Jacques Lacan comments on the Dream ‘fresh brains’

by Julia Evans on August 1, 2018

in Seminars I, III, VI, X & XIV and Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis : 26th & 27th September 1953 & Direction of the Treatment : 10th to 13th July 1958

First published on 30th January 2014

Julia Evans 

INDEX

Introduction

Notes

Comments by Jacques Lacan:

A) The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis : 26th & 27th September 1953

B) Seminar I : 20th & 27th January 1954 : p24 of John Forrester’s translation

C) Seminar I : 10th February 1954 : p59 of John Forrester’s translation

Response to Jean Hyppolite’s Commentary on Freud’s “Verneinung” : 10th February 1954 :  Écrits

D) Seminar I : 5th May 1954 : p164 of John Forrester’s translation

E) Seminar III : 11th January 1956: p79-81 of Russell Grigg’s translation

F) Seminar III : 14th March 1956: p165-166 of Russell Grigg’s translation

G) The Direction of the Treatment : 10th to 13th July 1958

H) Seminar VI : 1st July 1959 : p344 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation

I) Seminar X : 23rd January 1963 :  p84 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation

J) Seminar XIV : 8th March 1967 : p150 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation

K) Footnotes to the excerpts from Jacques Lacan 

Further References 

Introduction

Both Jacques Lacan’s comments on the ‘fresh brain’ dream and comments on Ernst Kris’ practice as a member of the ‘Ego Psychology’ group, [See Seminar IV : The Object Relation 1956-1957 : from 21st November 1956 : Jacques Lacan or here ] are given below in date order. Ernst Kris originally presented this paper at the panel on Technical Implications of Ego Psychology at the midwinter meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association, New York , December 1948 and it was published in 1951.

Ego psychology and interpretation in psychoanalytic therapies (Dream ‘fresh brains’) : December 1948 (New York) [1951] : Ernst Kris : Available here

Ernst Kris was the second analyst for this case. The first analyst’s description :

Intellectual Inhibition & Disturbances in Eating (Dream ‘fresh brains’) : September 1933 [Published1938] : Melitta Schmideberg or here

Notes

1) The Introduction and Reply to Jean Hyppolite’s Commentary on Freud’s “Verneinung” : 10th February 1954 : is published both in Seminar I (Availability Seminar I: Freud’s papers on technique: 1953-1954 : begins on 13th January 1954 : Jacques Lacan or here)  and Bruce Fink’s translation of the fuller version p328 of the Ecrits (Availability given Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here )

2) Verneinung or Negation (1925) : Sigmund Freud

Standard Edition : Volume XIX: The Ego and the Id and Other Works (1923-1925) :

1925h : Vol 19 : p235 : A summary from Contemporary Freudian Society : available here

Comments by Jacques Lacan:

A)  The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis : 26th & 27th September 1953 : Jacques Lacan:

Availability Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here

Report to the Rome Congress held at the Istituto di Psicologia della Università di Roma on the 26th and 27th September 1953

p83 of Alan Sheridan’s translation: Jacques Lacan, Écrits a Selection : 1977 : Tavistock : Quote:

It is well known that Freud was in this position in relation to German literature, which, by virtue of an incomparable translation, can be said to include Shakespeare’s plays. Every one of his works bears witness to this, and to the continual recourse he had to it, no less in his technique than in his discovery – this in addition to a knowledge of the ancient classics, a modern initiation into folklore, and an interested participation in the conquests of contemporary humanism in the domain of ethnography.

It might well be demanded of the practitioner of analysis not to denigrate any attempt to follow Freud along this road.

But the tide is against us. It can be measured by the condescending attention paid to the ‘wording’ (English in the original), as if to some novelty: and the English morphology of the term gives a subtle enough support to a notion still difficult to define, for people to make a point of using it.

What this notion masks, however, is not exactly encouraging when an author[i] is amazed by the fact of having obtained an entirely different result in the interpretation of one and the same resistance by the use, ‘without conscious premeditation’, he emphasizes, of the term ‘need for love’ instead and in the place of ‘demand for love’, which he had first put forward, without seeing anything deeper in it (as he emphasizes himself). If the anecdote is to confirm this reference of the interpretation to the ‘ego psychology’ in the title of the article, it is rather, it seems, a reference to the ‘ego psychology’ of the analyst, in so far as this interpretation makes shift with such a weak use of English that this writer can push his practice of analysis to the limits of a nonsensical stuttering. [Footnote: This paragraph was rewritten in 1966]

The fact is that ‘need’ and ‘demand’ have a diametrically opposed meaning for the subject, and to hold that their use can be confused even for an instant amounts to a radical ‘méconnaissance’ of the ‘intimation’ of speech.

For in its symbolizing function speech is moving towards nothing less than a transformation of the subject to whom it is addressed by means of the link that it establishes with the one who emits it – in other words, by introducing the effect of a signifier.

This is why it is necessary for us to return once more to the structure of communication in language and to dissipate once and for all the mistaken notion of ‘language as a sign’, a source in this domain of confusions in discourse and of malpractices in speech.

B)  Seminar I : 20th & 27th January 1954 :

p24 of John Forrester’s translation:

Availability given Seminar I: Freud’s papers on technique: 1953-1954 : begins on 13th January 1954 : Jacques Lacan or here

Jacques Lacan’s interventions in the course of the discussion.

Psychoanalytic writings swarm with improprieties of method. These are difficult themes to deal with, to verbalise, without giving the verb a subject, in addition we are always reading that the ego emits the signal of anxiety, handles the life instinct, death instinct – one no longer knows where the switch board, the signalman, the pointer is. All of this is quite improper. We are continually finding Maxwell’s little demons making an appearance in analytic writing, possessing foresight, intelligence. . .The annoying thing is that analysts do not have a clear idea of the nature of these demons.

We’re here to discover what the evocation of the notion of the ego means from one end to the other of Freud’s work. It’s impossible to understand what this notion represents as it began to emerge with the work of the 1920s, with the studies on the psychology of groups and Dos Ich und das Es, if one starts by drowning everything in a sum total, under the pretext that what is involved is the apprehension of a certain aspect of the psyche. That’s not at all what the ego is in Freud’s work. It has a functional role, linked to technical necessities.

The triumvirate who work in New York, Hartmann, Loewenstein and Kris, in its current attempt to elaborate a psychology of the ego, is always asking itself – what was Freud trying to get at in his last theory of the ego? Has anyone up now really drawn out all the technical implications from it? I am not interpreting, I am only repeating what can be found in Hartmann’s two or three most recent articles. In the Psychoanalytic Quarterly for 1951, you’ll find three articles by Loewenstein, Kris and Hartmann on this topic, which are worth reading. It can’t be said that they lead to a fully satisfying formulation, but they are looking in that direction, and propose theoretical principles which have very important technical applications, which according to them have not been noticed. It is very interesting to follow the development of this work in a series of articles we have seen appear over several years, especially since the end of the war. I believe that what has happened there is a very significant failure, one which has to be very instructive for us.

In any case, there is a world of difference between the ego as discussed in the Studies, the ideational mass, container of ideations, and the final theory of the ego, such as it had been wrought by Freud himself from1920 on, which is still a problem for us. Between the two lies the central field we are in the process of studying.

How did this final theory of the ego get to see the light of day? It is the apex of Freud’s theoretical elaboration, an extremely original and novel theory. Yet, under Hartmann’s pen, it seems as if it strove with all its might to merge once again with classical psychology.

Both of these things are true. This theory, Kris writes, brings psychoanalysis within general psychology, and, at the same time, constitutes an unprecedented innovation. A paradox that we will highlight here, whether we carry on with the technical papers up to the holidays, or tackle the same problem in Schreber’s writings.

Note: Jean Hypolite’s commentary is published as an appendix to both Seminar I & Écrits.

C) Seminar I : 10th February 1954 : (Also in Écrits) :

p59 : Translated by John Forrester

Availability given Seminar I: Freud’s papers on technique: 1953-1954 : begins on 13th January 1954 : Jacques Lacan or here

A great deal is made of the fact that at first we analyse the surface, as they say. It would be the crowning glory to make it possible for the subject to progress by escaping this sort of chance represented by the intellectualised sterilisation of contents re-evoked by analysis.

