“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.
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.
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).
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.
As a comment on Smith’s paper, “The Evolution of the Unconscious” (2002), the question of the nature of so-called unconscious communication is addressed. Some passages in Freud’s writings appear to suggest that this phenomenon can be explained by the transmission of meaning theory according to which what is communicated or transmitted in unconscious communication comes down to the transmission of unconscious meaning attached to material cues that are consciously or unconsciously perceived. With reference to some reported examples of unconscious communication, it is argued that there is no convincing support for this theory and that, at best, they demonstrate that what is communicated is not meaning but rather resistance. It is further argued that the extensive clinical case published by Jacobs (2001) in which a disruption of the analytical process is explained by the conveyance of unconscious messages attached to the nonverbal enactments of the psychoanalyst does not require us to accept the transmission of meaning theory but rather provides an excellent example of the notion that the resistance of the patient is ultimately explained in relation to the resistance of the analyst.