol. XIX, p. 237-8: “The first and immediate aim, therefore, of reality-testing is, not to find an object in real perception which corresponds to the one presented, but to refindsuch an object, to convince oneself that it is still there.”

P100 : Freud gave a significant place to the proton pseudos, the “original lie” (Freud, 1895a, p. 356) : Part II, Section (4) The Hysterical Proton Pseudos : p356 of  The Project for a Scientific Psychology: 23rd & 25th September & 5th October 1895: Sigmund Freud (See here) :  Here we have the case of a memory arousing an affect which it did not arouse as an experience, because in the meantime the change [brought about] in puberty had made possible a different understanding of what was remembered.

Now this case is typical of repression in hysteria. We invariably find that a memory is repressed which has only become a trauma by deferred action.

P101 : Lacan proposes as of 1953 to inscribe language within a particular enclosed space, the torus, “in so far as the peripheral exteriority and central exteriority of a torus constitute but one single region” (Lacan, 2006, p.264 of Bruce Fink’s translation). : From p105 of Alan Sheridan’s translation of The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis (Rome) : 26th September 1953 : Jacques Lacan  or here : To say that this mortal meaning reveals in speech a centre exterior to language is more than a metaphor ; it manifests a structure. This structure is different from the spatialization of the circumference or of the sphere in which some people like to schematize the limits of the living being and his milieu: it corresponds rather to the relational group that symbolic logic designates topologically as an annulus.

If I wished to give an intuitive representation of it, it seems that, rather than have recourse to the surface aspect of a zone, I should call on the three-dimensional form of a torus, in so far as its peripheral exteriority and its central exteriority constitute only one single region.

This schema satisfactorily expresses the endless circularity of the dialectical process that is produced when the subject brings his solitude, to realization, be it in the vital ambiguity of immediate desire or in the full assumption of his being-for-death

P102 : “The symptom can appear as a repetitive statement about the real.[…] [It] is the subject’s response to the traumatic aspect of the real” (Miller, 1998,P.63) : From The Seminar of Barcelona on ‘Die Wege der Symptombildung
’ : probably Autumn 1996 : Jacques-Alain Miller : See here

P102 : is no more than a “harebrained lucubration”, as Lacan puts it (Lacan, 1998a, p. 139 of Bruce Fink’s translation) :  Note, there is a probably editorial difficulty in the use of this term. Jacques Lacan did not use the term “harebrained lucubration”, at least it does not appear on the unedited tapes. I have included the whole passage in the following quote with the key sentence from both translations :

Seminar XX : 26th June 1973 : pXIII 4 to XIII 5 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : If I said that language is what the unconscious is structured like, this indeed is because language, first of all, does not exist. Language is what we try to get to know about the function of lalangue. This indeed is how scientific discourse tackles it, except that it is difficult for it to fully realise it. For the unconscious bears witness, bears witness to a knowledge that for the most part escapes the individual (l’être) who provides the occasion to realise just how far the effects of lalangue go.

In effect, it is true, in effect the individual realises from all sorts of affects that remain enigmatic what results from the presence of lalangue in so far as it articulates things about knowledge that go much further than what he himself supports by way of stated knowledge.

Language is no doubt made up of lalangue. It is the lucubation of knowledge itself about lalangue. [From Jacques-Alain Miller’s edited transcription, translated by Bruce Fink : It is knowledge’s hare-brained lucubration (élucubration) about llanguage.] But the unconscious is a knowledge, and a knowing-how-to act (un savoir-faire) with lalangue. What we know about acting with lalangue, in other words, goes well beyond what we can understand under the heading of language. But it raises the same question as is raised by the term language. It is on the same path, except that it already goes much further, it anticipates the function of language. Lalangueaffects us firs of all by everything it brings with it by way of effects that are affects. If we can say that the unconscious is structured like a language, it is very precisely in the sense that the effects of lalangue, already there qua knowledge, go well beyond anything the being, the being who speaks, is capable of stating as such. It is indeed in that regard that the unconscious, in so far as I support it on its deciphering, that the unconscious can only be structured like a language, a language that is always hypothetical with respect to what sustains it, namely, lalangue,namely, what allowed me, just now, to turn my S2into a question earlier and ask: is it indeed d’eaux, in effect, that is at stake in language? In other words is language simply communication? : See Seminar XX: Encore: 1972 – 1973: from 21st November 1972 : Jacques Lacan or here

