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Driving Soma

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Plunged into the experience of an analytic session, analysand and analyst can come closer to what Freud terms the "primary processes". A clear-cut distinction between body and mind tends to become blurred while the bodily-egos of both protagonists are more effectively present to each other. How deeply can they affect each other, and can the transformational working through of the drives give access to potential transformations not only within the dimension of the erogeneous body but also of the soma?This book explores these complex issues from a number of different perspectives: the clinical approach of patients with somatic diseases; the metapsychology of the analyst at work, including different aspects and functions of formal regression; the function of figurability of certain bodily enactments; the specific use the analyst can make of his own subjectivity (relationship between subjectivity and neutrality) and how this leads to a specific way of thinking about intersubjectivity in psychoanalysis; and the way in which some works of art can enrich how we confront the body-mind-soma issue in our analytic experiences with our patients.An attempt to erase the body from our field of investigation, not only the erogeneous body of infantile sexuality but also the body of soma, is active in every psychoanalytic culture. The author, who was trained in France, draws on Lacan and examines the way in which he progressively tried to disembody the theory and practice of psychoanalysis. He also argues that psychoanalysts could have a mutually enriching dialogue with neuro-biologists, not denying their differences of approach, but rather stemming out of them.

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Chapter One - Is the Analyst a Person?

ePub

Longe de mim em mim existo [Far from myself in myself I exist]

A parte de quem sou, [Standing apart from who I am,]

A sombra e o movimento em que consisto. [Shadow and movement of which I consist]

(Pessoa, 1960)

As soon as one person sits down in an armchair in order to listen, for the duration of an analytical session, to another person lying on a couch, that person is no longer at his or her own personal disposal, and we may well wonder what becomes of him/her. An instrument, said Freud, adding that “it is not so easy to play upon the instrument of the mind” (1905a, p. 262).

I feel tempted to follow that metaphor, with its musical reference: the apparatus of the soul transformed into an Aeolian harp that vibrates to the analysand's words and voice. Rather than a musical instrument, Freud suggested, more prosaically, an analogy with an object that, in his day and age, was at the forefront of technology: a telephone receiver. What is most remarkable in his account is not so much the metaphor of listening, communicating, and transmitting, but his description of an apparatus for transformation, the aim of which is to reconstruct the original object after a whole series of splittings into its component parts, while ensuring the elimination, as far as possible, of any distortions. According to that model, the psychoanalyst's unconscious deals with the various elements of the patient's “emerging unconscious” in such a way as to bring them together into a meaningful whole. In that process, any personal or contingent elements that belong to the psychoanalyst's personality will have been eliminated. In order to achieve a neutralisation of any elements that might give rise to distortions in that reconstruction, psychoanalysts will have carried out some degree of “psychoanalytical purification” of their own minds. Rendering those personal imperfections harmless means that the analyst can make available to the analysand the universal dimension of mental functioning. In that way, Freud attempted to conceive of the scientific character of subjectivity in the analytical process, in the course of which both analyst and patient agree to submit to a certain number of rules: even though Freud saw these as very simple, the effects that they have are surprisingly complex.

 

CHAPTER ONE Is the analyst a person?

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1

CHAPTER TITLE

CHAPTER ONE

Is the analyst a person?

Longe de mim em mim existo [Far from myself in myself I exist]

A parte de quem sou, [Standing apart from who I am,]

A sombra e o movimento em que consisto. [Shadow and movement of which I consist]

(Pessoa, 1960)

s soon as one person sits down in an armchair in order to listen, for the duration of an analytical session, to another person lying on a couch, that person is no longer at his or her own personal disposal, and we may well wonder what becomes of him/her. An instrument, said Freud, adding that “it is not so easy to play upon the instrument of the mind” (1905a, p. 262).

I feel tempted to follow that metaphor, with its musical reference: the apparatus of the soul transformed into an Aeolian harp that vibrates to the analysand’s words and voice. Rather than a musical instrument, Freud suggested, more prosaically, an analogy with an object that, in his day and age, was at the forefront of technology: a telephone receiver. What is most remarkable in his account is not so much the metaphor of listening, communicating, and transmitting,

 

CHAPTER TWO The repudiation of femininity in analytical listening

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CHAPTER TWO

The repudiation of femininity in analytical listening

“So that what distinguishes a living machine is not the nature of its physico-chemical properties, complex as they may be, but rather the creation of the machine which develops under our eyes in conditions proper to itself and according to a definite idea which expresses the living being’s nature and the very essence of life”

(Bernard, 1927, p. 93)

n Freud’s life and in the development of psychoanalysis, the enigmatic obscurity of the dark continent played the part of a strange attractor, drawing thinking towards the umbilicus that links it to the unknown.