Well, Kris, in one of his articles, gives an account of the case of a subject whom he took into analysis and who, it should be said, had already been analysed once. This subject is seriously hampered in his profession, an intellectual profession which appears to be, in the glimpses one catches of it, not far removed from what might be our preoccupations. This subject experiences all manner of difficulties producing, as they say. Indeed, his life is as it were fettered by the feeling he has of being, let’s say for the sake of brevity, a plagiarist. He is continually discussing his ideas with someone who is very close to him, a brilliant scholar, but he always feels tempted to take on the ideas his interlocutor provides him with, and that is for him a perpetual impediment to everything that he wants to get out, to publish.

All the same, he manages to get one text into shape. But, one day, he turns up declaring almost triumphantly that the whole of his thesis is already to be found in the library, in a published article. So there he is, this time, a plagiarist despite himself.

What will the alleged interpretation of the surface that Kris offers us actually consist in? Probably in the following – Kris in actual fact gets interested in what happened and what the article contains. Looking into it more closely, he realises that none of the central theses brought forward by the subject are to be found there. Some issues are raised which address the same question, but there is nothing of the new views brought forward by his patient, whose thesis is thus clearly original. This is where you must start from, Kris says, it’s what he calls – I don’t know why – taking up things on the surface.

Now, Kris says, if the subject is bent on showing him that his entire behaviour is completely shackled, it is because his father never succeeded in producing anything, because he was crushed by a grandfather – in all the senses of the word – who himself had a highly constructive and fertile mind. He needs to find in his father a grandfather, a father who would be grand, who, in contrast, would be capable of doing something, and he satisfies this need by forging himself tutors, always grander than him, upon whom he becomes dependent by means of a plagiarism which he then reproaches himself for, and by means of which he destroys himself. He is thus doing nothing more than satisfying a need, the same need that tormented his childhood and in consequence dominated his history.

There’s no question about it, the interpretation is valid. And it is important to see how the subject reacted to it. What does Kris consider as being the confirmation of the significance of what he put forward, which has such tremendous implications?

In what follows we see the whole history of the subject unfolding. We see that the symbolisation, properly speaking penile of this need for the real, creative and powerful, father, took the form of all sorts of games in childhood, fishing games – will the father catch a bigger or a smaller fish? etc. But the immediate reaction of the subject is the following. He remains silent, and at the next session he says -The other day, on leaving, I went into such and such street-It takes place in New York, it is the street where there are foreign restaurants where you can eat rather more spicy dishes – and I sought out a place where I could find the dish I am particularly fond of, fresh brains.

Here you can see what makes for a response elicited by an accurate interpretation, namely a level of speech which is both paradoxical and full in its meaning.

What makes this an accurate interpretation? Are we dealing with something which is at the surface? What does that mean? It means nothing, other than that Kris, via a detour that is doubtless diligent, but whose outcome he could easily have predicted, came to realise precisely the following – that the subject, in his manifestation in this special guise of the production of an organised discourse, in which he is always subject to this process which is called negation and in which the integration of his ego is accomplished, can only reflect his fundamental relation to his ideal ego in an inverted form.

In other words, the relation to the other, in so far as the primitive desire of the subject strives to manifest itself in it, always contains in itself this fundamental, original element of negation, which here takes the form of inversion.

This, as you see, only opens up new problems for us.

But to continue, it would be useful if one were to fix precisely the difference of level between the symbolic as such, the symbolic possibility, the opening up of man to symbols, and, on the other hand, its crystallisation in organised discourse in so far as it contains, fundamentally, contradiction. I think that M Hyppolite’s commentary has shown you that today in a magisterial fashion. I would like you to keep both the tool and the means to use it to hand, as milestones to which you will always be able to refer yourselves when you come to difficult crossroads in the rest of our discussion. That is why I thank M. Hyppolite for having given us the benefit of his extraordinary expertise.

10 February 1954

C) Response to Jean Hyppolite’s Commentary on Freud’s “Verneinung” : 10th February 1954 :

Availability given

1) Seminar I: Freud’s papers on technique: 1953-1954 : begins on 13th January 1954 : Jacques Lacan or here

2) See p328 of Bruce Fink’s translation :  Availability given Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here

3) Introduction and reply to Jean Hyppolite’s presentation of Freud’s ‘Verneinung’ & the commentary : 10th February 1954 : Jacques Lacan & Jean Hyppolite or here

Quote from p327 of Bruce Fink’s translation:

To understand Freud’s theory we need but listen to the latter all the way to the end, for if a representation is of value there only in terms of what it reproduces from the original perception, this recurrence cannot stop at the original perception, except mythically.[ii] This observation already led Plato to the eternal idea; today it presides over the rebirth of the archetype. As for me, I will confine myself to remarking that perception takes on its characteristic of reality only through symbolic articulations that interweave it with a whole world.

But the subject has a no less convincing sense if he encounters the symbol that he originally excised from his ‘Bejahung’. For this symbol does not enter the imaginary, for all that. It constitutes, as Freud tells us, that which truly does not exist; as such, it ek-sists, for nothing exists except against a supposed background of absence. Nothing exists except insofar as it does not exist.

This is what we see in our example. The content of the hallucination, which is so massively symbolic, owes its appearance in the real to the fact that it does not exist for the subject. Everything indicates, indeed, that the subject remains fixated in his unconscious in an imaginary feminine position that evacuates all meaning from his hallucinatory mutilation.

In the symbolic order, the empty spaces are as signifying as the full ones; in reading Freud today, it certainly seems that the first step of the whole of his dialectical movement is constituted by the gap of an emptiness [la béance d’un vide].

This is what seems to explain the insistence with which the schizophrenic reiterates this step. In vain, however, since for him all of the symbolic is real.

He is very different in this respect from the paranoiac whose predominant imaginary structures I laid out in my doctoral thesis[iii], that is, the retroaction in a cyclical time that makes the anamnesis of his troubles so difficult, the anamnesis of his elementary phenomena which are merely presignifying and which only attain that ever partial universe we call a delusion after a discursive organisation that is long and painful to establish and constitute.

I will go no further today with these indications, which we will have to take up again in a clinical context, because I would like to provide a second example by which to put my thesis today to the test.

This example concerns another mode of interference between the symbolic and the real, not that the subject suffers in this case, but that he acts on. Indeed, this is the mode of reaction that we designate in analytic technique as “acting out*[iv]” without always clearly delimiting its meaning. As we shall see, our considerations today can help us revamp the notion.

The acting out* that we are going to examine, even though it apparently, was of as little consequence for the subject as was the hallucination we have just discussed, may be no less demonstrative. If it will not allow us to go as far, it is because the author from whom I am borrowing it does not demonstrate Freud’s investigative powers and divinatory penetration and because we quickly run out of the material we would need to learn more from it.

This example is recounted by Ernst Kris, an author who is nevertheless quite important because he is part of the triumvirate that has assumed responsibility for giving the New Deal* of ego psychology its in some sense official status, and even passes for its intellectual leader.

He does not give us a more assured formulation of ego psychology, for all that; and the technical precepts that the example he provides in his article.” Ego Psychology and Interpretation in Psychoanalytic Therapy,” [Availability Ego psychology and interpretation in psychoanalytic therapies (Dream ‘fresh brains’) : December 1948 (New York) [1951] : Ernst Kris or here] is supposed to illustrate lead (in their vacillations, in which we can see the nostalgia of the some old-school psychoanalyst) to wishy-washy notions that I will examine at some later date – ever hoping, as I am, that a half-wit will come along who, in his naïveté, will keenly size up this infatuation with normalizing analysis and land Kris the definitive blow without anyone else having to get involved.

In the meantime, let us consider the case that he presents to us in order to shed light on the elegance with which he, one might say, cleared it up, thanks to the principles whose masterful application his decisive intervention demonstrates – these principles being the appeal to the subject’s ego, the approach “from the surface, “the reference to reality, and all the rest.