P103 : This is what Lacan calls ‘le non-rapport sexuel’, sexual non-relation. : This is probably a reference to Seminar XX : 20th February 1973 : : pVII 12 – 13 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation. : Only a body, you understand, ever since Democritus, does not seem materialist enough, huh! One has to find the atoms, and all the rest, vision, smell and all the rest; all that is absolutely solidary. It is not for nothing that on occasion, Aristotle, even if he acts disgusted, quotes Democritus, he relies on him.

The atom, is simply an element of flying significance. It is quite simply a stoicheion; except for the fact that one has all the trouble in the world getting out of it when one only retains what makes the element an element, is that not so, namely, that it is unique. While one should introduce a little bit of the Other, namely, difference. Good!

If there is no sexual relationship, we would have to see how the enjoyment of the body can be of use to it. It seems to me that I already punctuated – I am pressed for time – it seems to me that I have already punctuated that to take things from the side where it is logically that the quantor, namely: all x, is a function, a mathematical function of x, namely, on the side where one ranges oneself, in short, by choice! Women are free to rank themselves there also if they want to, huh! Everyone knows that, that there are phallic women! It is clear that the phallic function does not prevent men from being homosexuals. But that it is also, indeed, what allows them to situate themselves as man and to approach the woman. : See Seminar XX: Encore: 1972 – 1973: from 21st November 1972 : Jacques Lacanor here : For a good commentary see Introduction to Chapter Six –  God and the Jouissance of The Woman : p137 of Commentaries & Information from ‘Jacques Lacan & the École Freudienne: Feminine Sexuality’ : 1982 : Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose : See here

P105 : Lacan’s formula that the subject receives from the Other his own message in an inverted, from Écrits p30 of Bruce Fink’s translation : p72 of Jeffrey Mehlman’s translation : Is that all, and shall we believe we have deciphered Dupin’s real strategy above and beyond the imaginary tricks with which he was obliged to deceive us? No doubt, yes, for if “any point requiring reflection,” as Dupin states at the start, is “examined to best purpose in the dark,” we may now easily read its solution in broad daylight. It was already implicit and easy to derive from the title of our tale, according to the very formula we have long submitted to your discretion : in which the sender, we tell you, receives from the receiver his own message in reverse form. Thus it is that what the “purloined letter,” nay, the “letter in sufferance” means is that a letter always arrives at its destination. : See Seminar on ‘The Purloined Letter’ : 26th April 1955 : Jacques Lacan or here

Also Seminar XXIV : 10th May 1977 : See  Seminar XXIV : ‘L’insu que sait de l’une-bévue s’aile à mourre’ : 1976-1977 : begins 16th November 1976 : Jacques Lacan  or here : p119 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation :

Analysis, properly speaking, enunciates, that the Other is nothing but this duplicity.

There is something of the One (Y a de l’Un), but there is nothing other. The One, as I have said, the One dialogues all alone, since it receives its own message in an inverted form. It is he who knows, and not the one supposed to know.

P109 : is reminiscent of the “function of speech” that Lacan isolated in “Function and field of speech and language in psychoanalysis” (Lacan, 2006, pp.197-268 of Bruce Fink’s translation) : See The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis (Rome) : 26th September 1953 : Jacques Lacan  or here  for Anthony Wilden’s & Alan Sheridan’s translations.

