The author reports on some structuring moments in the etiological history of melancholia from a metapsychological point of view. It is argued that this clinical picture tends to be too readily categorised as psychotic, leaving open the question of its psychic structure. Freud’s findings from the article “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917e ) are examined along with the work of M.-C. Lambotte (1993) and J. Hassoun (1995). Melancholia is described as suffering caused by a lack of symbolisation of object a, through which mourning is made possible. The focus is on a crucial etiological moment in the very coming into being of the subject. This moment is connected to a failed inscription of the desire of the first Other. The importance of the gaze on the object of desire emerges – in more than just its metaphoric dimension – as determining for identification and the libidinal economy of the subject. This primordial identification contains a nothingness, a void, which is related to the way in which the father appears in the discourse of the mother (Hassoun). Furthermore it is revealed that an original experience of pleasure, followed by a “catastrophic moment”, provides an explanation for the nihilistic discourse of the melancholic; it is the void in the place of the desire of the Other, which will become libidinally, i.e., symbolically, cathected (Lambotte). This sequence of an original experience of pleasure followed by a “catastrophic moment” allows melancholia to be characterised as an affliction of a specific impossible loss, namely, the loss of the desire of the mother which was once enjoyed.
In psychoanalysis, the function of construction consists in mapping the unheard of the unconscious logic. In this way, speaking (la parole), or the subjective position and thus the desire of the patient, acquire room to move. It is from the dialectic between the unconscious and the conscious discourses that the absurd can be elaborated. This castration happens through a construction which, in turn, provokes the creativity of the subject. This mechanism is illustrated with a clinical case.
The aim of the psychoanalytic cure is here considered as the movement which targets the subject’s assumption of its existential guilt, i.e., the guilt resulting from not living up to its destiny as inscribed by the Other. Through the psychoanalytic work the patient is confronted with the unconscious inscription of his being, as well as with the guilt resulting from not being able to meet this inscription. In this way, gradually, the preconditions are laid down for a process of mourning, i.e., for a process of disidentification, that may provoke anxiety. Beyond the assumption of existential guilt, desire is articulated more freely, which enables a different positioning of the subject towards the other, towards love, towards knowledge.