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"Man goes constantly in fear of himself. His erotic urges terrify him." - classic_symptom [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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"Man goes constantly in fear of himself. His erotic urges terrify him." [Oct. 28th, 2007|07:58 pm]
[Current Location |Lakeland]
[Current Mood |contemplative]
[Current Music |Rolling Stones - Sister Morphine]

After an extremely rigorous couple of months studying some of my favorite theorists, I'm totally burnt out on academia, at least for the time being. I've spent a long while in solitude, contemplating solitude, and I've come to a couple possible insights that I thought I'd share.

My preference for solitude is a symptom: As Lacan points out, the obsessive attempts above all else to neutralize the other. That is to say, the obsessive, in pursuing his state of idyllic satisfaction, dreams of attaining such a state by his lonesome, without having anyone else on his back, weighing him down. This is what he demands. Of course, one of Lacan's central theses was that what one demands is not what one desires; indeed, the two are often completely opposite. In this case, the obsessive only thinks that he does not need the other. Of course, the only subject capable of reaching this tragically exalted state is the psychotic. Such a person, if happy, lives, in the words of Bertrand Russell, with a "happiness which no sane man would envy."

It ought to be remembered that the way "symptom" is used here does not have the entirely negative connotation it typically does, in emphasizing its pathological excess (not that it is devoid of such). It might seem counterintuitive to suggest that it is not the symptom per se which causes suffering, but its inadequacy in keeping one occupied lately, the belts and gears of its mechanism possibly having been exhausted by overtime.

It is not that the symptom causes misery, but that the symptom cannot be completely depended upon for satisfaction. It is not because of the symptom that one suffers; it is precisely where the symptom does not provide satisfaction that misery is found. As Lacan points out, the subject does not go to therapy to get rid of his symptom, but to repair it in order to return it to its optimal functioning as a mode of attaining jouissance, that tincture of an ambrosia whose consumption forever evades us. Of course, were we to reach such a state, it would not be we who would consume it, but it which would consume us.

What is it that I want? I dunno. But this is the central question of Lacanian theory. Freud famously asked "What does Woman want?" Lacan was more interested in the nature of desire itself, and framed the central question of psychoanalysis as discerning the cause of the subject's desire. Lacan would later answer Freud's question: To be wanted! What woman wants is to be wanted! And I guess, deep down, she is what the obsessive wants. The obsessive wants Woman and Woman wants to be wanted (but not attained!)

Satisfaction is impossible! Lacan infamously argued that "there is no sex thing as a sexual relationship." What he means is this: Neither the obsessive(man) nor the hysteric(woman) really wants to be satisfied. Lacan tells us that the hysteric desires an unsatisfied desire, whereas the obsessive desires an impossible desire. The obsessive sets himself up for defeat any way he can, and the hysteric keeps the desire of the obsessive alive by keeping the obsessive from getting too close, thus preventing his own satisfaction, and maintaining her desire for an unsatisfied desire.

Bruce Fink paints a bleak yet comical picture of Lacan's lack of a sexual relationship by imagining the obsessive having sex with the hysteric. The obsessive isolates a part of the woman, (let's say, the breast) viewing it as a representative of complete and infinite satisfaction to which he aspires, but can never attain. The hysteric, terrified that she might satisfy him, pretends she's having sex with someone else. The obsessive fantasizes about a fantasmatic object as the hysteric fantasizes about another man. It should come as no surprise that not only did Lacan deny the existence of a sexual relationship in this way, but viewed sexuality as fundamentally masturbatory.

In more extreme cases, the hysteric maintains her desire for an unsatisfied desire through anorexia, a disturbance which Lacanian psychoanalysts see as the hysterical illness par excellence. The hysteric is always hungry, and food disgusts her because it moves her toward a satisfaction which the neurotic subject finds terrifying. Bruce Fink, in his Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis, argues that the psychosomatic obsessive illness typically consists of gastrointestinal problems.

This functions as a substitute satisfaction which the obsessive enjoys, whether or not he chooses to believe it, in lieu of real sexual satisfaction from which he is barred by his excessive inhibitions. As the fellow waiting room patient tells the main character regarding his intestinal problems in Kurosawa's Ikiru, "What I have his "chronic." I don't even feel alive anymore unless my stomach hurts." In the words of the vocalist of that awful band Three Days Grace, man would "rather feel pain than nothing at all."

What is there to desire in a society in which everyone is always satisfied all the time? No wonder the predominant form of mental illness complained of today involves symptoms of hollowness, numbness, and meaninglessness, rather than excessive guilt, anxiety, or other "superegoic" symptoms. While Bertrand Russell acknowledged the agony of a subject in narcissistic oblivion, it seems ironic that he argued for 4 hour workdays. We desiring subjects would be at even more of a loss as to how or what to desire. (this does not stop me from lobbying for such a labor state of course; even though the neurotic psyche is structured in such a way as to preclude attaining satisfaction, one still phenomenologically experiences oneself as pursuing such)