In Freud’s writings, a secret thread connects the theme of the feminine element to that of the inexorability of time, the inflexibility of destiny, the inevitability of death, and the “unshakeable biological fact” (Freud 1933a, p. 95)—these topics themselves have a very close relationship to the conditions and unfolding of psychoanalytical treatment.

 

Chapter Two - The Repudiation of Femininity in Analytical Listening

ePub

“So that what distinguishes a living machine is not the nature of its physico-chemical properties, complex as they may be, but rather the creation of the machine which develops under our eyes in conditions proper to itself and according to a definite idea which expresses the living being's nature and the very essence of life”

(Bernard, 1927, p. 93)

In Freud's life and in the development of psychoanalysis, the enigmatic obscurity of the dark continent played the part of a strange attractor, drawing thinking towards the umbilicus that links it to the unknown.

In Freud's writings, a secret thread connects the theme of the feminine element to that of the inexorability of time, the inflexibility of destiny, the inevitability of death, and the “unshakeable biological fact” (Freud 1933a, p. 95)—these topics themselves have a very close relationship to the conditions and unfolding of psychoanalytical treatment.

Freud did not like being the mother-figure in the transference because he felt himself to be too much of a man for that and, as is well known, he fainted when the homosexual pressures of those close to him became too intense. Idealisation led him to theorise a mother–son relationship devoid of all ambivalence, since a mother's hatred for her son was, for Freud, even more unthinkable than a son's aggressiveness towards his mother; ambivalence, hate, and contempt could be part only of a mother–daughter relationship, as he wrote in a paper (“Femininity”, 1933a) shortly after his mother, Amalie, died.

 

Chapter Three - The Psychoanalyst and his/her Discontents

ePub

“It is my belief that, however strange it may sound, we must reckon with the possibility that something in the nature of the sexual instinct itself is unfavourable to the realization of complete satisfaction”

(Freud, 1912d, pp. 188–189)

“The relationship between the amount of sublimation possible and the amount of sexual activity necessary naturally varies very much from person to person and even from one calling to another.”

(Freud, 1908d, p. 197)

Sublimation is a term surrounded by a twilight zone of chemical and religious associations; as a concept, it is open to criticism and is perhaps inadequate—we would like to be able to do without it—but it does attempt to designate, at least approximately, an undeniable psychical reality.

If we hold the view that the quality of the analyst's psychical work during the session and the conditions under which that work is initiated are not incidental as far as the deployment and quality of the analytical process are concerned, we would tend, therefore, to see the analyst's capacity for sublimation and the sublimating dimension of the analytical setting as significant factors with respect to sublimation for the patient in the course of the treatment. That is the point of view that I shall adopt in order to explore this delicate issue.

 

CHAPTER THREE The psychoanalyst and his/her discontents

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CHAPTER THREE

The psychoanalyst and his/her discontents

“It is my belief that, however strange it may sound, we must reckon with the possibility that something in the nature of the sexual instinct itself is unfavourable to the realization of complete satisfaction”

(Freud, 1912d, pp. 188–189)

“The relationship between the amount of sublimation possible and the amount of sexual activity necessary naturally varies very much from person to person and even from one calling to another.”

(Freud, 1908d, p. 197)

ublimation is a term surrounded by a twilight zone of chemical and religious associations; as a concept, it is open to criticism and is perhaps inadequate—we would like to be able to do without it—but it does attempt to designate, at least approximately, an undeniable psychical reality.

