report: “ICLO-NLS Clinical Conversations, with G Dessal” (Mf Mullen)

from the NLS-Messager, n. 601:

ICLO-NLS CLINICAL CONVERSATIONS

SEMBLANTS AND SINTHOME.’
ST. VINCENTS HOSPITAL FAIRVIEW, DUBLIN, 
SATURDAY 3RD OCTOBER 2009

In line with the theme for the VIIth Congress of the WAP 2010 in Paris, Semblants and Sinthomes, the Irish Circle of the Lacanian Orientation (ICLO) organized their second day long clinical conversation seminar on some of the most important and probably least understood although very clinically relevant concepts in Lacanian psychoanalysis ‘Semblants and Sinthome’. This time Gustavo Dessal was the quest speaker. Gustavo is a psychoanalyst in Madrid. He is an Analyst Member (AME) of the Lacanian School of Psychoanalysis (ELP) and the World Association of Psychoanalysis (AMP). He teaches at the Institute of the Freudian Field.

The day started with a presentation by Rik Loose who traced the notion of Semblance throughout Lacan’s work. A semblance is in essence a make believe. Rik showed how Lacan moved from a clinic of the Symbolic to a clinic of the Real, the Real of the Symptom as opposed to the Semblant of Language. At the beginning of Lacan’s work the aim of a psychoanalytic treatment is to symbolize the Real. Later he engages in an exploration of the notions of fiction (Jeremy Bentham) and truth. Fiction and truth are not opposites but relate to one another. Truth progresses only on the basis of a fictional structure. Lacan later drops the notion of fiction in favor of the notion of semblance. The semblance is stated from the truth that there is no Sexual Relation. There is no knowledge that gives us access to the other sex. Castration is a semblance. The phallic function is semblance etc. Truth is the dwelling place of semblance, a semblance that must conquer the real and curtail jouissance because jouissance is ever only traceable in the semblant. The later Lacan accepts that there is something of the signifier (signifierness) in the Real. This shift has very important clinical implications for the interventions of the analyst and the notion of interpretation and the place of the drive and satisfaction in analysis.

Gustavo Dessal underlined the clinical relevance of Lacan’s use of the notion of semblance. The theory of the semblance is the clinical consequence of the non-sexual relation or the hole in the real. Gustavo isolated three voids impacting the registers of the Symbolic, the Imaginary and the Real (R.S.I.).

1. The divided Subject. The subject is inconsistent. There is a hole in the signifying chain by which the subject cannot afford an identity and is condemned to a lack of being.
2. In the place of the object, Lacan produces a hole. All objects have to be considered as something that comes in the place of something that has no object. We all have a non-object beginning. The subject is related to a structural void where there is no object as a real reference.
3. The non-sexual relation. In the formulae of Sexuation, Lacan writes the void as logic of impossibility.

From these three voids, Gustavo proposed that three forms of the semblance could be deduced. From the lack of being the semblance of ego is created. The ego is a fictional identity. From the void of the object we produce the surplus of jouissance, i.e. the classical Freudian object (the breast, excrement) that helps to forget the lack of jouissance. Moreover, the object a reveals itself as a semblance in Lacan’s late teaching. From the lack of the sexual relation we produce two semblances that allow human kind to orchestrate the comedy of the sexual relation; the phallus and the void. In other words, the semblance presents itself in three forms on the path from the Symbolic to the Real. There is no way to escape the semblance because semblance is the realm of everyday life. We have to pretend to be what we are and we have to act as if we were.

The afternoon was grounded in discussions around clinical cases. It was clear that the notion of semblance is crucial for both the direction of the treatment and the end of analysis as a knowing how-to with one’s symptom. The case presentations allowed for a discussion of the symptom/sinthome distinction and the sinthome/unconscious opposition. The questions discussed, circled around the topics of identification and sinthome, mourning and loss.

The day was well attended and the format of the day proved to be a very valuable working platform.

Marlene ffrench Mullen

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