Fragment 1 – Background of the question

Today, anxiety[1] is diluted into variants that remove any ethical value from it. Panic, anguish, phobias, psychic and somatic migratory symptoms, guilt and depression due to lack of reaction. As always, attempts are made to suppress it by means of drugs, alcohol, mushrooms, magic words, religious rites and other medicines now provided by science.

In 1844, at the same time as Marx was coining the notion of the social symptom, Kierkegaard introduced anxiety as a concept. Anxiety cannot be defined as social or plural; it is personal and linked to sin, to the choice based on the knowledge of sex – sex in the literal sense of the term, cut. Unlike all the mediations of Hegelian absolute knowledge, sex is, for Kierkegaard, the only case where synthesis implies opposition and requires choice. There is no intermediate reality, and if one is needed, there is anxiety. He did this discreetly, and his text Begrebet Angest was published under the pseudonym Vigilius Haufniensis. Freud would inaugurate a new discipline, by openly considering that anxiety and symptom, for those who speak equivocal languages, involves sex as a causal condition.

In the inhospitable German context of 1927, Heidegger explained that anxiety is not produced before any object of the world, but before the mundus (order) as such, that world which duplicates the body and which Lacan, who read Heidegger carefully, would reduce to an object a. Anxiety tears us away from the everyday, impersonal reality of common discourse, the market in which things have an exchange or scrap value. This order of commodities imposes itself on all subjective references, making the speaker more and more vulnerable to an anxiety that, suddenly, reduces him to the body as solus ipse in a shopping world, non-place, unheimlich. For this reason, the certainty of anxiety, still without reality, implies the possibility, the imminence of Other thing (Autre chose).

The cure proposed by the philosopher is the introduction of the singular existence into time, each day has enough trouble of its own (Sorge, souci), the cure consisting in the action of being-for-death. A few decades earlier, Freud had warned that anxiety does not only arise in this perspective, and without pseudonyms introduces the-being-for-the-sex, the being-two: the anxiety occurs in front of the Other body, the desire of the Other, the deficient relationship with the Other, abandonment and even the desire of death (of the Other).

The philosophical solution, whether neutral or generic, is limited to self-help: you read the manual and manage as best you can. The scientific solution is medication: you treat your body as a biochemical being. Freud’s approach, on the other hand, relies on an encounter with an Other capable of listening to anxiety and making it speak, of bringing it into the subjective field of interpretation, symptom and transference.  It’s a question of moving from certainty to belief (y croire), believing that it means something.

Gabriel Lombardi, Buenos Aires, 23 July 2023

[1] With reference to Lacan’s Seminar X “Angoisse”, translated into English by Anxiety.

Fragment 2 – The grip

Anxiety grips you – a small, light hand on the forearm; violent, ending in blood. You can try to make it more and more civilised, but it’s always there, lurking; it pops up when you least expect it and smashes everything to smithereens. Isn’t this why psychoanalysts, after Freud, set out to find a more fundamental anxiety than that of castration, which presupposes an already very elaborate scenario? Encouraged by Rank and his birth trauma, which forced Freud to start again from scratch, they invented aphanisis, fragmentation, collapse, dismantling, uprooting, a whole series of terror scenarios supposed to be more primitive, commensurate with a limitless anxiety.

Thus, the so-called castration anxiety should be easy enough to deal with: mum and dad, poo-poo, wee-wee, me and me and me. But the other, the one that rumbles and threatens, can it really be silenced with nonsense that’s already fairly hackneyed? To the traumatised people (PTSD – TSPT in French) of whom Freud and his students made more of an issue than we did, you should explain then the law of the father and tell us the result… At this point, we have to decide: with Lacan, do we endorse this distinction between anxieties and our dismay in front of the manifestations of a primitive one that we don’t really know how to handle? Wouldn’t we then be led to reserve special categories for its manifestations: false self, borderline state, etc.? Yet doesn’t the anxiety that seems the most primitive always appear in a given signifying context? Isn’t this “real anxiety” the way in which the reality of castration really manifests itself for a subject, in a way that he was unwilling and unable to imagine because he was so horrified by it.

It is not necessary to touch on this, except for a psychoanalyst if he wants to welcome a demand for truth that has exhausted its semblants and is not prepared to recycle them at any price. There is an anxiety that has no name and that Lacan called by a letter, the first letter: a. The one of the impossibility of making oneself heard other than through pain and discomfort. So we might as well run the risk – for there is a risk here too – of trying to fool the horror with the more or less graceful veil of fantasy, until it slips away once more. If fantasies are indeed shared, the way in which they fail is contingent, specific to each individual. In this case, it’s worth going to see what’s going on and perhaps taking a step to the side to get away from the symptom and calm it down.  How do we make the traces of the moment, when everything slips away, speak for themselves? How do we interpret castration?