‘We
have here a subject for whom Kris is serving as the second psychoanalyst. The subject is seriously thwarted in his profession, an intellectual profession which seems not so far removed from our own. This is couched by Kris in the following terms: although he holds a respected academic position he cannot rise to a higher rank because he is unable to publish his research [page 22). The obstacle is a compulsion that he feels impels him to take other people’s ideas. He is thus obsessed with the idea of plagiarizing and even with plagiarism. Although he derived a pragmatic improvement from his first analysis, at present he is tormented by the constant effort not to take others’ ideas, especially those of a brilliant scholar* he knows. In any case, the subject has a study that he is ready to publish.

One fine day he arrives at his session with an air of triumph. He has found proof: he has just come across a book in the library that contains all the ideas in his own book. One might say that he did not know the book since he had merely glanced at it some time ago. Nevertheless, he is a plagiarist in spite of himself. The (woman) analyst with whom he did his first analysis was certainly right when she told him more or less the following, “he who has stolen once will steal again,” since at puberty as well he pilfered books and sweets.

It is here that Ernst Kris intervenes with his science and audacity, expecting us to appreciate their great merits, a wish we are likely to only half-satisfy. He asks to see the book from the library. He reads it. He discovers that nothing in it justifies what the subject thinks is in it. It is the subject alone who has attributed to the author everything the subject himself wanted to say.

At this point, Kris tells us, the question “appeared in a new light”. The eminent colleague, it transpired, had repeatedly taken the patient’s ideas, and embellished and repeated them without acknowledgement” [page 22]. This was what the subject was afraid of taking from him, having failed to recognise his own property therein.

An era of new comprehension begins. Were I to say that it was Kris’ big heart that opened its doors, he probably would not agree. He would tell me, with the seriousness proverbially attributed to the Pope, that he followed the grand principle of approaching problems from the surface. Why not add that he approaches them from the outside and even that there is, unbeknown to him, something quixotic in the way he settles a question as delicate as that of plagiarism?

The reversal of intention that Freud has taught us about again earlier today no doubt leads to something, but it does not lead to objectivity. In truth, if we can be sure that it is in no wise useless to alert the beautiful soul, who is revolting against the disorder of his world, to the part he plays therein, the opposite is not at all true: we should not assure someone that he is not in the least bit guilty just because he accuses himself of bad intentions.

It was, nevertheless, a fine opportunity to perceive that if there is at least one bias a psychoanalyst should have jettisoned thanks to psychoanalysis, it is that of “intellectual property.” Perhaps this would have made it easier for Kris to take his bearings from the way in which the patient understood that notion himself.

And, since we are crossing the line of a prohibition, which is actually more imaginary than real, in order to allow the analyst to make a judgment on the basis of documentary evidence, why not perceive that we would be adopting an overly abstract perspective were we not to examine the true content of the ideas at issue here, for that content cannot be indifferent?

Furthermore, the impact of the inhibition on his vocation perhaps must not be altogether neglected, even if such effects obviously seem more significant in the success*-oriented context of American culture.

Now, although I have noticed some modicum of restraint in the exposition of the principles of interpretation implied by a form of psychoanalysis that has definitively reverted to ego psychology, we are certainty not spared anything in Kris’ commentary on the case.

Finding passing comfort in having come across formulations by the honorable Edward Bibring, and considering himself very fortunate to have done so, Kris exposes his method to us as follows:

‘[T]here was … an initial exploratory (sic) period, during which … typical patterns of behaviour, present and past, [were studied]. Noted first were his critical and admiring attitudes of other people’s ideas; then the relation of these to the patient’s own ideas and intuitions [page 24].’

Please excuse me for following the text step by step. I am doing this so that we will not be left with any doubt as to what the author thinks:

‘At this point the comparison between the patient’s own productivity and that of others had to be traced in great detail … Finally, the distortion of imputing to others his own ideas could be analyzed and the mechanism of “give and take” made conscious.’

One of my early and sorely missed teachers, whose every twist and turn in thought I did not follow for all that , long ago designated as “summaryism” [“bilanisme”] what Kris describes to us here. We should not, of course, disdain the making conscious of an obsessive symptom, but it is something else altogether to fabricate such a symptom from scratch.

Abstractly posited, this analysis, which is descriptive we are told, still does not strike me as very different from the approach adopted by the patient’s first analyst, based on what we are told of it. No mystery is made of the fact that the analyst was Melitta Schmideberg [See Intellectual Inhibition & Disturbances in Eating (Dream ‘fresh brains’) : September 1933 [Published1938] : Melitta Schmideberg or here], for Kris cites a passage from a commentary[v] she apparently published of this case:

‘A patient who during puberty had occasionally stolen … retained later a certain inclination to plagiarism. Since to him activity was connected with stealing, scientific endeavour with plagiarism, etc. [page 23].’

I have been unable to check whether this sentence exhausts the part played in the analysis by the author mentioned, some of the psychoanalytic literature having unfortunately become very difficult to find.[vi]

But we understand much better the emphasis of the author whose text we do have, when he trumpets his conclusion: “It is now possible to compare the two types of analytic approach” [page 23].

For insofar as he has concretely indicated what his approach consists of, we clearly see that the analysis of the subject’s behaviour patterns* amounts to inscribing his behaviour in the analyst’s patterns.

Not that nothing else is stirred up in this analysis. Kris sketches for us a situation involving three people, including the subject’s father and grandfather which is quite attractive in appearance, all the more so in that the father seems to have failed, as sometimes happens, to rise to the level of the grandfather, a distinguished scientist in his homeland. Kris provides a few astute remarks here about the grandfather and the father who was not grand, whereas I might have preferred a few indications about the role of death in this whole game. I don’t doubt but that the big [grand] and little fish caught on the fishing trips with his father symbolized the classic “comparison”, which in our mental world has taken the place held in earlier centuries by other more gallant comparisons. But all that does not seem to me to be approached form the right “end”, so to speak.

I will provide no other proof of this than the ‘corpus delicti’ promised in my example, in other words, precisely what Kris produces as the trophy of his victory. He believes that he has arrived at his goal; he shares this with his patient:

‘Only the ideas of others were truly interesting, only ideas one could take; hence the taking had to be engineered. At this point of the interpretation I was waiting for the patient’s reaction. The patient was silent and the very length of the silence had a special significance. Then, as if reporting a sudden insight, he said: “Every noon, when I leave here, before luncheon, and before returning to me office, I walk through X Street  (a street well known for its small attractive restaurants) and I look at the menus in the windows. In one of the restaurants I usually find my preferred dish – fresh brains.”’

These are the closing words of Kris’ clinical vignette. I can only hope that my abiding interest in cases in which a mountain is made out of a molehill will convince you to pay attention for another moment as I examine this case more closely.

We have here in every respect an example of an acting out*, which is no doubt small in size, but very well constituted.

The very pleasure this acting out seems to give its midwife surprises me. Does Kris actually believe that the height of his art has managed to give rise to a valid way out for this id*?

I have no doubt but that the subject’s confession has its full transferential value, although the author decided, deliberately as he stresses, to spare us any details, regarding the link – I am stressing this myself – between “the defences” (whose breakdown he has just described for us) and “the patient’s resistance in analysis” [page 24].

But what can we make of the act itself if not a true emergence of a primordially “excised” oral relation, which no doubt explains the relative failure of his first analysis?

But the fact that it appears in the form of an act which is not at all understood by the subject does not seem to me to be of any benefit to the subject, even if it demonstrates to us what an analysis of the resistances leads to when it consists in attacking the subject’s world (that is, his patterns*) in order to reshape it on the model of the analyst’s world, in the name of the analysis of defence. I don’t doubt but that the patient feels quite good, on the whole, going on a diet of fresh brains I his analysis too. He will thus follow one more pattern*, the one that a large number of theoreticians ascribe quite literally to the process of analysis – namely, the introjection of the analyst’s ego. We can only hope that, here too, they are referring to the healthy part of his ego. Kris’ ideas about intellectual productivity thus seem to me to receive the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for America.

