We Love the One Who Responds to Our Question: “Who Am I?” ~ Jacques-Alain Miller

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Hanna Waar – Does psychoanalysis teach us something about love?

Jacques-Alain Miller – A great deal, because it’s an experience whose mainspring is love. It’s a question of that automatic and more often than not unconscious love that the analysand brings to the analyst, and which is called transference. It’s a contrived love, but made of the same stuff as true love. It sheds light on its mechanism: love is addressed to the one you think knows your true truth. But love allows you to think this truth will be likeable, agreeable, when in fact it’s rather hard to bear.

H. W. – So, what is it to really love?

J.-A. M. – To really love someone is to believe that by loving them you’ll get to a truth about yourself. We love the one that harbours the response, or a response, to our question: ‘Who am I?’
H. W. – Why do some people know how to love and not others?

J.-A. M. – Some people know how to provoke love in the other person, serial lovers as it were, men and women alike. They know what buttons to push to get loved. But they don’t necessarily love, rather they play cat and mouse with their prey. To love, you have to admit your lack, and recognise that you need the other, that you miss him or her. Those that think they’re complete on their own, or want to be, don’t know how to love. And sometimes, they ascertain this painfully. They manipulate, pull strings, but of love they know neither the risk nor the delights.

H. W. – ‘Complete on their own’: only a man could think that…

J.-A. M. – Well spotted! Lacan used to say, ‘To love is to give what you haven’t got.’ Which means: to love is to recognize your lack and give it to the other, place it in the other. It’s not giving what you possess, goods and presents, it’s giving something else that you don’t possess, which goes beyond you. To do that you have to assume your lack, your ‘castration’ as Freud used to say. And that is essentially feminine. One only really loves from a feminine position. Loving feminises. That’s why love is always a bit comical in a man. But if he lets himself get intimidated by ridicule, then in actual fact he’s not very sure of his virility.

H. W. – Is loving more difficult for men then?

J.-A. M. – Oh yes! Even a man in love has flashes of pride, bursts of aggressiveness against the object of his love, because this love puts him in a position of incompleteness, of dependence. That’s why he can desire women he doesn’t love, so as to get back to the virile position he suspends when he loves. Freud called this principle the ‘debasement of love life’ in men: the split between love and sexual desire.

H. W. – And in women?

J.-A. M. – It’s less common. In most cases, there’s a doubling-up of the male partner. On one hand, he’s the man that gives them jouissance and whom they desire, but he’s also the man of love, who’s feminised, necessarily castrated. Only it’s not anatomy that’s in the driving seat: there are some women who adopt a male position. There are more and more of them. One man for love, at home; and other men for jouissance, met on the net, in the street, or on a train.

H. W. – Why ‘more and more’?

J.-A. M. – Socio-cultural stereotypes of womanliness and virility are in the process of radical transformation. Men are being invited to open up to their emotions, to love and feminise themselves; women on the contrary are undergoing a certain ‘push to masculinisation’: in the name of legal equality they’re being driven to keep saying ‘me too.’ At the same time, homosexuals are claiming the same rights and symbols as heteros, like marriage and filiation. Hence a major instability in the roles, a widespread fluidity in the theatre of love, that contrasts with the fixity of yesteryear. Love is becoming ‘liquid’, as noted by the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. Everyone is being led to invent their own ‘lifestyle’, to assume their mode ofjouissance and mode of loving. Traditional scenarios are slowly becoming obsolete. Social pressure to conform hasn’t disappeared, but it’s on the wane.

H. W. – ‘Love is always reciprocal’ said Lacan. Is this still true in the current context? What does that mean?

J.-A. M. – This sentence gets repeated over and over without being understood, or it gets understood the wrong way round. It doesn’t mean that it’s enough to love someone for him to love you back. That would be absurd. It means: ‘If I love you, it’s because you’re loveable. I’m the one that loves, but you’re also mixed up in this, because there’s something in you that makes me love you. It’s reciprocal because there’s a to and fro: the love I have for you is the return effect of the cause of love that you are for me. So, you’re implicated. My love for you isn’t just my affair, it’s yours too. My love says something about you that maybe you yourself don’t know.’ This doesn’t guarantee in the least that the love of one will be responded to by the love of the other: when that happens it’s always of the order of a miracle, it’s not calculable in advance.

H. W. – We don’t find him or her by chance. Why that guy? Why that girl?

J.-A. M. – There’s what Freud called Liebesbedingung, the condition for love, the cause of desire. It’s a particular trait – or a set of traits – that have a decisive function in a person for the choice of the loved one. This totally escapes the neurosciences, because it’s unique to each person, it’s down to their singular, intimate history. Traits which are sometimes minute are at play. For instance, Freud singled out in one of his patients a cause of desire that was a shine on a woman’s nose!