If we hold the view that the quality of the analyst’s psychical work during the session and the conditions under which that work is

 

CHAPTER FOUR The paradoxes of neutrality

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CHAPTER FOUR

The paradoxes of neutrality

ccording to Freud, what two human beings communicate to each other in the context of an analytical session has no equivalent in real life. It is true that there are certain similarities in what is at stake, but the way in which they are treated and made use of—outside of any alienating attempt to take control in a relationship in which the effects of alienation are potentially at their highest level— depends on the conditions under which the analytical encounter takes place. The issue is directly and simultaneously both ethical and scientific. Hence, the importance of thinking constantly, in the here-andnow of the actual session, about the method and the setting; such questions have to be kept alive, but they are no more than a sustained attempt at reflecting upon what is at stake in psychoanalysis, grafted as it is on to theoretical assumptions which, if psychoanalysis can claim to have its place in the scientific domain, must always be capable of being revised in the light of actual experience. There is always the risk that technique for technique’s sake might take over from a theoretical processing in vivo of what is actually being experienced, with its vicissitudes, its unexpectedness, and its absurdities.

 

Chapter Four - The Paradoxes of Neutrality

ePub

According to Freud, what two human beings communicate to each other in the context of an analytical session has no equivalent in real life. It is true that there are certain similarities in what is at stake, but the way in which they are treated and made use of—outside of any alienating attempt to take control in a relationship in which the effects of alienation are potentially at their highest level—depends on the conditions under which the analytical encounter takes place. The issue is directly and simultaneously both ethical and scientific. Hence, the importance of thinking constantly, in the here-and-now of the actual session, about the method and the setting; such questions have to be kept alive, but they are no more than a sustained attempt at reflecting upon what is at stake in psychoanalysis, grafted as it is on to theoretical assumptions which, if psychoanalysis can claim to have its place in the scientific domain, must always be capable of being revised in the light of actual experience. There is always the risk that technique for technique's sake might take over from a theoretical processing in vivo of what is actually being experienced, with its vicissitudes, its unexpectedness, and its absurdities. Theorisation is always one step behind an analysis: the one that will begin with the very next patient.

 

Chapter Five - The being of the Analyst

ePub

The question of the analyst's being lay at the heart of the impassioned controversies that took place when the first schism in psychoanalysis occurred in France, in 1953. Although we might perhaps have forgotten how it came about, it will have had a long-lasting influence on psychoanalytical thinking in France, right up to the present day in fact.

A French controversy

In the context of the conflict that arose concerning the founding of an Institute for training future psychoanalysts distinct from the psychoanalytical Society itself, Sacha Nacht edited a two-volume collection of articles, written by several analysts, under the title La psychanalyse d’aujourd’hui (Psychoanalysis of Today, Nacht, 1959); this book was intended to be a testimony to the state psychoanalysis found itself in at that time, as well as to the theoretical and technical developments that were taking place. Nacht himself wrote a chapter, entitled “Psychoanalytical therapeutics” (“La thérapeutique psychanalytique”), which gave Lacan the opportunity of criticising him viciously and repeatedly—Lacan took one sentence out of context and made fun of it because of its conceptual flimsiness. To have some idea of this, it is enough to quote the following extract, which cannot fail to surprise anyone who claims to be a follower of Freud; after all, Freud did say that the analysis of dreams is the royal road that leads to a knowledge of the unconscious.

 

CHAPTER FIVE The being of the analyst

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MILLER_Patrick_Book_PMiller correx 24/07/2014 13:18 Page 70

CHAPTER FIVE

The being of the analyst

he question of the analyst’s being lay at the heart of the impassioned controversies that took place when the first schism in psychoanalysis occurred in France, in 1953. Although we might perhaps have forgotten how it came about, it will have had a long-lasting influence on psychoanalytical thinking in France, right up to the present day in fact.

T

A French controversy

In the context of the conflict that arose concerning the founding of an

Institute for training future psychoanalysts distinct from the psychoanalytical Society itself, Sacha Nacht edited a two-volume collection of articles, written by several analysts, under the title La psychanalyse d’aujourd’hui (Psychoanalysis of Today, Nacht, 1959); this book was intended to be a testimony to the state psychoanalysis found itself in at that time, as well as to the theoretical and technical developments that were taking place. Nacht himself wrote a chapter, entitled

 

CHAPTER SIX The presence of the analyst

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CHAPTER SIX

The presence of the analyst

et us stay for a little while longer on our road towards the being, because the question of presence has always been in its immediate surroundings.

