Forgotten voids in the Gaze. On Melancholia

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 [1915]) 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.