P111: Freud had supposed that the legislating father was a relic of the privations that arose in the last glacial period (Freud, 1987, pp. 13-16) : See A Phylogenetic Fantasy: Overview of the Transference Neuroses : 28th July 1915 : Sigmund Freud or here

P112 : the function that Lacan attributes to the Freudian Witz in his fifth Seminar (Lacan, 1998b)  : See Seminar V : The Formations of the Unconscious : 1957-1958 : begins 6th November 1957 : Jacques Lacan or here

Seminar V : 6thNovember 1957 : Extracts from p7 to 14 : Ch1 p7 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : Moreover it is precisely the way in which today we are going to begin our entry into the subject of the unconscious, by the witticism and the Witz. : to p9 : Now let us approach this Witz. What does this Witz mean? It has been translated by le trait d’espritand also by le mot d’esprit. I will not go into the reasons why I prefer le trait d’esprit. : to p10 : It really would be fun to evoke for you the English tradition in which the term used is wit, which is still more ambiguous than Witz and even than l’espritin French – the discussions on the true, the genuine spirit, the good spirit to call him by his name; and then of the bad spirit, the one with which charlatans amuse people. How can we distinguish all of this? : to p10 : On the contrary this is something that did not hold Freud back at all. Freud was already in the habit of committing himself, and that is why he saw things much more clearly. It is also because he saw the structural relationships that exist between the Witz and the unconscious.

On what plane did he see them? …

To p11 : In any case, it is precisely at the level of this formalism, namely of a structural theory of the signifier as such, that Freud situates himself from the beginning. : to p14 : This certainly contributes a good deal to our pleasure, and we will return to it, but I am laying down from today that the witticism, if we wish to discover it, and discover it with Freud, because Freud leads us as far as possible in the direction of finding the point of it, because it is a question of a point and a point exists, and its essence depends on something that is related to something absolutely radical in the sense of truth, namely something that I called elsewhere (in my article on “The Agency of the Letter”) something that depends essentially on the truth, that is called the dimension of the alibi of the truth, namely in a point that may enable us, by using a sort of mental diplopia, to better circumscribe the witticism.

What is in question, is what it is that expressly constructs the witticism in order to designate that which is always to one side, and which is seen precisely only by looking elsewhere. This is where we will begin again the next time. I am certainly leaving you on a note of suspense, with an enigma, but I think that I have at least been able to set out the very terms that we must necessarily hold onto, and this I hope to demonstrate in what follows.


Seminar V : 27th November 1957 : Ch 6 p76 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : This is what we are going to consider today, and to introduce it, up to this I have never, or scarcely ever, referred to stories other than those reported by Freud himself. I will introduce it now by a story that is not specially chosen either. When I decided to approach with you this year the question of the Witz or of wit, I began a little investigation. It should not surprise you that I began by questioning a poet, but a poet who precisely introduces into his prose and also on occasion into more poetic forms, in a very particular fashion this dimension of a specially lively wit that in a way runs right through his work, and that he brings into play even when on occasion he speaks – because he is also a mathematician – about mathematics. I am speaking here of course about Raymond Queneau.


Seminar V : 18th December 1957 : Ch7 p86 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : Since it is always a good thing to return a little even to what is best understood, I will try in some way to materialise on the board what I told you the last day.

What I told you last day concerned the Other, this blessed Other which in short will succeed in completing, in fulfilling in a certain fashion in the communication of the Witz, this something, this gap that constitutes the insolubility of desire.

In a way Witz restores its jouissance to the essentially unsatisfied demand, under the double but identical aspect of surprise and of pleasure: of the pleasure of surprise and the surprise of pleasure.

See Seminar V : The Formations of the Unconscious : 1957-1958 : begins 6th November 1957 : Jacques Lacan or here


  Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Earl’s Court, London


Further texts

Lost in Cognition: Psychoanalysis and the Cognitive Sciences : 2014 : Éric Laurent  or here

Trauma in Reverse : 27th April 2002 (New York) : Éric Laurent or here

The Seminar of Barcelona on ‘Die Wege der Symptombildung
’ : probably Autumn 1996 : Jacques-Alain Miller or here

Quotes towards ‘Trauma : Les traumatismes dans la cure analytique’ : 9th April 2013 : Christiane Alberti & Marie-Hélène Brousse or here

By Éric Laurent here

Of the clinic : here

Topology : here

On Trauma :here

By Sigmund Freud here

Notes on texts by Sigmund Freud : here

By Jacques Lacan here

Notes on texts by Jacques Lacan here