The Return to Freud

The impossibility of the void calls forth the necessary contingency of the phallus or the father but only in its transient, multiple, and constructible form. The absolute insistence of the drive ensures that the master will never suffice. Freud had a presentiment of this as he moved toward the future. Perhaps he realized that as much as a solution was sought in the knowledge of the master, the teacher, the doctor, there was something more insistent in the patient as subject – a will or drive or unconscious. Thus eventually in Freud interpretation was replaced by construction in analysis.


In Freud’s reading of Schreber he posed the idea that there was little difference between Schreber’s delirium and his own delirium of psychoanalysis and the Oedipus complex. Later he claimed that the difference was that his delirium became transmissible and useable by a community of others. This poses the situation that Lacan took up – that psychosis is a social and symbolic symptom rather than a medical or biological one. What appears more and more clear through the work of Freud and Lacan is that the knot of psychosis is one that is co-created by subject and Other – one that is created or maintained between patient and doctor. The more Flechsig insists on his interpretation the more Schreber forecloses the master signifier and by unfortunate result the symbolic in general. The psychotic foreclosure is a desperate attempt to maintain subjectivity in the face of the discourse of the master – one further along the continuum than the strategy of hysteria. What Lacan was able to see is that it was possible not to throw the baby out with the bathwater – not to throw the symbolic out with the master – when he stated that one could do without the name of the father if one knew how to use it. The names of the father became pluralized as an alternative. Finally psychic structure becomes not something fixed but something one passes through. Thus Lacan calls psychoanalysis first a process of hystericization, then later a process of psychoticization. The analysand passes through hysteria and psychosis in its encounter with void and loss. Subjective destitution remains an inevitable complement to the invention of a new writing of the symptom.


In his later papers on narcissism, sexual development, and the Oedipus Complex, Freud elucidates a preliminary theory of what Lacan would later call the divided subject. In elaborating the standard Oedipal path Freud first states that the narcissistic object choice of the opposite sex parent takes place at the same time or a little later than the identification with the same sex parent but later revises this to at the same time or a little later. In any case it is clear that the order is not clear between being and having. This reveals the paradoxical split of the chicken and egg between desire and identity. The ego psychologists chose to model their theory and practice around the primacy of ego identity as ideal and cure. Lacan returned to the question of drive and narcissistic object choice to elaborate a theory and practice of desire. He honored this impossible division of the subject of desire: how can one have without being, how can one be without having. Perhaps the answer lies in the famous phrase that Lacan repeats for psychoanalytic practice: style makes/is the man. It is in the way that the subject chooses and uses the object that he gains an identity: one that is not bestowed by the other nor a compromise to the other’s demands, but one that comes from the first person singular “I.” An autopoesis: Wo es war, soll ich warden. Not where the id was the ego will be, but where it was there I will be.


In the splitting of the ego the narcissistic object choice of the drive runs counter to the ego identification emerging from the demands from the Other. The return of the drive, of desire, renders fruitless the dreams of ego psychology. This psychoanalytic divided subject only brings to individuated completion the social project of Greek science resurrected by the enlightenment. The recognition of subjectivity honors something in you more than you: Freud’s politics of the unconscious, the drive, the subject, and finally of the real to which Lacan remained militantly committed.