Presentation of the Theme for the London Workshop 2023-4
By Susana Huler
An Introduction to Psychoanalysis Based on Freud’s Introductory Lectures On Psychoanalysis (1915-1917)
With additional references from Lacan’s teaching
This upcoming academic year, according to Jacques Alain Miller’s decision, we shall “return to the source” as Lacan would advise in 1953, since “there is no firmer grasp on human reality than that provided by the Freudian experience”.
In the first of his Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, Freud lays out for his audience at Vienna University the field in which his invention acts:
“What [… you] are taught in the universities […] [does not] tell you anything serviceable of the relation between body and mind [and does not] provide you with the key to an understanding of possible disturbances of the mental functions […] This is the gap (Lucke) which psychoanalysis seeks to fill […] It hopes to discover the common ground on the basis of which the convergence of physical and mental disorder will become intelligible (verstandlich).”
Many years later Lacan would call this gap, or this hole: “The real […] the mystery of the speaking body, the mystery of the unconscious” . But he discovered that it is unintelligible.
In his transmission of the new doctrine, Freud had to take into account that his invention was a blow to the belief that we are guided in our lives by ideals and thoughts that we can account for. The unconscious and its power over human destiny and the power of “instinctual impulses (Triebregungen) which can only be described as sexual […] in the causation of nervous and mental diseases [but also in] the building of the highest cultural, artistic and social creations of the human spirit” constitute an arrangement between civilisation and the drives (Triebregunguen) and demands a sacrifice of instinctual satisfaction (Triebbefriedigung). Each individual repeats this sacrifice but: “this arrangement (Aufbau) is unstable; the sexual instincts (Sexualtriebe) are imperfectly tamed”. Freud states very clearly his disagreement with the “illusion of there being such a thing as psychical freedom.”
Parapraxes (Fehlleistungen), slips of the tongue (Versprechen) and even dreams were presented by Freud as a labour with trivialities that have been put aside by other sciences “the dregs (Abhub), one might say, of the world of phenomena” and he compares them to the small pointers that reveal that a girl loves you: “a glance, a slight movement, the lengthening by a second of the pressure of a hand”.
Miller described this labour with ‘dregs’ using an expression by Paul Valery: “Salvation Through Waste”. And he adds that the term ‘salvation’ conveys quite well the fact that “it is not only a question of health, of cure, but rather that beyond the symptom, or under the symptom, it is a question of truth, of a revelation of knowledge that carries with it the realisation of a satisfaction.” It is a truth that changes our lives as long as we take the waste seriously and accept the real of existence outside meaning and thus unintelligible.
Freud explains that psychological investigation means to investigate the sense (Sinn) of bungled actions and dreams, interpreting (deuten) them. He wonders why the mind doesn’t go to sleep when we sleep and shows through dreams that we are always producing meaning as a way of coping with life. As witness of these truths experienced in analysis which can’t be shown to the public, Freud calls forth the artist who knows how to use dreams and mistakes to convey to his public his fantasies and the secrets of his invented creatures. Interpretation is built into the work of art and confirmed by the emotional reaction of the public.
Die Umwege sind die Wege der symptombildung, says Freud in Lecture XXII, “The roundabouts paths are those taken by the construction of symptoms” and he continues “the symptoms are the fresh or substitute satisfaction (Ersatzbefriedigung) which has become necessary owing to the fact of frustration (Versagung).”
Here, Freud presents the paradox that leads to the paradoxical satisfaction that the symptom entails which coexists with suffering and endures throughout the entire course of a life.
In the course of this workshop, we shall learn what interpreting (deuten) means to Freud and how this act of the analyst changes with Lacan, after years of psychoanalytical practice have changed society. The symptom gets discovered in its stubborn repetition, indifferent to the power of truth. Does a right interpretation mean that we discovered a forgotten thought? Is the interpretation an idea that never existed before or an act that has not been fulfilled when it was necessary?
In any case, in spite of the rigorous logic that Freud applies to his lectures, he makes very clear that the treatment does not work as a mathematical calculus. It happens that the sexual reality of the drives appears as love and even as a passionate demand that surprises the analyst, like “a cry of fire raised during the theatrical performance”. The modesty of the analyst has to allow him to see that it is not his personality that arouses this love, but a “false connection” (falshe Verknupfung). Lacan would stress in “The Third” that the analyst should bind the analysand not to his person, but to the analysand-analyst couple.
This Introduction to Psychoanalysis going back to Freud will help us clarify our practice today and especially the complex itinerary of psychoanalysis that works to create meaning but is “directed to the real that excludes any type of sense”. In order to work with this contradiction Jacques-Alain Miller constructs an antinomy: “Psychoanalysis has this limping march. Between its perspective [towards the real] and its practice [the production of meaning] there is a hiatus, even an inversion.”  Every analyst has to learn to deal with this inversion, this contradiction. First in his own analysis, then in the analyses he conducts.
- Lacan, “The Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real”, On the Names of the Father, Trans. Bruce Fink, (Cambridge: Polity, 2013) p. 3 (translation modified).
- Freud, S., Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol XV-XVI, trans. J. Stratchey, Hogarth Press, 1963
- Freud, “Introduction”, Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, SE XV, p. 20-1.
- Lacan, Encore, The Seminar Book XX, (New York & London: Routledge, 1998) p. 131
- Freud, op. cit. p.22-3.
- Freud, “Parapraxes 2”, op. cit. p. 49.
- Freud, “Parapraxes 1”, op. cit. p. 27.
- Miller, Jacques-Alain, The Lacanian Review, issue 14, pp. 38-51.
- Miller, Jacques-Alain, The Lacanian Review, issue 14 (2023), p.41.
- We can take as an instance “Delusions and Dreams in Jensen’s “Gradiva”.
- Freud, S., SE XII, p. 350.
- For a thorough reading of Lectures 17 and 23 see “The Seminar of Barcelona: On Die Wege des Symptombildung” [on the pathways to symptom formation], by Jacques-Alain Miller, Psychoanalytical Notebooks 1 (1998), pp. 11-65.
- Cf. Freud’s discussion of the case of Elizabeth in Studies on Hysteria and “Memory, Repetition and working through”1914.
- Freud. S., “Observations On Transference-Love”, SE XII, p. 162.
- Freud, S. Studies On Hysteria, SE 2 p.303.
- Lacan, J., “The Third”, The Lacanian Review 7 (2019), p. 93.
- Lacan, J., “L’insu que sait de l’une-bevue s’aile a mourre” (8-3-77) quoted by Miller on the lesson of 21-3-2007.
- Miller, “El Ultimisimo Lacan” pages 155-156, 21-3-2007.