Violence and aggression: a lacanian perspective

Although psychiatry often has to work with aggressive patients, the huge amount of coercion and exclusion based on aggression, teaches us that psychiatry does not know how to handle violence. In 1948 Lacan wrote an essay on aggressiveness, trying to approach the phenomenon within a structural framework, albeit without the conceptual tools to work this through. His later work, notably the differentiations between the imaginary, the symbolic and the real, helps us to read aggression in a structural fashion, taking anxiety at the core of the problem. The author wants to expand this by making a differentiation between implicated violence and non-implicated violence. The former is about the aggression as we usually understand it: between subjects, with the feeling one is implicated in it and grounded in anxiety. The latter is carried out as a collective, grounded within discourse that veils anxiety. This violence is essentially dehumanizing for both victims and perpetrators. One is violent because it ‘needs to be done’, justifying its action through discourse. The author explains how in clinical practice, we should read the violence of mental health workers (like coercion or exclusion) and its accompanying anxiety, rather than simply denouncing it. If not, we risk that implicated violence will alter to non- implicated violence, making it even harder to tackle. The author concludes with an example of her own clinical practice and analysis.

The Violence of Right: Rereading ‘Why War?’

In this contribution, the often neglected correspondence ‘Why War?’ (Freud, 1933b) is presented as the locus classicus of Freud’s account of ‘Right and Violence’. In the discussion with Freud, Einstein’s position appears in the light of Kant’s Toward Perpetual Peace. It is exemplary of the dominant liberal conception of international law as the ultimate means for world peace. This contribution problematizes the debate between Freud and Einstein by its confrontation with the legal philosophy of Hans Kelsen, who is renown as the ‘Einstein of Law’. It is argued that Freud subscribes to Einstein’s and Kelsen’s liberalism in order to radically criticize it. Based on his own conception of right as considered to be a temporary incantation of violence, Freud scrutinizes the liberal possibility of ‘peace through international law’.

An Explorer’s Companion: On a Case of Infantile Psychosis

In this case study the author testifies about her encounter with an eleven year old boy who is resident in the treatment centre De Dauw. The crucial question is how to understand infantile psychosis. The author begins with difficulties experienced in the community and in individual psychotherapy. In order to bridge the gap between theory and practice, these difficulties will be explored and translated from within a psychoanalytic framework. The author considers the coming into being of the subject and the consequences in terms of drift and affect regulation, giving meaning and the relationship to the Other. Throughout the text, the author tries to shed light on the goal of treatment.

The language of violence

This article deals with the question of violence within the context of a school. The central idea is that a tension exists between an experience and the language for that experience, an idea which is brought to the fore by both Freud and the Russian psychologist Vygotsky. Violence is considered as the expression of a missed meeting between experience and language. By means of a number of psychoanalytic concepts this idea is developed and illustrated with a clinical fragment.

Working with youth and echoes from the social discourse

The author explores working with adolescents in three different settings: non-voluntary therapy for drug addicts; a centre for homeless men and women; and a youth information centre. With regard to each of these groups, we tend to encounter similar discourses. And within each setting different elements of these same discourses resonate.. These elements reveal a lot about the positioning of these adolescents: the young drug abuser as ‘dangerous’; the adolescent victim of violence as object of compassion; and the ‘normal’ adolescent who should enjoy him/herself but in moderation. The author uses clinical fragments to illustrate. What effects do those labels and signifiers have on work with adolescents themselves? And how can psychoanalysis prevent us from falling into the trap of disdain, compassion or indifference?