Marc Strauss, August 2023

Fragment 3 – In the beginning was anxiety

Even if anxiety seems to be an episodic situation where reason or thought are paralysed and the body is overtaken by something that is more than fear, it is structuring. From beginning to end, Lacan situates it as coming from the real. First, as the effect of the “entry of the subject into the Real” 1, cut of the symbolic over the real, whose effect is “the pure being of the subject» 2; an entry through subjective destitution into the constitution. At the end of his work, he places it in the Borromean knot as a displacement of the real onto the symbolic 3, as well as one of the names of the father 4

The structuring of anxiety “… produces as a signal in the ego, on the basis of Hilflosigkeit, to which it is called, as a signal to remedy 5“.  Answers, always insufficient, are the phantasy that offers a false self and symptoms, either thought as an objection to the order imposed by the discourses, or as a solution to the lack of sexual relation, or as the jouissance of the unary traits. It is these answers to which psychoanalysis aims at on the level of truth and the true saying of the ones of the jouissance of the real unconscious. This is what marks the ethical path of analysis, not only for surpassing the horror of knowing, but also because it allows us to take a position in the face of what is more structural and structuring.

If the end of analysis implies a passage through subjective destitution, via knowledge, a period of anxiety is inevitable; this implies an extra effort on the part of the analysand, and on the part of the analyst, not to give up his place. Putting words through the mill allows the analysand to recognise himself, to know that he is constituted by this distressing material. The device allows an exit, it makes anxiety speak.

A device that is always open to the possibility of its imminence, since the real is endless. Thus anxiety, among others, is an affect that does not deceive about the end of an analysis, it is a sign of the approach to the unnamable real, after the spoken turns of the lying truth; it is not the last thing, but it is an index of the path towards the exit door, which implies the necessary passage through the subjective destitution to which language itself has subjected it, but this time by the way of knowledge that necessarily has effects in the reduction of anxiety.

Anxiety can be poeticised in the manner of Werther: “Do you not recognise the voice of the exhausted, fainting, hopelessly sinking creature…”, but it is up to the analysts to give it the structuring status it deserves, if they intend to grasp it in their patients, when the journey brings it to the surface or when it is at the entrance of an advent of the real.

Beatriz Elena Maya R.


1 Lacan, J. , “Remarks on the report of Daniel Lagache : “Psychoanalysis and personality structure”, Écrits
2 Lacan, J. Seminar 6, Desire and its Interpretation.
3 Lacan, J. Seminar 22 RSI. Lesson of 10 of December 1974, unpublished.
4 Ibid., Lesson of 13 of May 1975.
5 Lacan, J., Seminar 6, Desire and its Interpretation.

Fragment 4 – A short note on translation

“Traduttore, traditore”

So says Freud in his book on Jokes and their relation to the unconscious[1], that the translator is a traitor.  But it is no joke for the translator, rather a reality that the translator faces because of the inevitable difficulties presented by the particularities of each language, the crucial part played by metaphor and metonymy and the so-called play on words. One can, after all, play with language, change a few letters around, and it is this playfulness, according to Freud, that allows for the pleasure gained from a joke, with the liberation of nonsense and the lifting of inhibition.  Of course, Lacan carried the playfulness of language one step further by his inventive and instructive use of neologisms. 

James Strachey, Freud’s translator, tells us a little about the problem he faced when translating der witz, for his English translation of ‘Jokes and their relation to the unconscious’ [2].  He noted how, for the sake of consistency, a compromise had to be made.  The English word ‘wit’ or ‘witty’ has a much more restricted meaning in English, referring more to a refined or intellectual type of humour and instead.  The difficulty meant that neither the word ‘joke’ or ‘wit’ was a perfect fit for the translator.  The word ‘joke’ had a broader meaning which allowed the reader to make his own interpretation, even if in some cases the translation was incorrect.  For Strachey, once the English word had been adopted, consistency of use was important.     

