GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR ANY PSYCHOANALYTIC ACT

ÉRIC LAURENT (2004)

Guiding principles for any psychoanalytic act

 

Eric Laurent

 

Preamble

 

 

At the WAP Congress in Comandatuba in 2004 the Delegate General presented a

 

“Declaration of Principles” to the General Assembly. This “Declaration” has

 

subsequently been carefully studied in the different Schools. The Councils have

 

communicated the outcomes of their studies, observations and remarks. Subsequent to

 

this work we now present, to the Assembly, this “ Guiding principles for any

 

psychoanalytic act” which we ask you to adopt.

 

 

First principle

 

 

Psychoanalysis is a practice of speech. It involves two partners, the analyst and the

 

analysand, brought together in a single psychoanalytic session. The analysand speaks

 

about what brings him there, his suffering, his symptom. This symptom is hooked into

 

the materiality of the unconscious, made out of things that have been said to the subject,

 

that have hurt him, and things that are impossible to say and cause him suffering. An

 

analyst will punctuate the words of the analysand and enable him to weave the thread of

 

his unconscious. The powers of language and the truth effects that it enables, what is

 

called interpretation, is the actual power of the unconscious. Interpretation is apparent on

 

both sides, analysand and analyst. They do not both have the same relation to the

 

unconscious, however, since one has already carried this experience through to the end

 

whereas the other has not.

 

 

Second principle

 

 

A psychoanalytic session is the place in which the most stable identifications by which a

 

subject is attached can come undone. A psychoanalyst will authorize this distance from

 

one’s customs, norms, and rules to which analysands constrains themselves outside of

 

sessions. He will authorize a radical questioning of the foundations of each one’s identity.

 

He is able to temper the radical nature of this questioning by taking into account the

 

clinical specificity of each subject who addresses himself to him. He takes nothing else

 

into account. This is what defines the specificity of a psychoanalyst’s place when he

 

upholds this questioning, opening and enigma in any subject who has sought him out. He

 

therefore does not identify with any of the roles that his interlocutor wants to make him

 

take on, nor with any place of mastery or ideal that already exists in civilization. In a

 

sense, an analyst is one who cannot be assigned to any other place than the place where

 

desire is in question.

 

Third principle

 

An analysand will address an analyst. He will attribute sentiments, beliefs, and

 

expectations as a reaction to what he says, and he wishes to act upon the beliefs and

 

expectations that he anticipates. The deciphering of meaning in the exchanges between

 

analysand and analyst is not the only thing at stake. There is also the speaker’s intention.

 

It is a matter of recuperating something lost from the interlocutor. This recuperation of an

 

object is the key to the Freudian myth of the drive. It founds the transference that binds

 

the two partners together. Lacan’s formula that the subject receives his own message

 

from the Other in inverted form includes both the deciphering and the wish to act upon

 

whom it is that one is addressing. Ultimately, when an analysand speaks he wishes,

 

beyond the meaning of what he says, to reach the partner of his expectations, beliefs and

 

desires in the Other. He aims at the partner of his fantasy. A psychoanalyst, enlightened

 

by analytic experience about the nature of his own fantasy, takes this into account. He

 

restrains from acting in the name of this fantasy.

 

 

Fourth principle

 

 

The transference bond presupposes a locus, the “locus of the Other”, as Lacan puts it,

 

which is not ruled by any other in particular. It is the locus in which the unconscious is

 

able to appear with the greatest degree of freedom to speak and, therefore, to experience

 

its lures and difficulties. It is also the locus in which the figures of a fantasy-partner can

 

be set out in the most complicated of their mirror games. This is why a psychoanalytic

 

session does not permit of any third person, with his gaze external to the actual process

 

that is underway. A third person will be reduced to this locus of the Other.

 

This principle therefore excludes the intervention of any authoritarian third parties

 

seeking to assign both a place to everyone and a pre-established aim for psychoanalytic

 

treatment. The authority of the evaluating third party, who fits into the series of third

 

parties, is affirmed from outside of what is at stake between an analysand, an analyst and

 

the unconscious.

 

 

Fifth principle

 

 

There is no standard treatment, no general procedure by which psychoanalytic treatment

 

is governed. Freud used the metaphor of chess to indicate that there were only rules and

 

typical moves at the beginning and the end of a game. To be sure, since Freud the

 

algorithms that have made it possible to formalize chess have grown in power. When

 

connected to the calculating power of a computer they make it possible for a machine to

 

beat a human player. This does not change the fact that, contrary to chess, psychoanalysis

 

cannot be presented in the form of an algorithm. We can see this in Freud himself who

 

transmitted psychoanalysis with the help of particular cases: the Rat Man, Dora, Little

 

Hans, etc. With the Wolf Man the case history entered a crisis. Freud was no longer able

 

to contain the complexity of the processes unfolding within the unity of a case. Far from

 

being able to be reduced to a technical procedure, the experience of a psychoanalysis has

 

only one regularity: that of the originality of a scenario through which all subjective

 

singularity emerges. Psychoanalysis is therefore not a technique but a discourse which

 

encourages each person to produce his singularity, his exception.