It might seem incidental to ask how he is going to deal with fresh brains, the real brains, the brains that one fries in black butter, it being recommended to first peel the ‘pia mater’, which requires a great deal of care. It is not a futile question, however, for supposing that he had discovered in himself a taste for young boys instead, demanding no less refined preparations; wouldn’t there ultimately be the same misunderstanding? And wouldn’t this acting out*, as we would call it, be just as foreign to the subject?

This means that by approaching the ego’s resistance in the subject’s defences, and by asking his world to answer the questions that he himself should answer, one may elicit highly incongruous answers whose reality value, in terms of the subject’s drives, is not the reality value that manages to get itself recognised in symptoms. This is what allows us to better understand the examination made by Prof. Hyppolite of the theses Freud contributes in “Die Verneinung”.

D) Seminar I : 5th May 1954 :

p164 : Translated by John Forrester:

Availability given: Seminar I: Freud’s papers on technique: 1953-1954 : begins on 13th January 1954 : Jacques Lacan or here

The third stage is what is happening now. There are good grounds for emphasising the recent development of the theory of the ego by the American troika, Hartmann, Loewenstein and Kris. These writings are sometimes quite disconcerting in the way they disengage concepts. They are always referring to the desexualised libido – they almost get to the point of saying delibidinised - or of deaggressivated aggression. The function of the ego more and more plays there the problematical role it already has in the writings of Freud’s third period – which I have left outside our field of investigation, which I’ve limited to the median period 1910-1920 during which what was to be the final theory
of the ego begins, with the notion of narcissism, to be developed. Read the volume which in its French edition is called Essais de Psychanalyse[vii], which brings together Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, and The Ego and the Id. We cannot analyse it this year, but it is indispensable for anyone who wants to understand the developments that the authors I have been talking about have brought to the theory of the cure. The theories of treatment which have been brought forward since 1920 have always centred around the final formulations of Freud. With great clumsiness most of the time, which stems from the very great difficulty of understanding what Freud is saying in these truly monumental articles, if one hasn’t got to the bottom of the very genesis of the notion of narcissism. That is what I’ve tried to draw your attention to regarding the analysis of resistances and transference in the Papers on Technique.

E)   Seminar III : 11th January 1956: Jacques Lacan :

p79-81 of Russell Grigg’s translation : The Psychotic phenomenon and its mechanism:

Availability Seminar III: The Psychoses: 1955-1956: from 16th November 1955: Jacques Lacan or here

The simplest are the ones we are already familiar with. A category in the foreground today is that of defense, which was introduced into analysis very early on. Delusion is regarded as one of the subject’s defenses. Neuroses are explained in the same manner, moreover.

You know how much I insist upon the incomplete and perilous character of this reference, which lends itself to all sorts of hasty and harmful interventions. You also know how difficult it is to rid oneself of it. This concept is so insistent, so tempting, precisely because it touches something objectifiable. The subject defends, well then! we will help him to understand that he does nothing but defend, we will show him what he is defending against. As soon as you enter into that approach you find yourself confronted by numerous dangers – in the first instance, the danger of missing the level at which your intervene on must be brought to bear. In point of fact, you must always rigorously differentiate the order within which the defense appears.

Suppose that this defense was obviously within the symbolic order and that you could elucidate it along the lines of an utterance in the complete sense, that is, one that in the subject involves both signifier and signified. If the subject presents you with both the signifier and the signified, then you may intervene by showing him the union of this signifier and this signified. But only if both are present in his discourse. If you do not have them both, if you have the feeling that the subject is defending against something that you yourself see and that he doesn’t, if, that is, you clearly see that the subject is aberrant with respect to reality, then the notion of defense is insufficient to enable you to place the subject before reality.

You may recall what I once said about Kris’s nice paper on the character haunted by the idea that he was a plagiarist and the accrued guilt. [Footnote 3[viii]] It was in the name of defense that Kris considered his intervention to be a stroke of genius. For some time now we have been getting nothing but this notion of defense and, as the ego has to struggle on three fronts, that is, against the id, the superego, and the external world, one believes one is authorized to intervene on any one of these levels. When the subject alludes to the work of one of his colleagues whom he claims he has plagiarized yet again, one takes the liberty of reading the work and, observing that there is nothing there that merits being considered an original idea for the subject to plagiarize, makes this known to him. One considers such an intervention to be part of the analysis. We are fortunately both honest and blind enough to give as proof that our interpretation is well-founded the fact that the subject brings this nice little story along to the next session – on leaving the session he had gone into a restaurant and treated himself to his favorite dish, fresh brains.

One is delighted; there is a response. But what does it mean? It means that the subject has himself understood absolutely nothing of the matter, that he understands nothing of what he brings us, either, so that one fails to see very well where the progress that has been brought about is situated. Kris has pressed the right button. It is not enough to press the right button. The subject quite simply acts out.

I treat acting out as equivalent to a hallucinatory phenomenon of the delusional type that occurs when you symbolize prematurely, when you address something in the order of reality and not within the symbolic register. For an analyst, addressing the question of plagiarism in the symbolic register must first be centered on the idea that plagiarism doesn’t exist. There is no symbolic property. This is precisely the question – if the symbolic belongs to everybody, why have things in the symbolic order taken on this emphasis, this weight, for the subject?

This is where the analyst has to wait for the subject to provide him with something before bringing his interpretation to bear. As we are dealing with a grand neurotic who has resisted a certainly non-negligible analytic effort – before going to Kris he had already had an analysis – the likelihood is that the plagiarism is fantasmatic. On the other hand, if you bring the intervention to bear at the level of reality, that is, if you return to the most elementary psychotherapy, what does the subject do? He responds in the clearest of manners at a deeper level of reality. He testifies that something emerges from reality that is obstinate, something that imposes itself upon him, and that nothing one says will in any way change the core of the problem. You show him that he isn’t a plagiarist anymore. He shows you what is at stake by making you eat fresh brains. He renews his symptom, and at a point that has no more foundation or existence than the one at which he showed it at the outset. Is there something that he shows? I would go further—I would say that there is nothing at all that he shows, but that something shows itself.

Here we are at the heart of what I shall be trying to demonstrate on the subject of President Schreber this year.

F)  Seminar III : 14th March 1956:

p165-166 of Russell Grigg’s translation : The hysteric’s question

Availability Seminar III: The Psychoses: 1955-1956: from 16th November 1955: Jacques Lacan or here

Therefore, I have never said of this preconscious world, which is always ready to emerge into the daylight of consciousness, and which is at the subject’s disposal unless there are orders to the contrary, that in itself it has the structure of language. I’m saying, because it is obvious, that it is recorded there and that it is recast there. But it retains its own pathways, its characteristic ways of communication. And this is not the level at which analysis has made its essential discovery.

It is highly surprising to observe that an exclusive preponderance of the world of imaginary relations is responsible for the emphasis in analysis on the object relation, which has elided what is properly speaking the field of analytic discoveries. One can follow the increasing predominance of this perspective by reading what the analyst Kris has been producing in recent times. With respect to the economy of progress in an analysis, he emphasizes what he calls – since he has read Freud – the preconscious mental processes and the fruitful nature of ego regression, which amounts to placing the means of access to the unconscious entirely on the level of the imaginary. If we follow Freud it is on the contrary clear that no exploration of the preconscious, however profound or exhaustive it is, will ever lead to an unconscious phenomenon as such. The excessive prevalence of ego psychology in the new American school introduces an illusion similar to that of the mathematician – we can assume he is ideal – who having got a vague idea of the existence of negative magnitudes sets about indefinitely dividing a positive number by two in the hope of finally crossing over the zero line and entering the dreamt-of domain.

The error is all the more gross because there is nothing Freud places greater insistence upon than the radical difference between the unconscious and the preconscious. But one imagines that however much of a barrier there is, it’s like putting up a partition in a grain store – the rats get through in the end. The fundamental image that currently seems to regulate analytic practice is that there must be something connecting neurosis and psychosis, the preconscious and the unconscious. It is a matter of pushing, of nibbling away, and one will succeed in perforating the partition wall.