As we have just seen, it was with respect to action that the issue of being came to Lacan’s attention, and for the infans with respect to what will enable a disengagement from the maternal omnipotence that assigns to him/her the role of being the phallus, in the place of the object of the satisfaction of need. The fourth section of Lacan’s paper on “The direction of the treatment” is headed “How to act with one’s being”. It deals immediately with issues involving introjection and identification, questions that enable Lacan, from a psychoanalytical point of view, to explore the metaphysical issue of being, because it indicates the movement of appropriation to become the object in order to be that object. That movement aimed at the object’s being is indeed a mental action. Lacan’s intention is to decide whether that action is real, because, on the one hand, the fundamental reason behind his criticism of Nacht’s idea of the relationship to being is that it is not a fact of the Real, and, on the other,

 

Chapter Six - The Presence of the Analyst

ePub

Let us stay for a little while longer on our road towards the being, because the question of presence has always been in its immediate surroundings.

As we have just seen, it was with respect to action that the issue of being came to Lacan's attention, and for the infans with respect to what will enable a disengagement from the maternal omnipotence that assigns to him/her the role of being the phallus, in the place of the object of the satisfaction of need. The fourth section of Lacan's paper on “The direction of the treatment” is headed “How to act with one's being”. It deals immediately with issues involving introjection and identification, questions that enable Lacan, from a psychoanalytical point of view, to explore the metaphysical issue of being, because it indicates the movement of appropriation to become the object in order to be that object. That movement aimed at the object's being is indeed a mental action. Lacan's intention is to decide whether that action is real, because, on the one hand, the fundamental reason behind his criticism of Nacht's idea of the relationship to being is that it is not a fact of the Real, and, on the other, “it is ruled out that anything real should be consummated in analysis” (Lacan, 2006, p. 508). That point will be one of the major axes of my exploration of the issues involving the presence of the analyst.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN The early shapings of sexuality

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CHAPTER SEVEN

The early shapings of sexuality

ne of Freud’s major discoveries was the fundamental role of infantile sexuality in the shaping of the human mind. This chapter deals with the relationship between the very early aspects of psychical life and the ways in which a human being experiences his/her sexuality in adolescence and adulthood. The ideas that I am attempting to formulate here are the result of my analytical experience with patients, male and female, who suffered severe disturbances in the course of their sexual relationships: frigidity in women, an incapacity to experience sexual intimacy with a partner, or even with themselves during masturbation, impotence in men, from premature ejaculation or anorgasmia to a total lack of erection, even during masturbation, where the penis would remain flaccid and ejaculation happen without the experiencing of orgasm, as just a kind of “flowing out of a liquid” with no sense of any projective force from inside heading outwards into the object.

 

Chapter Seven - The Early Shapings of Sexuality

ePub

One of Freud's major discoveries was the fundamental role of infantile sexuality in the shaping of the human mind. This chapter deals with the relationship between the very early aspects of psychical life and the ways in which a human being experiences his/her sexuality in adolescence and adulthood. The ideas that I am attempting to formulate here are the result of my analytical experience with patients, male and female, who suffered severe disturbances in the course of their sexual relationships: frigidity in women, an incapacity to experience sexual intimacy with a partner, or even with themselves during masturbation, impotence in men, from premature ejaculation or anorgasmia to a total lack of erection, even during masturbation, where the penis would remain flaccid and ejaculation happen without the experiencing of orgasm, as just a kind of “flowing out of a liquid” with no sense of any projective force from inside heading outwards into the object.

Looking back, I realise that, in most cases, the outcome of analysis significantly transformed not only their capacity for love, but also the intensity of enjoyment of their sexuality. Hence, the question: what aspects of the analytical process seem to have been more effective and transformative in that respect?

 

Chapter Eight - Psychical Metabolisations of the Body in Piera Aulagnier's Theory

ePub

With all the passion that she put into trying to imagine and think about the origins of mental life, Piera Aulagnier put forward a theory that she continued to develop over time; we can, therefore, try to grasp it from a historical point of view. At the same time, as they developed, her ideas gave more and more place and importance to the notions of history and historicising and to what she called the “effects of history”; it is the task of the “I” to put these in place of the effects of drive-related impulses. It was an extraordinarily moving moment when, in a paper that she read to a symposium in Bordeaux (this was to be her last one, because just two months later she died), Piera Aulagnier admitted to the audience, “Sometimes I wonder if my thinking has ever really succeeded in giving up the illusion that it will discover its own origins; perhaps that is what I am forever trying to do.”