 

 

Sixth principle

 

 

The duration of a treatment and the unfolding of sessions cannot be standardized. The

 

duration of Freud’s treatments varied. There were treatments that lasted a single session,

 

as in the psychoanalysis of Gustav Mahler. There were also analyses that lasted four

 

months, as in the case of Little Hans, a year as in the Rat Man, several years as in the

 

Wolf Man. Since then the variation and the diversification have not stopped growing.

 

Moreover, the application of psychoanalysis outside the consulting room in mental health

 

settings has contributed to the variation in the duration of psychoanalytic treatment. The

 

variety of clinical cases and the variations in the age at which psychoanalysis has been

 

applied make it possible to consider that the duration of an analysis is now, at best,

 

defined as “tailor made”. An analysis continues to the point where the analysand is

 

sufficiently satisfied with what he has experienced to end his analysis. The aim is not the

 

application of a norm but an agreement on the part of the subject with himself.

 

Seventh principle

 

 

Psychoanalysis cannot decide what is aims are in terms of an adaptation of a subject’s

 

singularity to any norms, rules, determinations, or standards of reality. Psychoanalysis

 

has above all discovered any subject’s impotence to achieve full sexual satisfaction. This

 

impotence is designated by the term “castration”. Further, psychoanalysis, with Lacan,

 

has formulated that it is impossible for there to be any norm in the relation between the

 

sexes. If there is no satisfaction and if there is no norm, it is up to each person to invent a

 

particular solution, one that builds on his symptom. Each person’s solution can be more

 

or less typical, more or less established upon tradition and common rules. It may on the

 

contrary wish to draw upon rupture or a particular clandestinity. It remains no less true

 

that, at bottom, the relation between the sexes has no one solution “for all”. In this sense,

 

this relation remains marked with the seal of the incurable, and there will always be

 

something that fails. In speaking beings, sex stems from the “not all”.

 

 

Eighth principle

 

 

Analytic training cannot be reduced to the norms of university training or of the

 

evaluation of what has been acquired in practice. Analytic training, ever since it was

 

established as a discourse, rests on three legs: seminars of theoretical training (paraacademic);

 

the psychoanalyst in training’s undertaking a psychoanalysis to its endpoint

 

(from which flow the training effects); the pragmatic transmission of practice in

 

supervision (conversations between peers about practice). Freud at one stage believed

 

that it was possible to determine an a psychoanalytic identity. The very success of

 

psychoanalysis, its internationalization, the multiple generations that have followed one

 

another for over a century have shown how illusory this definition of a psychoanalytic

 

identity is. The definition of a psychoanalyst includes the variation in this identity. It is

 

this variation itself. The definition of a psychoanalysis is not an ideal, it includes the

 

history of psychoanalysis itself, and of what has been called psychoanalysis in the context

 

of distinct discourses.

 

 

The title of psychoanalyst includes contradictory components. It requires an academic,

 

university or equivalent, training, deriving from the general conferring of degrees. It

 

requires a clinical experience that is transmitted in its particularity under the supervision

 

of peers. It requires the radically singular experience of a psychoanalysis. The levels of

 

the general, the particular and the singular are heterogeneous. The history of the

 

psychoanalytic movement is a history of disagreements over and interpretations of this

 

heterogeneity. It forms a part of this Great Conversation of psychoanalysis which makes

 

it possible to state who is a psychoanalyst. This stating is brought about through

 

procedures in communities that are psychoanalytic institutions. A psychoanalyst is never

 

alone, he depends, as does a joke, on an Other who recognizes him. This Other cannot be

 

reduced to a normative, authoritative, regulatory, standardised Other. A psychoanalyst is

 

one who affirms that he has obtained from the psychoanalytic experience what he could

 

have hoped for from it and therefore that he has crossed over a “pass”, as Lacan called it.

 

Here he testifies to having crossed over his impasses. The interlocution by which he

 

wishes to obtain an agreement over this crossing over occurs in institutional settings.

 

More profoundly, it is inscribed within the Great Conversation between psychoanalysis

 

and civilization. A psychoanalyst is not autistic. He does not fail to address himself to the

 

benevolent interlocutor, enlightened opinion, which he wishes to move and to reach out

 

to, in favour of the cause of psychoanalysis.