‘Dès lors, de quoi nous satisfaisons-nous exactement quand le sujet nous dit que les choses sont arrivées à ce point de déclic où il a le sentiment de la vérité ?’ In Jacques Lacan, Le séminaire – livre I : Les écrits techniques de Freud, Ed. Seuil, 1975, « Analyse du discours et analyse du moi », p.80
‘The real, or what is perceived as such, says psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, is what resists completely to symbolisation. […] The structuration of the ego [can be] designated as a defence. This is the most superficial part of identification, but we can reach by this way, a deeper plan, and recognise the situation of the subject in the symbolic order.’1 The situation of analysis is a limit one, because the subject is pushed to the limit where they become an object of study for themselves, an object of relation to their own past, present and future.
If the mind is incarnate and the brain mainly a matter of neural connection, it means that nothing really gets out of what we see, what we feel and what we are. It also means that each experience and each relation to other experiences is about connections made between forms emerging in a context. At any level whatsoever, any experience is defined by the plurality of the memories and neural links they engage and relate to. Hence, there is a structure, and this structure is at the same time engaging the multiple aspects of their human life.
We would like here, to finish a first cycle of our presentations, to show another modelling of the structure proposed for the mind’s workings. In his first seminary on Freud’s technical writings, Lacan evoked another psychoanalyst, Melanie Klein, as to her work with a little boy named Dick.2 Then he comments : ‘with [Dick], what is not symbolised, is reality. This young subject is wholly in reality, in its pure state, unconstituted. He is wholly in the indifferenciated.’
What is interesting here is that it gets to the three main plans – extracted from Freud’s topic and reformulated by Lacan – as to where the subject is driving their attention to and what part of their experience they are relating to : the real, the symbolic or the imaginary. You might remember that in our last article, we as well defined the particularity of the object to be either real or imaginary.
Because in the object, there is already a relation – that we relate to it – otherwise there is no object at all. That is what Lacan aims at when he is commenting the attitude of the boy : ‘if, in the human world, objects multiply, develop, with the richness that constitutes their originality […] Dick lives in a non-human world’. He doesn’t speak, because ‘his ego hasn’t been formed’. The boy sees, but doesn’t situate himself in the symbolic world that means populated by other humans.
Therefore we talk here about topology for the mind, because reality is doubled by the meaning given to each place, each experience, each object, each other person. In that meaning, there is no reality if there is nothing to relate the objects to a close and firm certitude that the others will provide a meaning to them eventually. There is a confidence that somehow eventually the connection with others will suffice to make a whole, a world where I am included willingly and with enough sincerity.
That means that a reality cannot be questioned through mere uniform and exclusive relation if the attentive and temporary perceptive bond isn’t broken to include, eventually, the intersubjective others – the ones who can respond and share common meaning.
The real, the symbolic, the imaginary
Playing with the real, that is mere sensorimotricity of perception, the objects only have the possibility to awake reactions in the imaginary. Without intermediary relations, there is nothing here but a correspondence sensory image-to-memory image. The intermediary structure in-between is not relating to what it could be of any use for anybody else.
We just expect that the object would start relating to us naturally, without even participating that much ourselves but just passively watching it happening – or expecting that it should happen. The subject relates the potentialities of the object to a world made out of an indifferenciated surroundings, that is an unified world without perspective – the world of the impact, of the meeting of objects without an object and without relations, the world of the trauma.
A perspective means that we should think of a way to go to one point in a certain way. In a strict relation real-to-imaginary, there is no way at all. There is just a world. But a world without a way is no world for us at all. It annuls the possibility of a world for us – so we can go back to our occupations and trust our senses, but offer not more than our sole existence ; no perspective in a shared world that would be planned on the symbolic playground.
Then when the subject relates these potentialities to another subject’s point of view, belonging to a structure that is cultural and more vast than the point, because it is a related point already, the subject enters reality with the object – that is in fact, as an object, a reality meant by the symbolic order. This symbolic order implies that something was here before, that means : a myth, of the person, the family, the community, at last – the world.
The subject is born in the web of such a network of meaning, that as well situates them into this world and weighs their acts. Such balance of the value of the acts is being taught since the early childhood through the imprint of the moral environment and its implicit rules – implicit meanings. Then there is a constant circulation between the plans, that makes the unconscious what Lacan called a ‘structured constellation’, that is as organically intricated to the sensorimotor that it is written and coded in every move one takes on the time they have to live.
Perception of time and space depends on how much you borrow from your actions and how much is taken as a debt to the time you borrow from others – eventually, society’s time. You are always tied up to that network of meaning, and this can give value to what you are doing, as it can plunge any of your moves in anxiety.
Such an anxiety is told to be the signal of the mode of identification corresponding to each objectal relation, according to Lacan. Which means no other thing than the tension arising from the uniformity of the primordial relation to the object. Because it puts everything else on hold, even the body, and most especially the world around and its sollicitations.
