Lacan’s Seminar 1. Freud’s Papers on Technique: The Moment of Resistance 3
I’ve been talking in fairly abstract terms. I’d like to offer something more concrete, and also bring you further into the discussion.
Earlier I mentioned Freud’s seminal experience, which we attended to in last term’s lectures. You may recall that those lectures were totally centered on the notion that the complete reconstitution of the subject’s history is the essential element that constitutes and structures analytic progress. I think I’ve shown that that’s where Freud starts from.
Freud was concerned with the individual case. And his concern with the individual case gives each of five case histories their value. We’ve looked at, we’ve pondered over, and we’ve worked on three of those cases in recent years, and we’ve seen how distinctively Freud treats each case, that in fact Freud’s progress and the discoveries he made are owing to how he considers each case in its singularity.
So, Consider it in its singularity. What does it mean to consider each case in its singularity? For Freud, it means the the interest, the essence, the basis, the dimension proper to analysis is the subject’s reintegrating her history right up to its furthermost perceptible limits… that is, the subject reintegrating their history into a dimension that is beyond their limits as an individual. Over the last few years this is the foundation we’ve layed, the foundation we’ve deduced, the foundation we’ve demonstrated through thousands of subtleties in Freud’s texts.
This dimension is revealed when, in each case, Freud accents those points that the analytic technique needs to overcome, points I’ll call the bearings [situations] of the subject’s history. But be careful not to conflate history with the past. Freud isn’t accenting or emphasizing the past, but history. History is not the past. History is the past in so far as it is historicized [constructed] in the present – historicized [constructed] in the present because it was lived in the past.
The subject’s way of restituting her history takes the form of a quest for her past. And that’s what our techniques take aim at.
In Freud’s texts you’ll find technical suggestions on nearly every page. And you’ll also find that until the very end of his life, Freud was preoccupied with the restitution of the subject’s past. Focusing on the restitution of the subject’s past raises an assortment of questions associated with Freud’s discoveries. In particular, we begin to ask questions about how time functions in the realisation of the human subject.
The restitution of the subject’s past is at the heart of the Freudian experience, it’s the lifeblood of psychoanalysis despite the various garbs psychoanalysis takes. Look and you’ll see that again and again Freud emphasizes the restitution of the past, even when after conceiving the structural model and focusing on the id, ego, and super-ego, he increasingly attends to the here and now analytic relationship unfolding in each session.
If you don’t believe me, just read his 1934 essay, Constructions in Analysis. There again, as always, he’s concered with the reconstruction of the subject’s history. And that text is a great instance of how the reconstruction of the subject’s history is a characterological of Freud’s work. That essay is something like his final insistance that the subject’s reconstruction of her history is in fact, a pivotal theme. That essay is like a distilled essence, the point, the last word on what all along Freud thinks is at stake. I mean, consider the Wolfman… what value does the subject’s reonstructed past have in that case?
Freud touches on something very important here, and this point is also all over his texts: what’s important is not that the subject relives or comes to remember experientially the formative events of her existence. No, what matters is what the subject constructs of those events.
Let’s go slowly here, for there are some subtle turns of phrase not to be missed. No doubt Freud does write about trauma, dreams, and sind auch erinnern as ways of remembering. And he even says screen memories are adequate representatives of what’s at issue. But Freud is also clear that their manifest form as memories is not sufficient. We need to work on them if they are going to provide what we’re looking for.
Do you see where all this is going? It’s going toward Freud’s own conception, the idea that what’s involved is a qualified and skilled reading, a translation of the cryptogram given by the conscious subject. What is the subject saying!? What is the subject saying now? Of herself or himself? But not only of herself or himself, but of the whole entire system?
I want to remind you of something I said earlier: the restitution of the subject’s wholeness appears in the guise of a complete restoration of her. But I want you to see that Freud always emphasizes that what’s essential is subject’s reconstruction of that past, not her remembering something she truly lived through and then reliving it in an affective sense. No, Freud emphasizes that the essential point is reconstruction – a term he employs all the way to the end.
There’s something remarkable here, something we’d perceive as a paradox if we weren’t aware of the meaning this takes on in the register of speech, which I’m trying to highlight as necessary for understanding our experience. Let me put it this way: when all is said and done, the matter isn’t one of remembering, but of rewriting history.
I tell you what there is in Freud. That doesn’t imply Freud was right; but this thread is continuous, permanently there underneath the development of his thought. He never abandoned this, this remarkable thing that can only be said as I’ve said it – rewriting history. Attending to this formula will put in perspective the various directions he gives given the lack of details in the narratives within analysis.