“Rendez-vous” of the IF

XII« Rendez-vous » of the International of the Forums of the Lacanian Field « Anxiety, how to make it speak ? », 3 and 4 may


Today, anxiety, under various names, is everywhere. It is an affect experienced by all speakers and always has been. Lacan placed it in the category of feeling which involves major bodily manifestations. Why do we strive to make it speak rather than to silence it, as many do with the massive use of anxiolytics and other tranquillisers?

We strive because it is assumed that it has something to say, but we still have to find a way to make it speak. Because for the anxious subject, this affect is a certainty but of the order of an indeterminacy, of an unspeakable which generates it. To make it speak is certain, but we still have to believe it. On this point, the analytic clinic has taught us that anxiety is the only affect that does not deceive, whereas every other feeling-lies [senti-ment] about its cause. Nevertheless, how can anxiety not deceive when for the anxious one, who experiences it, its cause remains enigmatic? This is because, unlike the other affects, which are derived metonymically with signifiers, it remains attached to what produces it, that is, a real. Its clinical certainty indicates to us that it refers, not to the deceptive signifier, but to a real. Hence the importance of making it speak in order to identify the real at stake for the subject who is affected by it. Later Lacan, called it “the typical symptom of any advent of the real[1] “. It is up to us to specify the different occurrences, with some orientation, however.  

With this formula he encompassed what he had been able to say about it up to that point, including part of Freud’s theses. Originally conceived as an effect of repression, resulting from the deprivation of the drive that repression implies, in 1926 with Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety and its Addenda, Freud reverses his thesis. Anxiety becomes the cause of repression, its motor. From the effect of castration, accompanied by the anxiety of lack, linked to the first disappointments of the child facing the parental Other who fails to respond to its demands, Freud widens anxiety to the effect of the traumatic encounter of any neurosis. The affect of a situation of distress – Hilflosigkeit – which leaves the child without recourse in its real meeting with the excitation of the drive and its demand of satisfaction, cause of the repression and the occurrence of symptoms. The anxiety of this first trauma then becomes an alarm signal, a warning of a danger.

However, for Lacan, anxiety reveals more than what Freud said about castration, because beyond lack, it touches on the question of the subject’s being. Insisting on the conjunctures of anxiety, he makes it the affect of the enigma concerning the cause of desire, whether of the Other or the subject. It appears each time the subject feels threatened to be nothing but an obscure object for the Other. This void of signification is also found when the enigma concerns its own desire, which it does not have control over, since the subject desires as Other. Here anxiety becomes the index of the object petit a, in the relations that the subject maintains with the Other by the ways of love and desire. This makes Lacan say that anxiety is not without an object. Where Freud links anxiety to the threat of castration and its correlative lack, Lacan reverses the thesis by elaborating a new structure of anxiety that arises when the lack comes to be lacking. It is the effect of strangeness, of Unheimlich “that appears in the place where the minus-phi[2] ” of castration should be.

Before diagnosing “the rise to the social zenith of the objet petit a[3] ” as surplus jouissance [plus-de-jouir] with the development of the capitalist discourse, he conceives of “a change in the mooring of anxiety[4] “, which of the subject makes a pure splitting. Subjective void of a subject reduced to the object as it lacks, subjectively destituted, where its lack of jouissance is filled by the surplus jouissance put at its disposal, the consequence being the rise of the social clamor that expresses the distress, the dereliction of the speaking-being [parlêtre]. To this real of the object petit a, which fails to be inscribed in the Other, the real of the symbolic, Lacan will widen the conjunctures of anxiety beyond the object, to the real outside of the symbolic.  This is what his definition of anxiety as “the typical symptom of any advent of the real” implies. 

Half a century later, let us ask ourselves about the evolution of the forms of anchoring of anxiety according to the discourses and the real outside the symbolic. Couldn’t eco-anxiety and the drop in the birth rate in all industrialized societies be the markers of this? This indicates that anxiety is sensitive to discourse and the clinic teaches us that psychoanalysis can alleviate the subject of it. But how does the analytic discourse proceed? Certainly not in the way psychotherapies proceed by managing emotions, another name for affects. Anxiety is indomitable, we cannot order it to lie down.

It is up to us to specify what it is about the unconscious, language and discourse that determine anxiety, if we want to be able to treat it in the treatment and then to say how the analytic discourse operates. 

May 2023


How to make it speak?

          – According to its contemporary moorings

          – In children and adolescents

          – According to the sexes

The treatment of anxiety according to the clinical structures
Psychoanalysis and the times of anxiety
The « fertile » anxiety

[1] J. Lacan, La Troisième, 1974.
[2] J. Lacan, The Seminar, Book X, Anxiety, Paris, Seuil, 2004, p. 53.
[3] J. Lacan, « Radiophonie », in Autres écrits, Paris, Seuil, 2001, p. 414.
[4] J. Lacan, « The Psychoanalytic act, Summary of the seminar 1967-1968 » (1969) in Autres écrits, op. cit., p. 381.

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