Jacques Lacan. The Neurotic’s Individual Myth

What gives a mythic character to this little phantasmatic scenario? It is not only the fact that it re-enacts a ceremony which reproduces almost exactly that inaugural relationship, as it were, hidden there, it also modifies this relationship in accord with a certain propensity. On the one hand, we have originally the father’s debt to the friend; I failed to mention that he never found the friend again (this is what remains mysterious in the original story) and that he never succeeded in repaying his debt. On the other hand, there is a substitution in the father’s story, substitution of the rich woman for the poor woman. Now, within the fantasy developed by the subject, we observe something like an exchange of the outside terms of each of these functional relations. An investigation of the fundamental facts involved in the obsessional attack shows, in fact, that the object of the subject’s tantalizing desire to return to the place where the lady at the post office is, is not at all this lady, but a person who, in the subject’s recent history, incarnates the poor woman, a servant girl he met at an inn during maneuvers in the midst of that atmosphere of heroic ardor characteristic of the military fraternity and with whom he indulged in some of those bottom-pinching tactics in which those generous sentiments are wont to overflow. To discharge his debt, he must in some way pay, not the friend, but the poor woman and, through her, the rich woman who is substituted for her in the imagined scenario. 

Everything happens as if the impasses inherent in the original situation moved to another point in the mythic network, as if what was not resolved here always turned up over there. In order to understand thoroughly, one must see that in the original situation, as I described it to you, there is a double debt. There is, on the one hand, the frustration, indeed a kind of castration of the father. On the other hand, there is the never resolved social debt implied in the relationship to the figure of the friend in the background. We have here something quite different from the triangular relation considered to be the typical source of neurotic development. The situation presents a kind of ambiguity, of diplopia—the element of the debt is placed on two levels at once, and it is precisely in the light of the impossibility of bringing these two levels together that the drama of the neurotic is played. By trying to make one coincide with the other, he makes a perennially unsatisfying turning maneuver and never succeeds in closing the loop. 

And that is indeed how things subsequently turn out. What happens when the Rat Man comes to Freud? In an initial phase, Freud is directly substituted in his affective relations for a friend who had been playing the role of guide, counselor, patron, and reassuring guardian, saying to him regularly after his confession of his obsessions and anxieties: “You never did the evil you think you did, you’re not guilty, don’t worry about it.” Freud, then, is put in the friend’s place. And very quickly, aggressive fantasies are unleashed. They are not related uniquely—far from it—to the substitution of Freud for the father, as Freud’s own interpretation persistently tends to show, but, as in the fantasy, to the substitution of the figure called the rich woman for the friend. Very quickly, in fact, in that kind of momentary madness which constitutes, at least in profoundly neurotic subjects, a veritable phase of passion in the analytic experience itself, the subject begins to imagine that Freud wishes nothing less than to give him his own daughter who becomes in his fantasy a person laden with all earthly riches and whom he imagines in the rather peculiar form of a person with glasses of dung on her eyes. We find, then, substituted for the figure of Freud, an ambiguous figure, at once protective and maleficent, whose masquerading in glasses indicates, moreover, a narcissistic relationship with the subject. Myth and fantasy reunite here, and the experience of passion connected with the actual relationship to the analyst furnishes a springboard, along with the bias of the identifications it includes, for the resolution of a certain number of problems. 

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