H. W. – It’s hard to believe in a love founded on these trifles!

J.-A. M. – The reality of the unconscious outstrips fiction. You can’t imagine how much in human life is founded, especially where love is concerned, on little things, on pinheads, on ‘divine details’. It’s true that’s it’s above all in men that you find causes of desire like that, which are like fetishes whose presence is indispensable to spark off the love process. Tiny particularities, reminiscent of the father, the mother, a brother, a sister, someone from childhood, also play their role in women’s choice of love object. But the feminine form of love is more readily erotomaniac than fetishist: they want to be loved, and the interest, the love that’s shown them, or that they suppose in the other person, is often sine qua non for triggering their love, or at least their consent. This phenomenon lies at the base of the practice of men chatting women up.
H. W. – Do you not attribute any role to fantasies?

J.-A. M. – In women, fantasies, whether conscious or unconscious, are decisive for the position of jouissance more than for the choice of love object. And it’s the opposite for men. For example, it may happen that a woman can only achievejouissance – orgasm, let’s say – on condition that she imagines herself, during intercourse itself, being beaten, raped, or imagines that she’s another woman, or even that she’s elsewhere, absent.

H. W. – And the male fantasy?

J.-A. M. – It’s very much in evidence in love at first sight. The classic example, commented on by Lacan, is in Goethe’s novel, the sudden passion of young Werther for Charlotte, at the moment he sees her for the first time, feeding the rabble of kids around her. Here it’s the woman’s maternal quality that sparks off love. Another example, taken from my practice, is the following: a boss in his fifties is seeing applicants for a secretarial post; a young woman of twenty comes in; straight away he declares his love. He wonders what got hold of him and goes into analysis. There, he uncovers the trigger: in her he met traits that reminded him of what he had been at the age of twenty, when he went for his first job interview. In a way, he’d fallen in love with himself. In these two examples we see the two sides of love distinguished by Freud: either you love the person who protects, in this case the mother, or you love a narcissistic image of yourself.

H. W. – It sounds like we’re puppets!

J.-A. M. – No, between any man and any woman, nothing is written in advance, there’s no compass, no pre-established relationship. Their encounter isn’t programmed like it is between the spermatozoon and the ovum; it’s got nothing to do with our genes either. Men and women speak, they live in a world of discourse, that’s what’s decisive. The modalities of love are extremely sensitive to the surrounding culture. Each civilisation stands out for the way it structures the relation between the sexes. Now, it so happens that in the West, in our societies which are liberal, market and juridical, the ‘multiple’ is well on the way to dethroning the ‘one’. The ideal model of ‘great lifelong love’ is slowly losing ground faced with speed dating, speed loving, and a whole flotilla of alternative, successive, even simultaneous amorous scenarios.

H. W. – And love in the long term? In eternity?

J.-A. M. – Balzac said, ‘Any passion that isn’t eternal is hideous.’ But can the bond hold out for life within the register of passion? The more a man devotes himself to just one woman, the more she tends to take on a maternal signification for him: more sublime and untouchable than loved. Married homosexuals develop this cult of the woman best: Aragon sings his love for Elsa; as soon as she dies, it’s hello boys! And when a woman clings on to one man, she castrates him. So, the path is narrow. The best destiny of conjugal love is friendship, that’s essentially what Aristotle said.

H. W. – The problem is that men say they don’t understand what women want; and women, what men expect of them…

J.-A. M. – Yes. What objects to the Aristotelian solution is the fact that dialogue from one sex to the other is impossible, as Lacan said with a sigh. People in love are in fact condemned to go on learning the other’s language indefinitely, groping around, seeking out the keys – keys that are always revocable. Love is a labyrinth of misunderstandings whose way out doesn’t exist.

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Translated by from the French by Adrian Price for NLS Messager

Source: www.lacan.com

Jacques-Alain Miller (born 14 February 1944 Chateauroux,France) is a psychoanalyst and writer. He is one of the founder members of the École de la Cause freudienne and the World Association of Psychoanalysis which he presided from 1992 to 2002. He is the sole editor of the books of the Seminar of Jacques Lacan.

Deterritorialization (via Larval Subjects.)

For many years I’ve been fascinated with Deleuze and Guattari‘s triad of deterritorialization, reterritorialization, and territory. Truth be told, when I first encountered these concepts I was repulsed. I found the language to be trendy and understood “deterritorialization” to refer to some romantic notion of “escape” from a territory. While there are indeed elements of this in Deleuze and Guattari’s thought, the concept, I believe, is much more … Read More

via Larval Subjects .

