Words still matter: Lacan and the role of the signifier in therapy today

In 1966, Lacan wrote “On an Ex Post Facto Syllabary”, a short rarely read essay that holds a key to what is radical and still important regarding what makes psychoanalysis relevant today, and that is the role of the signifier and the symbolic in mental health treatment. The following article describes Lacan’s critique of Herbert Silberer’s concept of the functional phenomenon as an example of the resistance that theorists and practitioners have towards the role of the unconsious and the symbolic. This is a detailed look at Lacan’s critique, and how the imaginary is still a trap, as well as a discussion of how a focus on the signifier and language serves as an alternative.

Dr. Lacan, we have a situation here! 62 years of resistance

“We have a situation here!” The implication of this phrase is that we have a bad situation. This essay discusses the often quoted but rarely studied, Lacan’s “The Situation of Psychoanalysis and the Training of Psychoanalysts in 1956”. Over six decades later, his dense and playful text is still relevant to the situation of psychoanalysis and psychoanalysts. It concerns the survival of psychoanalysis and the ethics of the practice, denouncing the pitfalls of psychoanalytic training while offering a scathing appraisal of the state of psychoanalysis.

Peirces Concept of a Sign and the Lacanian Signifier

According to Peirce the essence of the sign lies in its triadic interrelated structure, namely: a representamen, an object and an interpretant, in which the object is brought in relation to an interpretant by the representamen, such that the interpretant is, in turn, a sign of the same object. Lacans conceptualisation of the signifier shows a surprising resemblance with the ideas of Peirce about the sign. Thus their definitions reflect a same structure: the signifier as well as the sign have to be situated in a chain, for both an ultimate meaning is impossible and a meaning is always determined afterwards.

Lacanian Psychoanalysis as Fraud: On Desire and the Particular Unruly Signifiers

By means of two short cases taken from a practice with “special” youngsters, the author illustrates the resilience of the signifier. Fundamental and epistemological problems of psychoanalysis are constantly surfacing in that sort of clinical material and this applies even to trivial examples. It raises questions such as what is the unconscious? How can one know it? Time and again one is confronted with the duplicity of the signi¬fier, in practice as well as in theory. This can make it particularly difficult to maintain one’s intervention as psychoanalytic. Despite the failing symbolic, which can never bring about a complete effect in the real, the analyst is obliged to operate with the signifier. More so, the unconscious only gains the right to exist through the speech of a subject to a sujet supposé savoir, and only there, in the desire of the “patient” that talks to the analyst (who is a former “patient” himself), can psychoanalysis attempt to restrict the duplicity (amongst it the deceit of its own decay).

“Morphogenesis” of the body: marked by the signifier?

Starting from a number of remarks and hypotheses of authors such as Georg Groddeck, Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Jean Guir and Colette Soler about the entanglement of psyche and body, which, amongst other things, manifests itself in the activation of latent genes under the influence of specific signifiers, the author explores the influence of the signifier on the development of the shape of the body. Her analytical practice led her to hypothesize that some aspects of the body – mainly those that carry an erotic meaning – are marked by the signifier in the development of their shape, according to an analogous structural dynamic such as those that occur in psychosomatic phenomena. This hypothesis about the “morphogenesis” of the body is illustrated using a number of brief clinical fragments. One particular case highlights how a woman, in order to satisfy the desire of her mother for a son, unconsciously tries to become a man via a body dysmorphia, which manifests itself in the real of the body via deregulation, increased height, and acromegalia, which results in the body taking on a male shape.