From Symptom to Sinthome

In the individuation of the subject from the species there is a painful separation of becoming – no less than in animal birth, cellular division, or the splitting of the atom. But man in his angst is aware of both the necessity to act and the contingent constraints. So what is neurotic suffering other than an “other” version of the inevitable pain of existence – a version of pain that comes with the resistance to the pain of the act of separation. If the symptom is a kernel of unresolved trauma – a necessity to separate and become that is refused, repressed, foreclosed, or denied – then the sinthome is the embracing of this traumatic encounter as act of existence. In the invention of the sinthome, Lacan not only returned tothe Medieval Latin spelling of symptom from the time of Aquinas, he made it a pun on old St Thom, the philosopher of the Act of Being.

Lacan found this act of existence in certain artists and scientists and took it as a model for the practice of psychoanalysis. This is our answer to the shift in the symbolic from Freud’s time to ours – in fact to any time, for we are proposing a process and practice that draws from the abstraction of the letter and the number.

Signification is an experience that draws from the already present symbolic/imaginary relation. But for the analyst to suspend meaning and interpretation and listen through the symbolic and imaginary he finds that the speech act reaches “lalangue” – the direct material sound of the word or world of the subject – a “moteriality” and “monderiality” formed in, by, and for the subject at the primordial level of his existence – a phantasm far under the bar of symbolic/imaginary in the real (S/I/R). At this point the analyst hears through the signifying web: gaps, holes, cuts open up to the real. The intervention then is not interpretation to shore up signification, but poetics, wit, and the well- timed blow that (like the zen master’s stick or koan) unravels the signifying chain, demand of the other, and symptomatic jouissance.

It goes without saying that this traversal of the phantasm – this crossing of the abyss – this glimpse of the void – is a dangerous time where mania and melancholy are risked. Nietzsche, Cantor and countless others in our time are evidence of this experience. Lacan described subjective destitution as one end of analysis but, not content to remain there with Freud’s idea of exchanging the symptom for ordinary malaise, he glimpsed the possibility of a reconstruction of the symptom through the invention of new signifiers – better yet new a-signifying semiotics or letters of the subject’s making – letters able to topologically orient the subject in the real and in relation to the other in a new way. In this formulation, the analyst is not the subject supposed to know, nor the master with the master code, nor the mute dummy – all of which he is passed through – but a collaborator and co-creator in the reinvention and reconstruction of the sinthome.