So it is for the German word ‘angst’. Strachey comments directly on the translation of ‘angst’ into English[3].  As it is for ‘anxiety’, ‘angst’ is quite a common word in German. However what seemed important to Strachey was that the translation had to reflect what was Freud’s psychiatric use of the word angst which was present in such words as ‘angstneurose’.  This led to Strachey using the word ‘anxiety ‘despite it also having broader uses in English.  Strachey tells us that the psychiatric use of the word anxiety goes back to the mid seventeenth century and like ‘angst’, its psychiatric use is reflected in its etymology.  Both have a reference to choking and to the psychological characteristic in question (angst-eng- to narrow, restrict, anxiety-angere-to squeeze, throttle).  The English word ‘anguish’ also has the same etymological root as ‘anxiety’ and ‘angst’ but Strachey claimed that it reflected a more acute psychological condition.  Strachey compromises by using ‘anxiety’ for ‘angst’, a more technical translation, characterised by an anticipatory element and the absence of an object. 

Anxiety as an English translation for ‘angst’ is a compromise.  Anxiety has become one of the most frequent and apparent complaints in the modern-day psychoanalytic clinic. Like in Freud’s time, it can appear in various ways, so that it has become increasingly difficult to know what the subject intends when they claim to be anxious.  Following Freud, Lacan links anxiety to the real, ‘hilflosigkeit’ when faced with what cannot be spoken.  Anxiety is, as Lacan called it, an exceptional affect.  It is the affect that does not deceive, precisely because it does not have a possible object, but an impossible one, objet a.  Given the compromise and the broader use of the word ‘anxiety’, it is therefore incumbent on us analysts in the clinic to work out what the patient is speaking about when they refer to the signifier ‘anxiety’, as many do in the English psychoanalytic clinic.  We must determine whether the real is at stake when they speak of ‘anxiety’. When a patient comes speaking of ‘anxiety’, we cannot assume that they are speaking of another less exceptional affect if they don’t use the word ‘angst’ or ‘anguish’, which is less commonly used in English.  Nor can we assume that there is an impossible real object at stake.  Do they speak of real anxiety?  How to make it speak?

The use of the word ‘anxiety’ has a resonance for those who read and study Freud and Lacan in English. We may have inherited this translation reluctantly, but consistency, when needing to become the traitor remains appropriate.  I look forward to playful discussion on the topic in Paris.

Carmelo Scuderi, Melbourne, September 2023

[1] Freud, S. (1905).  SE. Vol VIII, p.34.
[2] Freud, S. (1905).  SE. Vol VIII, p. 6-7.
[3] Freud, S. (1895).  SE. Vol III, p. 116mber.

Fragment 5 – Anxiety in sexed arithmetic

As Patrick Barillot highlighted in his argument on the theme of this International Meeting : anxiety is an indicator of the enigmatic real of desire, through the object a, which is, in turn, its only subjective translation concerning love and desire.

The phallic valence, in logical terms, f(x), exerts its strength in current debates on sexuation and the various semblants that articulate the knot between desire, jouissance and love.

A fragment of feminine anxiety stands out in the final chapters of Seminar 10 Anxiety [1], particularly with regard to desire and jouissance. After situating The Other real as that which specifies jouissance and adding that the law, which constitutes desire, does not concern this Other – unless it is eccentrically on the side of the object a, Lacan asserts: women are superior in the field of jouissance because their connection with desire is weaker.

But it is at the end of this Seminar that Lacan, aligning himself with Kierkegaard, asserts that women are more anguished than men, more anguished in the dialectic of desire and love. This is a clinical fact in psychoanalysis. Women often consult for problems of love. The different circumstances and stages of life do not hide this fact: the relationship between love, desire and jouissance brings anxiety into play.

Colette Soler has addressed this subject at various points. Referring to anxiety, I’d like to emphasise what she calls the differential clinic: a kind of sexed arithmetic [2]. I’ll just take one of her segments, when she asserts that anxiety in women may be due to the fact that they are not lizards, which means that they are more anguished in the face of the enigma of the Other’s desire because, not having an object to give up, it is themselves that are at stake. This assertion is based on what Lacan articulated at the end of the said seminar, on the surrendering of the object.

From 1972 onwards, Lacan took this theme of sexed arithmetic further by proposing the formulas of sexuation; the end of Seminar 10 Anxiety being one of their origins. Nearly 10 years later, in L’étourdit, referring to Frege, he would argue that it is through this function f(x) that speaking beings will respond according to the way in which they have constructed their argument [3].

This certainly includes the phallic valence mentioned earlier, which is at the heart of the discord… of sexuation, whether for the Universal “For all x, f(x)” or for the “not-all” (pas-tout phallique). This phallic valence is valid for all speaking beings (parlêtres), even if some may “not-all” respond to the referential of this function.

