[The psychoanalytic couch; An Associated Press photo by Bob Wands]
[Continues "Another Bar"]
As a preliminary formulation, Fink sums up the process by which the subject is “alienat[ed] by and in the Other [as language]” and then “separate[d] from the [m]Other [as desire]” through the prohibition of the fOther (as law (i.e. prohibitive/symbolizing/socializing language)) as castration—the castration of the subject (72). On the (psycho)analytic couch (as analysand), this subject is, in Fink’s description, “limited in his or abilities, incapable of deciding between different courses of action, subjected to the whims of the Other, at the mercy of his or her friends, lovers, institutional setting, cultural-religious upbringing, and so on” (72).
In Symbolic terms (i.e. in its relationship with the Symbolic order), this castrated subject, Fink explains,
is the subject that is represented. The castrated subject is always presenting itself to the Other, looking to win attention and recognition from the Other, and the more it presents itself, the more inescapably castrated it becomes as it is represented by and in the Other. The castrated subject is the barred subject, the subject under the bar: it is a product of every attempt and intent to signify to the Other. This “subject is constituted by the message” [. . .] received by the subject in an inverted form from the Other (73).
The Other, that is, as both language and desire.
As explained earlier, the psychoanalyst estimates that “the encounter with the Other’s desire constitutes a traumatic experience of pleasure/pain or jouissance [for the subject, what] Freud describe[d] as a sexual über, a sexual overload” (63). Lacan takes up where Freud left off to argue that “the subject com[es] to be as a defense against [this] traumatic experience” (63). Briefly, this happens as the Other’s desire becomes the o object—with which, through fantasy, the subject’s relationship with the Other (thanks to the psychoanalyst) changes. The subject learns to deal with what was at first incommensurate, intimidating, and overwhelming (the Other as language and the Other as desire)—by signifying it (giving it a name, and then a signifier), socializing it—from which (i.e. from the Other) the subject takes a rem(a)inder—the o object—that the subject then takes responsibility as his/her own. In this way, fantasy precipitates a (whole) subject, allowing the (castrated) subject, as Fink puts it, to achieve “a kind of being” (73).
The (whole) subject so constituted, however, as established earlier, is but a fantasy—one whose fantastical nature manifests in (the various kinds of) neuroses (according to the subject’s specific relationship with the o object). This is because the (neurotic) subject, in Lacan’s unremitting account (as read by Fink), “fad[es . . .] in his or her fantasy as the object-cause steals the limelight. [The o object] comes to the fore and is cast in the leading role in fantasy, the subject being eclipsed or overshadowed thereby” (73). The o object thus gets to take control—is unbounded by the subject—manifesting neuroses (of which there is a varied selection), betraying the subject(’s subjectivity) as a fantasy.
Nonetheless, Lacan asserts that there is “a being beyond neurosis” (with which Fink assents) (73). Rejecting both “the false being of the ego and the elusive being provided in fantasy [. . .] as lacking, [. . . unable] to take the subject beyond neurosis,” Lacan/Fink argues for the need to go beyond fantasy (which, as it turns out, amounts to but a temporary (re)solution) (73). This can be accomplished through the process that Fink calls “the further separation known as traversing fantasy” (my emphasis), the sacrifice of castration.
Castration must be sacrificed, given up, or surrendered if subjectification of the cause is to occur. The subject must renounce his or her more or less comfortable, complacently miserable position as subjected by the Other—as castrated—in order to take the Other’s desire as cause upon him or herself. The traversing of fantasy thus involves a going beyond of castration and a utopian movement beyond neurosis. The castrated subject is thus a subject who has not subjectified the Other’s desire and who remains plagued by, and yet obtains a “secondary gain” from, his or her symptomatic submission to the Other (72-3).
The traversing of fantasy, in other words, amounts to complete separation (No more Other-inflicted-yet-self-tolerated submissive misery!) from the Other.