This idea leads authors who are even a little bit coherent to make altogether surprising theoretical additions, like the notion of a sphere that is, as they say, conflict-free – an extraordinary notion – that is not regressive but transgressive. The likes of this had never been heard before, even in the most neo-spiritualist psychology of faculties of the soul. No one had ever thought of making the will an agency located in a conflict-free empire. It’s clear what leads them to it. For them the ego is the prevailing framework of phenomena, everything goes through the ego, ego regression is the sole means of access to the unconscious. Where, therefore, are we to locate the mediating element that is indispensable for understanding the action of analytic treatment, if it is not located in this type of ego that is really ideal, in the worst sense of the word, which is the conflict-free sphere, which thus becomes the mythical locus of the most incredible reaction entifications?

In comparison with the preconscious we have just been describing, what is the unconscious?

If I say that everything that belongs to analytic communication has the structure of language, this precisely does not mean that the unconscious is expressed in discourse.

G) The Direction of the Treatment : 10th to 13th July 1958 : Jacques Lacan

Availability given  The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of its Power:10th-13th July 1958 : Jacques Lacan or here & also

p182 Alan Sheridan translation: Details Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here

p10 : Cormac Gallagher’s translation : www.LacaninIreland.com : Case: fresh brains:  Footnote 8 : O [the atom O of the sign], which rather than being vocalised as the symbolic letter of oxygen, evoked by the metaphor being used, can be read, zero, inasmuch as this figure symbolises the essential function of place in the structure of the signifier. Here is an example: in the USA where Kris ended up, publication gets you tenure, and a teaching like mine would every week have to stake its claim to priority against the plundering it would not fail to occasion. In France it is by way of infiltration that my ideas penetrate a group, where people obey the orders that prohibit my teaching. Since they are accursed, they ideas can only serve as adornments for some dandies. No matter: the void that they make reverberate, whether I am quoted or not makes another voice heard there.

P16-19 : What can be said, is that the new ways, by which the approach opened up by the discoverer has supposedly been legitimised, show a confusion of terms that can only be revealed in the particular. I will therefore take up an example that has already contributed to my teaching; naturally, it has been chosen from a distinguished author, who, by virtue of his background, is particularly sensitive to the dimension of interpretation. I am referring to Ernst Kris and to a case which, he does not hide, he took over from Melitta Schmideberg [[ix]].

It concerns a subject inhibited in his intellectual life and particularly incapable of completing his research by publishing it – this because of an impulse to plagiarise, which, he seems unable to master. Such is the subjective drama.

Melitta Schmideberg had seen it as the recurrence of childhood delinquency – the subject had stolen sweets and books – and it was from this angle that she had undertaken the analysis of the unconscious conflict.

Ernst Kris credits himself with taking up the case using a more methodical interpretation, the one, he says, that proceeds from the surface to the depths. The fact that he puts it under the patronage of Hartman‘s ‘ego psychology’, which he believed he was under some obligation to support, is incidental to an appreciation of what takes place. Ernst Kris changes the perspective of the case and claims to give the subject insight into a new start from an event that is merely a repetition of his compulsion, but in which Kris, very worthily, does not content himself with what the patient says. When he claims to have taken, in spite of himself, the ideas for a piece of work that he has just completed from a book which, on being remembered, enabled him to check it, after the event, he looks at the work and discovers that apparently nothing in it went beyond common practice in the research field.

In short, having assured himself that his patient is not a plagiarist when he thinks he is, he sets out to show him that he wants to be one in order to prevent himself from really being one. This is called analysing the defence before the drive, manifested here in an attraction for the ideas of others.

This intervention may be presumed to be erroneous, simply by the fact that it presupposes that defence and drive are concentric, the one being moulded, as it were, on the other.

What proves that it is in fact so, is the very thing that Kris thinks confirms it, namely, that when he asks the patient what he makes of this new version of things, the latter, day-dreaming for a moment, replies that for some time, on leaving the session, he has wandered along a street full of attractive little restaurants, scrutinising the menus in search of his favourite dish, fresh brains.

A confession which, rather than sanctioning the appropriateness of the intervention by virtue of the material that it brings out, seems to me to have the corrective value of acting out in the very account that he gives of it.

This after-dinner mustard that the patient inhales, seems to me rather to be telling the host that it was missing at the meal. Compulsive as he is to breathe it in, it is a hint; a transitory symptom no doubt, but it warns the analyst: you‘ve got it wrong.

You have indeed got it wrong, I would repeat, addressing myself to the memory of Ernst Kris, as it comes back to me from the Marienbad Congress[x], where the day after my paper on the mirror stage, I left, concerned to get a feeling for the spirit of the times, times heavy with promise, at the Berlin Olympiad. He objected gently: ‘Ca ne se fait pas!’ (in French), already won over by that taste for the respectable that perhaps deflects his approach here.

Was this what lead you astray, Ernst Kris, or simply that upright though your intentions may be, for your judgement, too, is beyond question, the times themselves are out of joint.

It is not that your patient does not steal that is important here. It is that he does not…No not: it is that he steals nothing. And that is what he should have been got to understand.

Contrary to what you believe, it is not his defence against the idea of stealing that makes him believe he steals. It is that it never occurs to him, or just barely crosses his mind, that he could have an idea of his own.

It is useless, therefore, to engage him in this process of trying to sort out what God himself could not decide, what his friend pinches from him that is more or less original when he is chewing the fat with him.

Could not this liking for fresh brains refresh your own concepts, and remind you of what Roman Jakobson says about the function of metonymy? I shall return to this later.

You speak of Melitta Schmideberg as if she had confused delinquency with the Id. I am not so sure and, looking up the article in which she cites this case (See footnote v), the wording of her title suggests to me a metaphor.

You treat the patient as an obsessional, but he gives you a helping hand with his food phantasy, and the opportunity of being a quarter-of-an-hour ahead of the nosology of your time by diagnosing anorexia nervosa (anorexie mentale). At the same time, you would freshen up, by restoring it to its true meaning, this pair of terms which, in common usage, have been reduced to the dubious quality of an aetiological prescription.

Anorexia, in this case, with respect to the mental, with respect to the desire on which the idea lives, and this leads us to the scurvy that rages on the raft on which I embark him with the skinny virgins.

Their symbolically justified refusal seems to me to have a lot in common with the patient‘s aversion for what he thinks. His father already, you say, was not blessed with many ideas. Is it not because the grandfather, who was celebrated for them, made him sick of them? How can we know? You are surely right to make the signifier ‘grand’, included in the term of kinship, the origin, no more, of the rivalry played out with the father to catch the biggest fish. But this purely formal challenge suggests to me rather that he means: nothing doing (rien à faire).

Their is nothing in common, then, between your procession, described as beginning from the surface, and the subjective rectification, highlighted above in Freud‘s method, in which, moreover, it is not motivated by any topographical priority.

H) Seminar VI : 1st July 1959

Availability given Seminar VI: Desire and its interpretation: 1958-1959 : from 12th November 1958 : Jacques Lacan or here

Seminar VI : 1st July 1959 : Ch 27 : p344 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation : There is no essential difference between these two cases and the thing for example that I stressed in the discourse on the function of the word and the field of language, namely the intervention of Ernest Kris, who, in dealing with the phobic fear of plagiarism, explains that he is not a plagiarist at all, as a result of which the other rushes outside and asks for a plate of fresh brains to the great happiness of the analyst who sees in this a really significant reaction to his intervention, but of which we can say that in an attenuated form this represents as one might say, the reaction, the reforming of the proper dimension of the subject every time the intervention tries to reduce it, to telescope it, to compress it in a pure and simple reduction to data which are called objective, that is to say to data coherent with the prejudices of the analyst.