The tensions in the current debate on sexed identities can hardly overlook the value of the sign of anxiety – the real in question – with regard to this arithmetic, which indicates that there is no way of making it speak without going through a logical listening that integrates the f(x) function into the discourse on desire, jouissance and love.

One observation: those who order themselves solely in the phallic valence are at the mercy of anxiety, whenever the habits of power and impotence are not enough to respond to the impossible of the enigma of the desire of the Other. Those who are “‘not-all” are governed by the phallic valence may be at the mercy of anxiety because of the strangeness of the enigmatic jouissance but, despite this, they can respond with the power of speech.

It seems to me that in both situations, making anxiety speak precisely enables the development of the drive versions in which symptom and fantasy are articulated. It’s a step beyond strangeness, knowing about it and relying on it.

Sandra Berta, FCL-São Paulo, Brésil

[1] J. Lacan, (by A. Price), Anxiety :The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book 10, Polity Press, Cambridge.
[2] C. Soler, Les affects lacaniens, Paris, PUF, 2011, p. 42. Lacanan Affects, Translated by Bruce Fink, Routledge.
[3]  J. Lacan, Autres écrits, Paris, Le Seuil, 2001, p. 458.

Fragment 6 – “Anxiety is indeed the typical symptom of any advent of the real [1]

Anxiety is not without an object [2]. There is something analogous to what anxiety signals in the subject. This is the meaning of the not-without in Lacan’s formula, which reveals that this something analogous to the object is not missing. But the not-without does not designate it. It therefore presupposes the support of the fact of lack [3]. A fragment uttered by an analysand, speaking of a young man: “… was orienting himself as he spoke”. Questioning the guarantee of free association, Lacan goes on to say that the meaning of all enunciation “is oriented towards that hole in the real […] which precisely allows the symbolic to form a knot in it [4]”. Speaking of the understanding of psychoanalysis through the knot, he says: “the knot is the negative of religion”. He adds: “We do not believe in the object, but we observe desire, and from this observation of desire we induce the cause as objectified [5]”. So he does not give in to the religious slope, but affirms the path of logic that allows us to induce the object.

The “anxiety, symptom” in the preface can therefore be understood as the sign of any “advent of the real”. Lacan evokes the advent of the real for the first time in Television [6], situating it as an effect of science. He introduces the term in a context where the event of the body, that is, the jouissance of a living body, is not present. This raises the question of defining what he calls an advent of the real in the field of psychoanalysis. On the other hand, he developed the event of the body to a great extent. In the “Geneva Conference on the Symptom”, he describes the bodily event through which Freud discovered the unconscious, starting with the question of the relationship between anxiety and sex. Hans, with his first erection, is confronted with an experience of jouissance, a bodily event, the encounter with the sexual real that brings phobia into play. Thus, by substituting a frightening signifier for the object of anxiety, the first fact of the unconscious-language emerges: the horse of jouissance, a symptom-jouissance that constitutes the unconscious, which does not represent the subject but determines his jouissance.

“It is not paradise that is lost. It’s a certain object [7].” Perhaps, on a formal level, it would not be correct to say that the signifier is produced by the subject, but the function of the signifier conferred on this object, is part of the effectiveness of the subject to make anxiety speak, and this is what makes the language evolve. In the seminar on Anxiety, Lacan formulates “anxiety is an affect of the subject […] that does not deceive [8].” He ranks it according to the structure, that of the speaking subject, which is determined by an effect of the signifier. This is where anxiety is the sign, the witness of an essential gap that Freudian doctrine clarifies [9]. This structure of the relationship of anxiety with desire, this double gap between the subject and the fallen [chu] object of the subject in anxiety.

If the real is out of the symbolic, what are the ways of access to the real in the analytical experience? First, what goes wrong in life, what falls on us, is the definition of trauma, and then the paths traced by language are inscribed. Any trauma, and Freud places it at the origin of neurosis, affects not the subject directly , but his body. “The event of a real, is an advent only if the signifier is added to it”, so the advent itself would be: “the invention of the signifier by phobia and then on this axis, the Freudian invention of the unconscious and the advent of psychoanalysis as a new discourse [10].”