Fink describes this process in terms of Freud’s wo Es war, soll Ich werden. In his words:
This reconfiguration of fantasy implies a number of different things: the construction in the course of analysis of a new “fundamental fantasy” (the latter being that which underlies an analysand’s various individual fantasies and constitutes the subject’s most profound relation to the Other’s desire); [. . . a movement towards the subject of the unconscious, the unconscious I]; and a “crossing over” of positions within the fundamental fantasy whereby the divided subject assumes the place of the cause, in other words, subjectifies the traumatic cause of his or her own advent as subject, coming to be in that place where the Other’s desire—a foreign, alien desire—had been (62).
The traversing of fantasy involves the subject’s assumption of a new position with respect to the Other as language and the Other as desire. A move is made to invest or inhabit that which brought him or her into existence as split subject, to become that which caused him or her. There were it—the Other’s discourse, ridden with the Other’s desire—was, the subject is able to say “I.” Not “It happened to me,” or “They did this to me,” or “Fate had it in store for me,” but “I was,” “I did,” “I saw,” “I cried out.” [. . .] The foreign cause, that Other desire that brought one into the world, is [thus] internalized, in a sense, taken responsibility for, assumed [. . .], subjectified, made “one’s own.” (62).
More precisely, what this operation involves, claims Fink, is “increasing ‘signifierization’—a turning into signifiers of the Other’s desire” (65). The Other’s desire, in other words, (thanks to the psychoanalyst) turned into yet more signifiers—(thanks to the psychoanalyst) progressively. (More and more of) Desire, that is, turned into (more and more) language. The entrance of (more and more of) the (Real) Other’s desire into the Symbolic (the Other as language). The Other (as desire), as it were, coerced/transformed/subsumed into—represented by—the Other (as language).
There is a difference, however, with previous similar attempts/steps. If previously, it was the Other that the subject confronted, this time—in traversing fantasy—what is reconfigured is the subject’s relation to something similarly fantastical, namely, the o object—which brings forth, at least as Lacan claims, a different result. Fink explains:
Insofar as the subject finds, in this further separation, a new position in relation to [the o object] ([the rem(a)inder of] the Other’s desire), the Other’s desire is no longer simply named, as it was through the action of the paternal metaphor. When the cause is subjectified, the Other’s desire is simultaneously fully brought into the movement of signifiers, and it is at that point [. . .] that the subject finally gains access to the signifier of the Other’s desire, S(Barred O) (65) (my emphases).
This transformation from the name into the signifier, as established earlier, is necessary. As Fink recounts, in the process of separation, “the Other’s desire had simply been named, [. . . a name] that [i]s fixed, static, and thinglike in its unchanging effect, rigid in its limited power of designation” (65). This—the “rigid connection subsist[ing] between the Other’s desire and a name of the father”—keeps the subject “unable to act” (65). It is only when the Other’s desire, Fink continues, “is signifierized [as the phallus, the psychoanalytic signifier for/of desire] that a power can be discerned beyond the [Other’s desire symbolized in the rigid name], a legitimacy or authority that is not embodied in the [Other’s desire] alone but subsists in the [S]ymbolic order beyond [the Other’s desire]” (65). Thereby separation is accomplished in fantasy.
The process, however, Lacan continues, is not complete, until the subject is able to specify in the signifying chain (of which the Other’s desire, thanks to separation, is now part) which signifier exactly it is: i.e. which one is S(Barred O). This the subject is able to perform through further separation—i.e. the traversing of fantasy—with which, paradoxically, the subject extricates him/herself from the Symbolic order as well (hence it indeed completes separation, is a complete separation). The subject thus separates from both the Other (as desire) and the Other (as language). Thus the subject (having taken responsibility for the Other’s desire), Lacan claims, is able to act. Thus the subject is subjectified.
In Fink’s words:
The name of the Other’s desire must be set into motion—from the mother’s partner, to teacher, to school, to police officer, to civil law, to religion, to moral law, and so on—and give way before the signifier of the Other’s desire if subjectification is to take place, that is, if the subject is to become the Other’s desire, leaving the signifier to its own devices. In that sense, traversing fantasy entails a separation from language itself, a separation of the subject—who will have become the cause—from his or her own discourse about his or her problem with the Other’s desire, inability to deal with the lack detected in the Other, lack of success in maintaining the right distance from and relation to the Other, and so on (66).