Projective Identification and Introjection

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Melanie Klein makes a distinction between introjected objects and the internal objects. The internal objects include the introjected objects as well as the objects of identification and the a priori fantasy images. According to Klein introjection is a defence mechanism against the anxiety and the fear of the horrible inner world of the child. The child assumes itself populated by bad, aggressive, and tormenting objects and attempts to introject the external good objects. In other words the child tries to replace the internal bad object with the external good object. So introjection is a defence mechanism to protect not only the me but also the internal good objects.[1]

For Klein the unconscious fantasy sets the foundation of all psychic processes. But Freud had said fantasizing is a defence mechanism to compensate for the frustrating and unsatisfying reality. Klein thinks that the unconscious fantasmatic production is the manifestation of instinctive processes. In Klein’s hands the unconscious becomes a much more active and productive dynamism in touch with what’s going on in the social reality. The importance of Klein’s discovery is that she shows how intimately related the child is with the social reality from the beginning of life. The child is turned towards the mother and the unconscious moves towards consciousness in and through relating to the objects surrounding him/her. For Klein one of the first external objects the child relates to is the mother’s breast. In the face of hunger the child starts crying for he/she has no other means of communication. The mother understands that the child wants milk. Presented with milk from the mother’s breast the child comes to realize that there is an external good object that is the solution to the problem of hunger. But when the flow of milk is interrupted the child becomes confused, with the effect of hunger. The child considers the breast as a bad object and becomes more aggressive. When the milk comes the child realizes that he/she had been attacking not only the source of bad but also the source of good. So the child understands that every object is good and bad at the same time, and it is the use into which the object is put that determines its particular goodness or badness. It is the way in which one relates to social reality that matters.

In the first year of life introjection and splitting are dominant; the child is governed by the death drive, which is the drive that emerges as a response to the frustration in the face of the impossibility of going back into the enclosed space and time of the womb in which all that the organism needs is supplied without the organism having to make any effort to obtain it.

To be able to cope with the death drive the subject projects some of his/her aggressiveness onto the external world represented by the mother. Resultantly the child recognizes the external world as divided within itself and populated by good and bad objects which are not good and bad in-themselves but become good or bad in relation to the other objects. Projective identification is another defence mechanism the child uses to cope with the difficulties of life. With projective identification, to protect the me and the internal good objects from a possible attack from the external bad object, the child projects the internal bad objects onto the external good object. The child confuses the external good objects, external bad objects, internal good objects, and internal bad objects. Everything is intermingled so the child becomes aggressive towards himself/herself and towards the external world. To cope with this difficult situation the child projects unities onto the external world and makes no distinction between the good and the bad. This means that the child has passed from the state of being governed by the death drive, to the state of being governed by the life drive.

In the third stage of development there is the depressive position. With the depressive position the child feels guilty for attacking not only the good object but also the bad object in the paranoid-schizoid position of introjection and projective identification. The child realizes that the loving and caring mother had been the target of paranoid attacks all this time. To compensate for the damage caused the child strives to make reparations to the relationship with the mother embodying the social reality. For Klein depressive anxiety is a sign of progress.

These psychic processes go on until the end of life. The child identifies his/her image on the mirror as himself/herself. Lacan calls Klein’s depressive position ‘the mirror-stage.’

In the Lacanian sense, too, in which the imaginary, opposed to the symbolic but constantly imbricated with it, designates the basic lure of the ego, the definitive imprint of a stage before the Oedipus complex (which also continues after it), the durable mark of the mirror which alienates man in his own reflection and makes him the double of his double, the subterranean persistence of the exclusive relation to the mother, desire as a pure effect of lack and endless pursuit, the initial core of the unconscious (primal repression). All this is undoubtedly reactivated by the play of that other mirror, the cinema screen, in this respect a veritable psychical substitute, a prosthesis for our primally dislocated limbs.[2]

In the mirror stage, a period of imaginary and narcissistic identifications, the child believes in the illusion which he/she sees on the mirror. He/she sees himself/herself as a totality and believes that that’s what he/she really is. It is a period of conflict between the self as the other’s object of desire and the self as the subject sees it. The reflection on the mirror starts the process of introjection and projective-identification that will go on until death.

[…] the experience of the mirror as described by Lacan is essentially situated on the side of the imaginary (=formation of the ego by identification with a phantom, an image), even if the mirror also makes possible a first access to the symbolic by the mediation of the mother holding the child to the glass whose reflection, functioning here as the capitalized Other, necessarily appears in the field of the mirror alongside that of the child.[3]

The screen is the site of projective identification. I put myself in the place of the character and try to see the film from his perspective. In a way I narcissistically try to situate myself in the context of the film as a whole person. But as soon as the screen gains this mirror-like quality it loses it. With the screen there is a more advanced process at work, and this process is called projective-identification, not merely identification. The subject is aware that he is not the character in the movie, but still takes on this other identity on himself as though he is the one experiencing all those adventures.

When I am watching a movie I become the eye of the camera. Everything happens around me and I am a mere observer of all these things. In a way, as I’m watching a movie I become a semi-god-like creature, seeing not-all hearing not-all from a position not above all; from a position which renders the binary opposition between the transcendental and the immanent irrelevant. I am within and without the events and I am at once here and somewhere else with my body and everything else. They are the words and the eyes of the others that render the words and the eyes of my selves possible, articulable and actual.


Reference Matters

[1] Melanie Klein, The Psychoanalysis of Children, trans. Alix Strachey (London: The Hogarth Press, 1975)

[2] Christian Metz, The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and Cinema, trans. Celia Britton, Annwyl Williams, Ben Brewster and Alfred Guzetti (London: Macmillan, 1982), 4

[3]Metz, 6