What definition is given to psychoanalysis? It’s the science of the unconscious. Did you know? Psychoanalysis occupies a high place today not only among scientists but also among philosophers. Since Freud, until today, psychoanalysis has known several currents. In this article, we will talk about Lacanian psychoanalysis.
In fact, the objectives of Lacanian psychoanalysis are identical to those of Freudian psychoanalysis: it is a question of reducing suffering, of unraveling psychological conflicts, through speech and the analysis of slips and dreams. It is, indeed, in our words and our dreams that the unconscious expresses itself. Lacanians and Freudians also agree on one essential idea: it is the infantile sexual fantasies and the forgotten events of childhood that form the content of the unconscious and are at the origin of our neuroses of adults.
Now, to exhume them, only one solution: to speak. For words revive images, awaken a memory, and gradually draw to consciousness the fantasies and scenes of the past that have determined our destinies.
But if all Lacanian claim Freud, all Freudians are not Lacanians. The main point of divergence: the Lacanian practice of sessions of variable duration (but rather brief), which is opposed to the standards in force in the classical Freudian institutions (three-quarters of an hour). Before continuing, let’s see in short who Jacques Lacan is?
I – Lacanian Psychoanalysis and Biography of Jacques Marie Lacan
After studying medicine, he turned to psychiatry and passed his doctoral thesis in 1932. While the following psychoanalysis with Rudolph Loewenstein, he joined the Psychoanalytic Society of Paris (SPP) in 1934 and was elected member in 1938.
It was after the Second World War that his teaching of psychoanalysis became important. His call for a “return to Freud” claiming a real Freudianism, his opposition to certain currents of Freudianism (including Ego-psychology) and its theoretical evolution cause a split in the Society of Psychoanalysis of Paris and the International Psychoanalytical Association. Jacques Lacan continued his research and gave seminars from 1953 to 1979, almost until his death: successively at the Sainte-Anne Hospital, at the École Normale supérieure (higher normal school), then at the Sorbonne (the fume cupboard).
Jacques Lacan has taken up and interpreted all the Freudian concepts, revealing a coherent, biologically-oriented, and language-oriented coherence, adding to it his own conceptualization nourished by the research of his time (such as structuralism and linguistics). Jacques Lacan is one of the great interpreters of Freud and gives birth to a psychoanalytic current: Lacanism.
A disputed figure, Lacan has marked the French and international intellectual landscape, both by the disciples he has evoked and by the rejections he has provoked.
II – History of Lacanian Psychoanalysis
Jacques Marie Lacan (1901-1981) drew on theology, cybernetics, ethnology, linguistics, and mathematics to enrich psychoanalysis. Unwilling to stick to dogmas, he introduced new concepts that extended the Freudian theory. Notably, in 1936, the “stage of the mirror”, which accounts for the genesis of the self: it is by contemplating in the mirror for the first time, in the company of an adult who says to him: “You see, this child, in the mirror, it is you, “that the young individual acquires the consciousness of having me. And in 1960, the “object has”, which explains the dissatisfaction so frequently encountered by humans in their love life. The “object a” is the primary object of childlike desire: it is the breast, the voice, the maternal gaze, that the adult seeks all his life in his partners. Without ever finding it.
The singularity of Lacan, nicknamed “the troublemaker of genius”, made him exclude analytic institutions. In the 1960s, he became a true master of thought.
In 1964, he founded the Freudian School of Paris and, a few months before his death, the School of the Freudian cause. Lacanism has given birth to a vast movement that currently has a large number of schools and several thousand members worldwide. Françoise Dolto and Serge Leclaire, the designer of “Psy show”, were part of it. His son-in-law, Jacques-Alain Miller, ensures the transcription of his “seminars” which, for many, have never been published, because Lacan wrote very little.
III – The Concepts of Lacanian Psychoanalysis
Jacques Lacan has developed some ideas, among the best known we can mention:
– the stage of the mirror, which corresponds to the moment when a baby realizes that he is a being in his own right by differentiating himself from others and by seeing his reflection in the mirror;
– the concept of structure is based on 3 functions:
* the real,
* the Symbolic,
* the Imaginary;
– the place of language in psychoanalysis.
The theorization brought by Lacan was a great success. Although Lacanian ideas have been widely disseminated, Lacanian psychoanalysis, properly so-called, remains less widespread than classical Freudian psychoanalysis.
Especially and in a simple and succinct way, we will approach the following concept: the stage of the mirror.
*** The mirror stage
The development of the personality goes through the acquisition of the “I”. Many patients with mental illness are not ‘subject of their speech’.
We must know that the infant is not distinct from his mother, and therefore he is not aware of his own body. It is only gradually that he will become aware of himself, and integrate the limits of this body which is his and different from Others. He will thus distinguish what is of the order of the ego and what is not.
It can be noticed that already at about 4 months it reacts to its image reflected by the mirror, but as to any appearance of a child. He knows how to recognize his mother and recognizes her in the mirror: he has not yet realized that it was an image.
This psychic evolution of the little child occurs around 7 or 8 months an important stage for its development that Jacques Lacan calls the “stage of the mirror”. This step must allow the baby to identify the body that is his and that is different from the Other, the first Other: the mother. His body, he has already explored hands, mouth, and his eyes recorded the hands and feet that passed in front of his face. He also recognizes the faces of his relatives. When he sees himself in the mirror, he waits for a reaction from this Other in front of him. The mother who holds him in his arms (or who is placed behind him) will name him this image and tell him “it is the image of your body, it is you that we see in the mirror”. This word of the mother will make her aware of their distinct existence, hers and him. He will seek confirmation by turning around to see his mother behind (or next to) him.