If you will allow me to end on something which introduces the place in which we analysts, in this relationship to desire, should situate ourselves, this is undoubtedly something which is not going to work out, if we do not construct for ourselves a certain coherent conception of what precisely our function is in relation to social norms – these social norms, if there is an experience which should teach us the degree to which they are problematic, the degree to which they ought to be questioned, the degree to which their determination is situated somewhere other than in their function of adaptation, it appears to be that of the analyst.

If in this experience of ours of the logical subject we discover this dimension which is always latent, but also always present, which is sustained beneath every intersubjective relationship, and which is found therefore in the relationship of interaction, of exchange with everything which because of that is crystallized in the social structure, we must arrive more or less at the following conception.

It is that we will call something culture – I do not like that word, in fact I do not like it at all; what I mean by it are certain stories of the subject in his relationship to the logos whose agency no doubt was able to remain masked for a long time in the course of history, and it is difficult not to see in our own day – this is why Freudianism exists in it – the gap, the distance it represents compared to a certain social inertia.

The relationship of what happens between culture and society we can provisionally define as something which would be well enough expressed in a relationship of entropy. In so far as something of what is happening in culture is produced in society which always includes some function of disaggregation, which is presented in society as culture, in other words in so far as it has entered under different headings into a certain number of stable conditions, themselves also latent, which are what one cancel conditions of exchange within the flock – and something which sets up a movement, a dialectic, leaving open the same gap within which we try to situate the function of desire; it is in this sense that we can qualify what is produced as perversion as being the reflection, the protest at the level of the logical subject of what the subject undergoes at the level of identification, in so far as identification is the relationship which organises, which establishes the norms of the social stabilisation of different functions.

It is because in Freud this rectification is also dialectical, and starts from the subject‘s own words in order to return to them, which means that an interpretation can be correct only by being…an interpretation.

To opt for the objective here is an error, if only because plagiarism is relative to the practices operating in a given situation. [9] [Footnote 9 Here is an example: in the USA where Kris ended up, publication gets you tenure, and a teaching like mine would every week have to stake its claim to priority against the plundering it would not fail to occasion. In France it is by way of infiltration that my ideas penetrate a group, where people obey the orders that prohibit my teaching. Since they are damned there, the ideas can only serve as ornaments for some dandies. No matter: the void that they make reverberate, whether I am quoted or not, makes another voice heard there.]

But the idea that the surface is the level of the superficial is itself dangerous. A different topology is necessary if we are not to be mistaken as to the place of desire.

Erasing desire from the map when it is already covered over in the patient‘s landscape is not the best follow-up to give to Freud’s teaching.

Nor is it a way of getting rid of depth, because it is at the surface that it is seen as scurfy decorating the face on feast days.

P28 : What such a conception owes to the special conditions of obsessional neurosis is not to be ascribed entirely to the object. It does not seem that any justification can be got from the results obtained by the application of this conception to obsessional neurosis. It does not even seem that it can be credited with any privilege when we note the results that it obtains in obsessional neurosis. For if I may venture, as Kris did, to give an account of an analysis which I had taken over from another analyst, I can provide evidence that such a technique in the hands of an analyst of indisputable talent succeeded in producing in a clinical case of pure obsession in a man, the eruption of an infatuation that was no less unbridled for being Platonic, and which proved no less irreducible for being directed at the first object of the same sex who came to hand.

To speak of transitory perversion here might satisfy an invincible optimist but only at the cost of recognising, in this atypical re-establishing of the usually all too neglected third party of the relation, that one should not depend too much on the notion of proximity in object relations.

I) Seminar X: 23rd January 1963

Availability given Seminar X: The Anxiety (or Dread): 1962-1963: begins 14th November 1962: Jacques Lacan: Text in English & References or here

Seminar X : 23rd January 1963 : Ch  IX : p84 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation :

… which means, I think – you know who I am quoting – one can make all the borrowings one wishes to plug the holes of desire and of melancholy; there is here the Jew who, for his part, knows something about balancing accounts and who demands at the end: the pound of flesh.

This is the feature that you always find in acting-out. Remember a point of what I wrote about in my report, “The Direction of the Treatment”,  [Availability given  The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of its Power:10th-13th July 1958 : Jacques Lacan or here] where I spoke about the observation of Ernest Kris in connection with the case of plagiarism. Ernest Kris, because he was on a certain path which we will perhaps have to name, wants to reduce it by means of the truth; he shows him in the most irrefutable fashion that he is not a plagiarist; he has read his book; his book is well and truly original, on the contrary it is the others who have copied him.

The subject cannot contest it. Only he does not give a damn about it. And on leaving, what is he going to do? As you know – I think that there are all the same some people, a majority, who read from time to time what I write – he goes and eats fresh brains.

I am not in the process of recalling the mechanism of the case. I am teaching you to recognise an acting-out and what that means, what I am designating as the small o or the pound of flesh.

With the fresh brains, the patient simply indicates to Ernest Kris; “Everything you tell me is true, simply that does not touch the question; there remain the fresh brains. In order to show you, I am going to eat some when I leave in order to tell you about it the next time”.

I am insisting. One cannot, in these matters, go too slowly. You will say to me; what is original in that? You will say to me, after all I am making the demands and giving the answers – I would say, I hope not, but since you could all the same say to me if I have not sufficiently emphasised it; “What is original in this, this acting-out and this demonstration of this unknown desire? The symptom is the same. Acting-out is a symptom which shows itself as other, and so does it. The proof is that it has to be interpreted”. All right then let us dot the i’s carefully. You know that the symptom cannot be interpreted directly; that transference is necessary, namely the introduction of the Other. You do not grasp it properly yet perhaps. Then you are going to say to me, “Well yes, this is what you are in the process of telling us about acting-out.”

No, what is involved here, is to tell you that it is not essentially in the nature of the symptom to have to be interpreted; it does not call for interpretation like acting-out, contrary to what you might think. Moreover it has to be said; acting-out calls for an interpretation and the question that I am in the process of posing, is that of knowing whether it is possible. I will show you that it is. But it is in the balance in analytic theory and practice.

J)  Seminar XIV : 8th March 1967 :

p150 of Cormac Gallagher’s translation

Availability Seminar XIV: The logic of phantasy: 1966-1967: begins 16th November 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here

This is not unpromising, as we are going to see, for the following reason. The fact is that, if the analytic act needs indeed to be specified at this point – naturally, for us, the most lively and the most interesting one to determine (which is the point on the lower left of the quadrangle, which concerns the level where it is a matter of the unconscious and the symptom) – the analytic act has, I would say, in a fashion rather in conformity with the structure of repression, a sort of inexact position. A representative (if I can express myself in this way) of its deficient representation is given us under the name precisely of acting-out, which is what I have to introduce today.

All here who are analysts, have at least a vague notion that the axis, the centre of this term, is given by the following. That certain acts, having a structure on which all do not necessarily have to agree, but which one can all the same recognise, are likely to be produced, in analysis and in a certain relation of greater or lesser dependency, not with regard to the situation or the analytic relation, but to a precise moment of the intervention of the analyst, to something, then, which ought to have some relation with what I consider as not at all defined, namely, the psychoanalytic act.

Since we should not, in such a difficult field, advance like bulls in a china shop, we have to go at it gently. With acting-out we have something, something to which it seems possible to draw the attention of all those who have an experience of analysis, in a way which promises agreement. We know that there are things called acting-out and that they have a relation to the intervention of the analyst. (p151)

I designated the page of my Ecrits. It is in my dialogue with Jean Hippolyte, about the (8) Verneinung, where I highlighted a very nice example of it taken from testimony that can be trusted, for it is a really innocent testimony (it is the least that can be said!), that of Ernst Kris, in the article he wrote under the title of “Ego psychology and interpretation in psychoanalytic therapy”, Psychoanalytic Quarterly, volume 20, no. 1. (Available here) I marked, per longum et latum, in this text of mine which is easy to find, (I repeat, I even gave the page, one of the last seminars. It is in my dialogue with Jean Hippolyte, the one which follows “The function and field of speech and language”, otherwise called the Rome discourse). I highlighted there what is involved for Kris in the fact of having – following a methodological principle which is the one that ego psychology promotes – intervened in the field of what he calls “the surface” and that we, for our part, will call the field of an appreciation of reality.