When her first book, The Violence of Interpretation, was published in 1975, the outcome of many years of thinking and writing, Piera Aulagnier was already well known, renowned, and held in high esteem. That book represents a turning point in the assertion of her ideas which, while acknowledging the various sources that had a significant influence on her, broke free of these and affirmed her independence, originality, and personal style.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT Psychical metabolisations of the body in Piera Aulagnier’s theory

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MILLER_Patrick_Book_PMiller correx 24/07/2014 13:18 Page 117

CHAPTER EIGHT

Psychical metabolisations of the body in Piera Aulagnier’s theory

ith all the passion that she put into trying to imagine and think about the origins of mental life, Piera Aulagnier put forward a theory that she continued to develop over time; we can, therefore, try to grasp it from a historical point of view. At the same time, as they developed, her ideas gave more and more place and importance to the notions of history and historicising and to what she called the “effects of history”; it is the task of the “I” to put these in place of the effects of drive-related impulses. It was an extraordinarily moving moment when, in a paper that she read to a symposium in Bordeaux

(this was to be her last one, because just two months later she died),

Piera Aulagnier admitted to the audience, “Sometimes I wonder if my thinking has ever really succeeded in giving up the illusion that it will discover its own origins; perhaps that is what I am forever trying to do.”

 

Chapter Nine - Auto-Engendering and Auto-Excitation: Some Hypotheses Concerning the Qualifying Role of the Object

ePub

The Freudian approach has always taken as its starting point the outward signs—sometimes extremely severe ones—of mental pathology in human beings in order to raise fundamental questions about mental life in general, to set up models of its normal functioning, and to put forward hypotheses concerning how it comes about in living organisms. The paradoxes of masochism and the challenges that they represent for the pleasure principle, the guardian of our life, led Freud to envisage primary masochism as a process of metabolisation and of transformation that takes place in the encounter between a tendency towards inertia that rules over the organic world and a force of vital energy, the libido, which can survive only if it finds a way in which to oppose “the intended course of life” (Freud, 1924c, p. 160).

There are three terms in the very first paragraph of that paper that are well worth examining more closely: mysterious, economic, and drug.

It is indeed mysterious to have to think that, if the experience of pleasure lies at the heart of the earliest structures of mental life, it is the capacity to tolerate unpleasure that indicates to what extent it is possible to set up a psychical apparatus that is able to carry out the transformations, starting with somatic excitations, which are necessary for the development of mental life and the construction of psychical reality. The mystery is, therefore, that of the construction of the psyche, following the model of somatic functioning, and that of the kind of processes that enable the movement from quantitative to qualitative. Freud emphasised the fact that pleasure and unpleasure are not dependent on the quantitative factor (mental tension due to stimulus), but on some characteristic of it that he described as qualitative. It is the origin of that qualitative characteristic that remained a mystery to Freud. Although he suggested that there must be some relationship to the rhythm of internal modifications, he did not explore the part played in this “qualifying” by the primary object and the nature of its cathexis of the infant's physical and mental life. In this chapter, I shall, inter alia, attempt to show how we cannot think properly of this qualifying characteristic unless we take into consideration the essential role of the object and the primary environment—and, more specifically, the qualifying function of emotion. In so doing, I shall refer to certain aspects of the theorisation that we owe to Piera Aulagnier.

 

CHAPTER NINE Auto-engendering and auto-excitation: some hypotheses concerning the qualifying roleof the object

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MILLER_Patrick_Book_PMiller correx 24/07/2014 13:18 Page 134

CHAPTER NINE

Auto-engendering and auto-excitation: some hypotheses concerning the qualifying role of the object

he Freudian approach has always taken as its starting point the outward signs—sometimes extremely severe ones—of mental pathology in human beings in order to raise fundamental questions about mental life in general, to set up models of its normal functioning, and to put forward hypotheses concerning how it comes about in living organisms. The paradoxes of masochism and the challenges that they represent for the pleasure principle, the guardian of our life, led Freud to envisage primary masochism as a process of metabolisation and of transformation that takes place in the encounter between a tendency towards inertia that rules over the organic world and a force of vital energy, the libido, which can survive only if it finds a way in which to oppose “the intended course of life” (Freud, 1924c, p. 160).

 

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