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Object a and Ordinary Psychosis, Interview to David Westcombe

Object a and Ordinary Psychosis

David Westcombe

(Lacanian circle. Melbourne, Australia)

This year, the theme of the Congress of the AMP is ‘The ordinary psychoses and the others, under transference’. I have a particular interest in object a and ordinary psychosis. Right from his earliest published works, Lacan had much to say about object a, but there is very little specifically about object a in the psychotic subject. He was quoted in 1967 as saying of the psychotic subject, that “…He does not cling to the locus of the Other through the object a, he has it at his disposal…he has his cause in his pocket…” (ref) When formulating his ideas on transference, Lacan eventually came to the position that transference is essentially about knowledge. The analyst in an established transference becoming the ‘subject supposed to know’. This position on the transference is part of the context in Seminar XVII, where Lacan presents his theory of discourse. When he presents and discusses the matheme of the discourse of the analyst, object a is in the position of the agent. However, it is clear that these theoretical developments – the ‘subject supposed to know’ and the discourse of the analyst – only apply to the neurotic subject. The psychotic subject is again outside of discourse. Having said this it is well understood that the phenomenon of transference is different in nature in psychosis – the analyst is no longer the ‘subject supposed to know’, and as a corollary, the discourse of the analyst no longer applies. So what about ordinary psychosis? This category, this structure, has become a prominent feature of the contemporary clinic. Ordinary psychosis, amongst other things, is a research project, and the Barcelona Congress is part of this ongoing process. How do we conceptualize transference and the discourse of the analyst in the clinic of ordinary psychosis? Gil Caroz, in a paper from 2009 in Psychoanalytic Notebooks entitled Some remarks on the direction of the treatment in ordinary psychosis (ref) notes that regarding the transference in subjects with ordinary psychosis “The subject-supposed-to-know can no longer be our reference…” Further on in the same paper he refers to the object a saying that “…the ordinarily psychotic subject stays with ‘the object in his pocket’ “ . It is worth keeping in mind that ordinary psychosis is psychosis. Furthermore, as early as 1963 with Lacan’s single seminar on the Names of the Father, there has been a growing sense that the strict binary clinic needed to be called into question – but to what end? The category of ordinary psychosis is one response to this development. Following on from Jacques-Alain Miller, perhaps we should simply say ‘everybody is mad’. After all, the Name-of-the-Father is now seen as a symptom, one amongst many, rather than a privileged signifier. If we take this path, can we continue to speak about the neurotic subject in the same way as was done in the 1950s and 60s? Probably not. If nothing else, the symbolic register has changed and continues to do so – becoming increasingly weakened and fragmented. Furthermore, if we say that only the subject with a neurotic structure in analysis develops a transference characterized by the ‘subject-supposed-to-know’ and for whom the Discourse of the Analyst is relevant – then in a way aren’t we continuing to privilege the Name-of-the-Father? We often speak now about a “continuist” approach to diagnosis in the clinic and of “the generalized clinic of the Sinthome”. At the same time the validity and usefulness of the binary clinic continues to be spoken of and written about. If we continue to speak of neurotic structure in this way, then are we not again in a way continuing to privilege the Name-of-the-Father as a signifier?