This appreciation of reality plays a part in analytic interventions. In any case, in the terms of reference of the analyst it plays a considerable role! Not the least distortion of the theory is the one, for example, which says that it is possible to interpret what are called the manifestations of transference, by making the subject sense the way in which repetitions, which are supposed to constitute its essence, are inappropriate, displaced, inadequate, with respect to what had been written, printed in black and white: the field – not of the analytic situation – of the confinement in the analyst’s office considered as constituting (this has been written) such a simple reality! The fact of saying: “You do not see the degree to which it is inappropriate that such and such a thing should be repeated here, in this field, where we meet three times a week” – as if the fact of meeting three times a week was such a simple reality – has something about it, undoubtedly, which makes one think very strongly about the definition that we have to give of what reality is in analysis.

In any case, it is no doubt in an analogous perspective that Mr. Kris puts himself, when, dealing with somebody who in his, Kris’, eyes is pinpointed as accusing himself of plagiarism, having got his hands on a document which in his, Kris’, eyes, proves manifestly that the subject is not really a plagiarist, thinks he ought, as a “surface” intervention, articulate well and truly that he, Kris, assures him that he is not a plagiarist; since the volume in which the subject believed he found the proof, Kris had sought and found and that there was nothing especially original in it from which the subject, his patient, might have profited.

I would ask you to consult my text, and moreover that of Kris, and again (if you can put your hands on it) the text of Melitta Schmideberg, who had the subject for a first period or tranche of analysis. [See Intellectual Inhibition & Disturbances in Eating (Dream ‘fresh brains’) : September 1933 [Published1938] : Melitta Schmideberg or here]

(9) You will see in it, the absolutely exorbitant thing that is involved in taking this path to approach a case where, quite obviously, what is essential is not that the subject is or is not really a plagiarist, but that his whole desire is to plagiarise. This for the simple reason that it seems to him that it is only possible to formulate something which has a value, if he has borrowed it from someone else. This is the essential mainspring. I can schematise so firmly, because this is the mainspring.

In any case, after this intervention, it is Kris himself who communicates to us that after a little moment of silence of a subject who, for Kris, acknowledges the hit, he (p152) simply states this tiny fact that for some time now, he goes, every time he leaves Kris, to have a nice little meal of fresh brains.

What is this? I do not have to say it, since, already, right at the beginning of my teaching I highlighted the fact that this is an acting-out. In what way? In what way – which could absolutely not be articulated at that time as I can do it now – in what way if not the following. That the oral o-object is here in a way made present, brought in on a plate – as one might say – by the patient, in relation, in connection with this intervention. So what?

So what? This of course is only of interest for us now – even though, of course, it has a permanent one for all analysts – this is only of interest now if it allows us to advance a little into the structure.

So then, we call that, acting-out. What are we going to make of this term?

First of all we will not dwell, I think, on the following, which is to make the mistake of using what is called “franglais”. For me the use of “franglais”, I must say – I think I have some taste for the French tongue – does not put me out in any way. I really do not see why we should not adorn our use of the tongue by eventually using words that do not form part of it. That does not affect me one way or the other! This, all the more, because I am not able in any way to translate it and that it is a term in English, of extraordinary revelance. I signal it in passing for the reason that in my eyes it is, in a way, as one might say, a confirmation of something. Namely, that if the authors – I am not going to give you the history of the authors who introduced it, because time is pressing on me – if the authors have used acting-out, the term acting-out in English, well then, they knew very well what they meant and I am going to prove it for you. Not in making use of what I believed I would find in an excellent, fundamental, philological dictionary (that I have, of course, at home, in thirteen volumes) the New English Oxford Dictionary; no trace of act out. But it was enough for me to open Webster’s (which is also an admirable instrument, even though in a single volume; (10) and which is published in America) to find at to act out the following definition that I hope I can find … here we are: to (I apologise for my … for my English … for my articulation, my inadequate “spelling” in English) to represent, in parenthesis, as a play, story and so on, in action Therefore, to represent as a play on a stage, a story in action, as opposed to reading. As to act out a scene that one has read. Therefore, as: act out (I am not saying “jouer” since it is act out, is it not, it is not to play, huh!) a scene that one has read.

Thus, there are two moments. You have read something. You read Racine, you read him badly, of course, I mean that you read him aloud in a detestable fashion. Someone here wants to show you what it is. He acts it. This is what to act out is.

I suppose that the people who chose this term in the English literature, to designate acting-out, knew what they meant. In any case, it fits perfectly: I act out something, because this was read, translated, articulated, signified inadequately to me, or incorrectly. (p153)

I would add that if you happen to have the adventure that I imaged earlier, namely, that someone wants to give you a better presence of Racine, it is not a very good starting point, it will probably be as bad as your way of reading. In any case this will start already from a certain instability. There is already something inexact, even deadened, in the acting-out introduced in such a sequence.

This is the remark around which I intend to approach what I am simply putting in question today.

To speak about the logic of the phantasy, it is indispensable to have at least some idea of where the psychoanalytic act is situated. This is what is going to force us to take a little step backwards.

One can in effect remark that it goes without saying – but it goes a lot better by saying it – that the psychoanalytic act is not a sexual act. It is even not at all possible to make them interfere. It is quite the contrary.

But to say the contrary, does not mean contradictory, since we are doing logic! And to make you sense it I have only to evoke the analytic couch. It is all the same there for some reason!

In the topological order, there is something I have noticed, but it is really a problem: that the myths make very little of it. And, nevertheless, the bed is something that has to do with the sexual act.

K) Footnotes to the excerpts from Jacques Lacan


[i] Ernst Kris : Ego psychology and Interpretation : Psychoanalytic Quarterly : Vol XX : no 1 : January 1951 : p15-29 : For availability see Ego psychology and interpretation in psychoanalytic therapies (Dream ‘fresh brains’) : December 1948 (New York) [1951] : Ernst Kris or here: in particular the passage quoted on p27-28 : From Ernst Kris, p27-28 : The tendency to discuss ‘planning’ and ‘intuition’ as alternatives in analytic technique permeates psychoanalytic writings though it has repeatedly been shown that such an antithesis is unwarranted. Theodor Reik’s and Wilhelm Reich’s unprofitable polemics against each other are liberally quoted in such discussions. In my opinion not only this controversy but the problem which it attempted to clarify is spurious; It is merely to be determined at what point preconscious thought processes in the analyst ‘take over’ and determine his reaction, a question which touches upon every analyst’s personal experience. There are some who are inhibited if they attempt consciously to formulate the steps to be taken, with whom full awareness acts as inhibition or distraction. There are those who at least from time to time wish to think over what they arc doing or have done in a particular case, and others who almost incessantly wish to know ‘where they are’. No optimal standard can be established. The idea, however, that the preconscious reactions of the analyst are necessarily opposed to ‘planning’ seems, in the present stage of our knowledge about preconscious thought processes, to say the least, outdated.