To put all this in ((post)structural) linguistic terms, the traversing of fantasy (that not only precipitates but subjectifies the subject) requires—amounts to—what Fink calls the dialectization of the (blocking) master signifier. Briefly, in this process the subject—being him/herself a signifier to/for another signifier—becomes a link between different signifiers (each signifying different drives (as opposed to desire)), connecting them, making possible/capable their signification/expression. Thus they overcome the block of the master signifier (which is what leads to fixation (with the Other), hence causing symptoms in the subject), allowing the subject to take responsibility for desire (the signified drive/s) as his/her own. A meaning for the (previously blocking/fixating) master signifier is created, the link between the master signifier and its meaning (which is another signifier) coming to be the position that the subject occupies (74-8). Thus a position for the subject is constituted. The subject is constituted. Thus “the subject,” in Fink’s summation, “appears in the process of clearing an obstacle out of an impasse, thereby creating an outlet. The subject is, in a sense, [as in the beginning, i.e. as a barred S] the splitting of that obstacle into two separate parts,” creating meaning (79).
This subjectification (or any subjective involvement), however, Fink notes, takes place only after the fact. For Lacan, the subject’s emergence/appearance is situated in some future imperfect time. The subject, as Fink paraphrases, “is always either about to arrive—is on the verge of arriving—or will have already arrived by some later moment in time,” “there [thus] being an implicit ‘if, and, or but’” in his/her arrival (63). Subjectification can therefore only be phrased in the future imperfect tense: “The subject was to arrive later,” both in the sense of “Later, the subject arrived,” and “The subject would have arrived later.”
Thus the emergence of the subject is left uncertain, “his or her ever-so-fleeting existence remain[ing] in suspense or abeyance” while at the same time suggesting that s/he would have arrived in some future time without specifying exactly when (63-4). Thus, as Fink says, “There seems to be no way of really determining whether the subject has been or not” (64).
This uncertainty, however, implies something else: a second event that follows subjectification—its twin event, as it were—without which subjectification remains indeterminable. To use the trauma (as leftover from the Real) analogy, what was initially trauma arrives or becomes a factor later for the subject’s emergence: without the subject’s emergence, the trauma wouldn’t have been considered as such; correlatively, without the trauma, there would have been no subjectification (64).
Thus, in his/her uncertain arrival/emergence at some future imperfect time accompanied by a twin event (the trauma or alienation) that prevents that very process (i.e. the subject’s emergence), the subject, in a sense, remains barred. A barred subject until the end, after all. This uncertainty/indeterminability, Lacan argues, is precisely what renders indeterminable (i.e. not calculable in advance) the time necessary for psychoanalysis to bring subjectification about (hence the time-variable sessions) (65).
Fink sums up the psychoanalytic subject (according to Lacan):
One is the subject of a particular fate, a fate one has not chosen but which, however random or accidental it may seem at the outset, one must nevertheless subjectify; one must, in Freud’s view, become its subject. Primal repression is, in a sense, the roll of the dice at the beginning of one’s universe that creates a split and sets the structure in motion. An individual has to come to grips with that random toss—that particular configuration of his or her parent’s [or, more generally, others’] desire—and somehow become its subject. “Wo Es war, soll Ich werden.” I must come to be where foreign forces—the Other as language and the Other as desire—once dominated. I must subjectify that otherness. [. . .] The I is not already in the unconscious. It may be everywhere presupposed there, but it has to be made to appear. It may always already be there, in some sense, but the essential clinical task is to make it appear there where it was (68) (my emphasis).
What psychoanalysis—in the play of the Other (as language) and the Other (as desire)—i.e. in all the symbolization/socialization/sublimation/substitution/metaphorization/signifierization/dialectization/separation that precipitates/constitutes/subjectifies (from the o object) (via fantasy, then later via “fundamental” fantasy) the (originally alienated but no-longer-castrated?) subject (Symbolized as a rem(a)inder from the Real) (barred, however, until the end)—claims (by virtue of primal repression) it must, claims (thanks to paid time-variable sessions) it does.
Fink, Bruce. The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.