Diego Mautino, Rome, October 2023

[1] J. Lacan, La Troisième [Rome, 1974], Navarin Éditeur, Paris 2021, p. 23 § 5.
[2] Cfr. J. Lacan, Des Noms-du-Père [1963], Seuil, Paris 2005, p. 71 ; voir aussi, J. Lacan, Le séminaire, Livre XVII, L’envers de la psychanalyse [1969-1970], Seuil, Paris 1991, p. 65 § 4. J. Lacan, The Seminar, Book XVII, The Other Side of Psychoanalysis [1969-1970], Norton, N.Y. 2006.
[3] Cfr. J. Lacan, Le Séminaire livre XVI, D’un Autre à l’autre [1968-1969], Seuil, Paris, 2006, p. 295.
[4] Cfr. J. Lacan, Conférence au Centre Culturel Français le 30 mars 1974, in Lacan in Italia [1953-1978], La Salamandra, Milano 1978, pp. 104-147.
[5] J. Lacan, Le Séminaire, Livre XXIII, Le sinthome [1975-1976], Seuil, Paris, 2005, p. 36 § 3, 4, 7. J. Lacan, The Seminar, Book  XXIII, The Sinthome [1975-1976], Polity, 2016.
[6] J. Lacan, « Télévision » [1973], dans Autres écrits, Seuil, Paris 2001, p. 536, 92, § 6.
[7] J. Lacan, L’objet de la psychanalyse [1965-1966], Leçon du 22 juin 1966, inédit.
[8] J. Lacan, Le séminaire, Livre X, L’angoisse [1962-1963], Seuil, Paris 2004, pp. 92, § 2 et 188, § 3 ; J. Lacan, The Seminar, Book X, Anxiety[1962-1963], Polity, N.Y., 2014; voir aussi, Des Noms-du-Père, op. cit., p. 69, § 3.
[9] S. Freud, «La terra promessa», Lettre inédite à Chaim Koffler, le 26/02/1930, L’ospite ingrato, Quodlibet, Rome 2003, p. 95.
[10] C. Soler, Avènements du réel, de l’angoisse au symptôme, Cours 2015-2016, Formations cliniques du Champ lacanien, Collège clinique psychanalytique de Paris, Éditions du Champ lacanien, Paris 2016, p. 170.

Fragment 7

Making anxiety speak, it’s all we have been doing since the dawn of time. As for anxiety, “between enigma and certainty”, it is mute, a “temporal funnel”, a “petrification”, an “appalled silence” says Lacan. Seen from today, in the early 21st century, it imposes itself as the ascendant affect of the Anthropocene. This is what the great contemporary clamor with such multiple voices says. However previously, with Heidegger for example, it was considered the quintessential metaphysical experience of speakers, if the “before what” of anxiety was indeed “being thrown” into the world. Facticity of existence. It was already a change in the mooring of anxiety, one that can be read in our history, let’s say from Luther onwards, to set a few markers. A passage from the anxieties of the penitent in the Middle Ages or, more originally, from Abraham’s sacrifice to the godless man of our time. Blaise Pascal, facing the “starry sky”, utters the cry of this shaking: “The silence of these eternal spaces frightens me”, without as yet knowing whether it is fear in front of a god who is silent or a god who has disappeared. Hence, no doubt, the fundamentally necessary gamble. Another century later and Kierkegaard with his formula of “anxiety as a condition of sin” was making the very possibility, the first “before what” of anxiety, and was therefore already taking note of the facticity of existence.

All this is to remind us that despite its well-established ontological value, what we make anxiety say is a function of history. And here opens our question of the properly psychoanalytic variation regarding the mooring of anxiety.

When Heidegger evokes the “before what ” of anxiety as “being thrown into the world” and Freud speaks of Hilflosigkeit, the dereliction of being without recourse, the resonances seem similar. The only thing that stands out, however, is that Freud, no metaphysician by any stretch of the imagination, insists on adding the “before what” of a very present, original danger, the first wound, the trauma as he calls it, the inexhaustible source of the perpetuated anxieties of neurosis and, more broadly, of all those who speak.

What a success for this theory of anchoring anxiety in trauma! According to today’s vox populi, is there still any psychological suffering that cannot be linked to trauma – as an all-purpose exoneration, no doubt.

Lacan doesn’t seem to be saying no, “what we have to surprise” via the surprises of free association, “is something whose incidence was marked as traumatic[1]“. This seems to be familiar territory in psychoanalysis, but Lacan immediately evokes the lesser-known “imbecility” that this traumatic incidence implies – if, at least, we postulate that it comes from the reality of situations. This will force us to question the cause again… not imbecility.

Colette Soler, January 2024

[1] Lacan J., « La psychanalyse dans ses rapports avec la réalité », Autres écrits, Seuil, 2001, Paris, p. 353