Once we assume that the optimal distance from full awareness is part of the ‘personal equation’ of the analyst, the contribution of preconscious processes gains considerable importance. For one thing, it guarantees the spontaneity that prompts an analyst to say to a patient who showed considerable apprehension on the eve of a holiday interruption of analysis: ‘Don’t trouble, I shall be all right’. Many may at first feel that Ella Sharpe (31, p. 65), who reported this instance, had taken a daring step, and that her unpremeditated short cut went too far, But on second thought we may conclude that, provided the patient had been suitably prepared for the appearance of aggressive impulses within the transference, the wit of the interpretation may have struck home and created insight. Whether or not one approves of such surprise effects-and I confess my own hesitation-it is obvious that conscious premeditation could hardly bring them about. But even those of us who do not share the ebullient mastery of Ella Sharpe have reason to believe in the constructive contribution of intuition. Let me briefly refer to a patient who had been analyzed as a child, and whom l saw fifteen years after his first analytic experience had been interrupted through the influence of a truly seductive mother who could no longer bear to share the child with the child analyst. I was familiar with some of the aspects of the earlier analysis. Some of the symptoms had remained unchanged, some had returned, particularly prolonged states of sexual excitement, interrupted but hardly alleviated by compulsive masturbation or its equivalents, which in some cases led to disguised impulses toward exhibitionism. Long stretches of the analysis were at first devoted to the details of these states of excitement. It became clear that they regularly were initiated and concluded by certain eating and drinking habits. The total condition was designated by the patient and myself as ‘greed’. In a subsequent phase phallic fantasies about the seductive mother were gradually translated into oral terms; the violent demand for love became a key that opened up many repressed memories which had not been revealed during the child’s analysis. At one point, however, the process began to stagnate, the analysis became sluggish, when suddenly a change occurred. During one interview the patient manifested vivid emotions; he left the interview considerably moved and reported the next day that ‘this time it had hit home’. He now understood. And as evidence he quoted that when his wife had jokingly and mildly criticized him he had started to cry and, greatly relieved, had continued to cry for many hours. What had happened? In repeating the interpretation I had without conscious premeditation used different terms. I did not speak of his ‘demand for love’, but of his ‘need for love’ or expressions with a connotation which stressed not the aggressive, but the passive craving in his oral wishes. Intuition had appropriately modified what conscious understanding had failed to grasp or, to be kinder to myself, had not yet grasped. This instance may serve to illustrate the necessary and regular interaction of planning and intuition, of conscious and preconscious stages of understanding psychoanalytic material. It is my impression that all advances in psychoanalytic material. It is my impression that all advances in psychoanalysis have come about by such interactions, which have later become more or less codified in rules of technique

[31 p65 : from Footnote 31 : Sharpe Ella F. : (1930) The Technique of Psychoanalysis: In Collected Papers on Psychoanalysis. London : Hogarth Press, 1950. 

[ii] This probably refers to “Über fausse reconnaissance (‘déjà raconté’) während der psychoanalytischen Arbeit” in GW X, p116-123, especially the passage quoted on page 122 [SEXIII, p201-207 especially p206]. From Contemporary Freudian Society Volume XIII: Totem and Taboo and Other Works (1913-1914):  quote from here & given below, 1914a, Volume 13 : p201 :

Fausse reconnaissance (‘deja raconte’) in psycho-analytic treatment (1914).

It not infrequently happens in the course of an analytic treatment that the patient, after reporting some fact that he has remembered, will go on to say that he has already said that, while the analyst himself feels sure that this is the first time he has heard the story. The explanation of this frequent occurrence appears to be that the patient really had an intention of giving this information, that once or even several times he actually made some remark leading up to it, but that he was then prevented by resistance from carrying out his purpose, and afterwards confused a recollection of his intention with a recollection of its performance. The phenomenon presented by the patient in cases like this deserves to be called a fausse reconnaissance, and is completely analogous to what occurs in certain other cases and has been described as a deja vu. There is another kind of fausse reconnaissance which not infrequently makes its appearance at the close of a treatment. After he has succeeded in forcing the repressed event upon the patient’s acceptance in the teeth of all resistances, and has succeeded, as it were, in rehabilitating it, the patient may say that he now feels as though he had known it all the time. With this, the work of the analysis has been completed.

Or it could refer to Verneinung : From Contemporary Freudian Society : Standard Edition : Volume XIX: The Ego and the Id and Other Works (1923-1925) : Summary available here or below:

1925h : Vol 19 : p235 : Negation (1925) : Sigmund Freud

Negation is discussed. The content of a repressed image or idea can make its way into consciousness on condition that it is negated. Negation is a way of taking cognizance of what is repressed. To affirm or negate the content of thoughts is the task of the function of intellectual judgment. The function of judgment is concerned in the main with 2 sorts of decisions. It affirms or disaffirms the possession by a thing of a particular attribute; and it asserts or disputes that a presentation has an existence in reality. Judging is the intellectual action which decides the choice of motor action, which puts an end to the postponement due to thought and which leads over from thinking to acting. Judging is a continuation, along the lines of expediency, of the original process by which the ego took things into itself or expelled them from itself, according to the pleasure principle.

[iii]  ‘De la psychose paranoïaque dans ses rapports avec la personnalité, suivi de Premiers écrits sur la paranoïa’ (1932) Jacques Lacan. Published: Paris: du Seuil, 1975. Details of translations and their availability given ‘The Case of Aimée, or Self-punitive Paranoia’: Jacques Lacan: 1932 or here

[iv] Denotes English in the original

[v] Melitta Schmideberg: Intellektuelle für Psychoanalytische Pädagogik : Vol VIII : 1934. In English, see : Intellectual Inhibition and Disturbances in Eating : International Journal of Psychoanalysis : Vol XIX : 1938 : p17-22 [See Intellectual Inhibition & Disturbances in Eating (Dream ‘fresh brains’) : September 1933 [Published1938] : Melitta Schmideberg or here]

[vi] See if you can find it, Melitta Schmideberg: Intellektuelle für Psychoanalytische Pädagogik : Vol VIII : 1934. In English, see : Intellectual Inhibition and Disturbances in Eating : International Journal of Psychoanalysis : Vol XIX : 1938 : p17-22

[vii] Sigmund Freud : Standard Edition : Volume XVIII: Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology and Other Works (1920-1922) includes Beyond the pleasure principle (1920g, Vol 18) : Group psychology and the analysis of the ego (1921c, Vol 18) & Volume XIX: The Ego and the Id and Other Works (1923-1925): includes The ego and the id (1923b) : A seventeenth-century demonological neurosis (1923d) : Remarks on the theory and practice of dream-interpretation (1923c) : etc

[viii] Footnote 3 p79 : Ernst Kris, “Ego Psychology and Interpretation in Psychoanalytic Therapy.” Lacan elaborated on these remarks about Kris’s case in “Réponse au commentaire de Jean Hyppolite sur la Verneinung de Freud : 10th February 1954,” Écrits, p393-99. The case is discussed again in “The Direction of the Treatment and the Principle of its Power : 10th to 13th July 1958,” Écrits, p598-602 / p238- 40. Finally, the same article was mentioned in “The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis : 26 & 27 September 1953″ in relation to the difference between “need for love” and “demand for love,” Écrits, p296-283.

[ix] Melitta Schmideberg: Intellektuelle für Psychoanalytische Pädagogik : Vol VIII : 1934. In English, see : Intellectual Inhibition and Disturbances in Eating : International Journal of Psychoanalysis : Vol XIX : 1938 : p17-22

[x] Jacques Lacan delivered a paper ‘Le stade du mirroir at the fourteenth International Psychoanalytical Congress, held at Marienbad in August 1936 under the chairmanship of Ernest Jones. For more details see Mirror Stage: 1936, 1938, 1949, 1966: Jacques Lacan or here

Julia Evans

Practicing Lacanian Psychoanalyst, Earl’s Court, London

Other references:

Seminar I: Freud’s papers on technique: 1953-1954 : begins on 13th January 1954 : Jacques Lacan or here

Introduction and reply to Jean Hyppolite’s presentation of Freud’s ‘Verneinung’ & the commentary : 10th February 1954 : Jacques Lacan & Jean Hyppolite or here

Seminar III: The Psychoses: 1955-1956: from 16th November 1955: Jacques Lacan or here

Seminar VI: Desire and its interpretation: 1958-1959 : from 12th November 1958 : Jacques Lacan or here

Seminar X: The Anxiety (or Dread): 1962-1963: begins 14th November 1962: Jacques Lacan: Text in English & References or here

Écrits : 1966 : Jacques Lacan or here

Also relevant:

Posts for the “B. Seminar VI : towards NLS in Ghent, 2014” category : here

Posts for the “A. Reading Seminar VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis” category  : here

Seminar VII: The ethics of psychoanalysis: 1959-1960: Jacques Lacan : Available here

Posts for the “Dreams” category : Available here

Further texts

Of the clinic : here

From LW working groups : 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