One should open to something or someone else – or if they are stuck in the real, they would be going on as far as a silent road would go. Except that a road that is marked on the ground isn’t necessarily a way, meaning that you would not only expect it to go somewhere, but that you would intend to go somewhere with it.
Yet the base of the structure of the mind’s working is that you go, the sensorimotricity of it and at last, the space opened to seize a mean to go somewhere. As to the capacity to orientate oneself and to favour one way more than another, as a function of where it might guide them, it is mainly depending on the symbolic.
The top and the base
To this structured constellation, the real is a wide-open gap. And this gap is what we called the tensor or the connector, that is the base of the structure, the measure of the human way of having such a thing as a mind.
We would describe then an inverted cone with a truncated top that has become the base of the reversed structure. The base is, for us, the tensor of the structure, the connector, the space and room opened, blind from any symbolic relations, detached from any other influence, the most irreducible part of the individual’s psyche : the neural lag that permits the rest of it – the distention of the responses that means a distention in time and the disruption of its continuity.
This is the base of the sensorimotor paradox that makes possible the chaining of the three principles of attention-to-objects theory : uniformity, unity and discontinuity. This sensorimotor paradox enables the indivuals to artificially recreate those moves without depending on chance with their surrounding environment. It enables them to create this space, this imaginary scene that would be able later to open to other participants.
The rest of the spectrum of the subject’s mind is then open to the structure of those relations that make the world meaningful for more than one – but potentially for all. The top of this embodied structure represents the limit one always finds when they confront themselves to others, to the difficulty of one task or to their own limitations.
Anyhow, it tames the expansion of the structure and gives it a proper room to value their own actions.
The quality of the structure is then not that much on the quantities of marking points, of experiences, memories and more generally, of traumatic imprints, but on the quality of these relations. A variety of tying points would allow more resilience of the subject to shock on the condition that they should be related between them on to the deepest level.
Psychoanalysis is then not much about telling the past, as to reveal how much the more recent outcomes of the subject are connected deep down to more profound motivations. The defence of the subject may be here, but not all parts of the structure defend the same way, neither at nor for the same time. One later investment always pulls roots from a lower ground.
As well, the subject’s unconscious has already started defending themselves at a time of their life when they surely did not know quite well that they were defending themselves from something that precise. It was then just only discovered, hence the shock. Most of the time, even in a deep traumatic event suffered by the person, like child rape, the person attacking is not themselves anymore, and the child doesn’t have to defend themselves from the other person as they are defending themselves from collapsing and failing on the way to an escape – any escape.
The meaning takes place on a way out of the situation where their body is taken and used. Therefore later, the other is often not as much the problem as they barely exist anymore, because what they did didn’t have a shared meaning. Somehow, when you cannot defend yourself and you know it, you would just erase your own part of the self that was present at that moment in life. You were just not there, not related, not included as a person, but merely as an alien body. Otherwise, how could one forget about it, and how could it be so difficult to come back again from that ?
Somehow, connections are missing, and even upper parts of the structure cannot relate to it, use it as a (re)source – but as a modified version of what happened that means – of the story, of the way out of the current world, of the mythical one ruled by a fragmented symbolic order.
The object c of trauma
The fact that the symbolic order is fragmented by the trauma – any trauma – is explainable because any mark blurs the parties involved into the structure of the wound. As we saw it, in the trauma, we have : a + b = c. Eventually, only a or b is active in the impact of the trauma. They would even be successively or simultaneously both in a reciprocal way. Both are wounded, should they be rather unequally ; but subjectively, I am wounded by the other, even if the other is also wounded by the same action of hurting me.
Nevertheless, in the end, what would only remain for life is the result, the little c. That is why if Jacques Lacan formalised the object a as the elementary object of desire, we should never forget that for one object a there is a land where its imprint crashes – like an asteroid – that is b, and that eventually from both of them would only remain a mark that is c.
From this triadic structure, we get a larger one that means that c would cristallise in C, that should be what we called a relay point. These relay points gather, like a gravity field, all the remains of the previous identities, those a and b that crashed together into a new form of being, let us introduce : the inert trauma.
Inert because it has its force of inertia, and that this force of inertia drives the whole structure. It is a resistance if the subject has withdrawn from it, leaving it as a forbidden land. It is a more positive value when it is recognised and then, when it becomes the root for a constructed and structured desire or refusal of a reality meant to be shared with others – properly, a moral value, that engages the whole person.
The self is then organised and more resilient, not because they don’t leave blank spots in the way they look toward their own structured mind, but because they would allow a certain degree of approximation in the way they should hold grip over it. In a way, they are looking above it and cannot see all the detail of what they are spending so much time and energy on forgetting.
The good in moving forward with a clear mind is that they are confident enough of the structure so that they won’t bother asking themselves if there is any point in having a structure that wouldn’t become abstract. Any structure tends to abstract from the contingency of a blind world. They would rather be blind and let the world see what they chose to be.
Eventually, it is to be trusted, it would make perfect sense to it anyway, and it would all in the end then be alright.
1Op. cit., p. 80.
2In Melanie Klein, The importance of symbol-formation in the development of the ego (1930).