This stage of the mirror stage has a great symbolic value in the psychic evolution of the child.
She forces him to realize that he is different from his mother, the Others. It gives him limits in the vision of this body “limited” by an outline, and also by size. He perceives himself as a whole, unique, and also as exteriority. He discovers the parts of his body that he did not yet know: the body diagram is built. The emotional relationship that the child has with others, symbiotic (relative to mutual support) becomes anaclitic (awareness of this support). Now the child knows that he needs the mother. It is a very important period of distinction, whether external/internal or I / Other (the Self is formed at the same time that the External Object is formed, the one existing only with respect to the other).
He also discovers that the Other in the ice is only an image and not a real being. It’s a decoy: the child goes from the real to the imaginary.
Distinctions Between the Theories of Jacques Lacan and Françoise Dolto
– At LACAN, the mirror is a flat surface that reflects visually.
The image of the “stage of the mirror” is thus a mirage of totality and maturation in the face of the dispersed and immature reality that the child perceives from his body. It is, therefore, the first and inaugural experience in a real dispersed and fragmented. LACAN opposes the broken body of the baby to this global image to which he must confront himself. It is a beginning in his psychological maturation. From this impact will be born a ‘jubilation’ due to the appropriation of this image of his body, total and loved by the Mother. The stage of the mirror has a decisive value.
– In DOLTO, on the other hand, the mirror is a reflective surface of every sensible form, visible as psychic.
What is important then is the relational function reflected by the image of the mirror. The flat surface of the mirror is relativized, it is only one instrument among others to individualize the body, the unconscious image of the body but also the face, and discover the difference (Me / Other, a difference of the sexes …). The child is not in a real dispersed and fragmented but already cohesive and continuous. The opposition is no longer in a face-to-face but rather between two different images: the visual image seen by the child and the unconscious image he has of his body. The mirror stage no longer marks a beginning but confirms “primary narcissistic individuation”. And the impact produced in the child is no longer jubilant but is akin to a painful test of castration. Indeed, the child makes the observation that there is a big gap between his image and him. It is not this image that the mirror returns to him and in front of which his mother is ecstatic. It is not reducible to this, and it is a real test that it must cross.
IV – What Does Lacanian Psychoanalysis Deal With?
Lacanian psychoanalysis treats the same troubles as Freudian psychoanalysis, but the sessions are conducted a little differently.
For example :
– treatment of all relationship problems: emotional, social, family relationships;
– treatment of failures, blockages, disorders with a repetitive tendency;
– treatment of anxieties and phobias,
Note: Lacanian psychoanalysis is a more personal experience than therapy. It is not indicated for the most serious psychological disorders.
V – Conduct of a Session of Lacanian Psychoanalysis
All psychoanalysis begins with “preliminary interviews” to identify the problems of the patient and test his desire to undertake an analysis. But among Lacanians, they usually last several weeks. Then, the patient is invited to lie on the couch, but only when he no longer needs visual support to speak. And, above all, when the analyst is sure that such support has installed him in the position of “subject supposed to know” the cause of his suffering.
Indeed, this situation signifies the implementation of the “transfer”. By imagining that the analyst knows what he is suffering from, the patient transfers to him his affects, which he used to reserve for his parents. But this deception is necessary so that he can settle his accounts with the parental figures who have influenced his destiny.
Naturally, the analyst will also refer the patient to his real interlocutor: “It’s not me that you want, it’s not me that you like, it’s your father (or your mother). “
The non-Lacanian analysts claim that the patient must be reassured by an immutable framework: a shrink always equals to himself, sessions with a fixed duration. Lacanians, conversely, prefer the effect of surprise. You never know if the analyst will be in a good mood or not. He can remain totally silent, or be warm and humorous. To provoke a reaction from his patient, he sometimes reads his diary. All this to encourage him to question himself: “But what does he want, my analyst? By questioning his therapist’s desire and making assumptions, he reveals his own fantasies and desires that can then be analyzed.
The session ends when the patient has stated a word, an idea that illuminates his problem. Even though it only started ten minutes ago. This unexpected interruption allows him to understand that he has just brought up an important element. Undaunted by the regularity of the rhythm of the sessions, the Lacanian analysts do not hesitate to grant an additional one to the patient who goes wrong. Nor to call him from their vacation spot.
There are generally the following differences between Lacanian psychoanalysis and other psychoanalyses:
The sessions have a shorter duration. A session can last 20 minutes or even 10 minutes.
– The end of the session: the psychoanalyst will interrupt the session on a crucial point or questioning in order to make the subject reflect.
– The cost of the session varies according to:
– the case treated,
– the psychoanalyst,
– the number of sessions,
As in other types of psychoanalysis, we can indicate the cost of the session is between 50 and 100 euros.
All those of Freudian analysis: emotional, relational, family problems, the difficulty of social integration, anxieties, and inhibitions of all kinds, repetitive failures, inability to fulfill one’s desires. But for psychoanalysis to work, we must be convinced that there is in us an unconscious knowledge of this suffering.
The rejection of the hypothesis of the unconscious. And impatience: it took years to build his neurosis, useless to hope to overcome after a few sessions…