text: “The Analyst and the Semblants” (H Tizio)

from PAPERS: Electronic Journal of the Action Committee of the School One, 2009-2010, N. 1:

The Analyst and the Semblants

Hebe Tizio

The question of semblants in the psychoanalytic discourse seems complex to me and I will reveal here my first questioning on this subject. To begin with, my question will be about the position of the analyst, as Lacan brought this difficulty to our attention. There is the risk of a certain oscillation between the identificatory tendency that leads to confusing oneself with the subject supposed to know, for example, and the one that consists of thinking that everything is semblant, forgetting the real behind the sense.

I am not claiming this by referring solely to the clinic, but equally by taking account of the discourse of the master present in various institutions. Indeed, depending on the function of the semblants at play, a certain modality of the treatment of the real ensues. In other words, the use of semblants is not without consequences.


In the analytic discourse the question of the semblant depends on the antinomy between sense and real. The semblant is dependent on sense, and Lacan first situates it between the symbolic and the real. Then, he defines it in opposition to the real in so far as the latter excludes sense. Without a doubt, this poses questions for analytic practice. Indeed, if we say that the real excludes sense, this claim seems to contradict the fact that analysis is underpinned by the idea that words have an impact, which is verified in the practice.

J.-A. Miller, in his course of the 21st of March 2007 takes this question up and opens it up in order to address it in two ways. He points out the hiatus between psychoanalysis as practice and psychoanalysis as perspective. As a perspective, psychoanalysis has on the horizon the real separated from sense; as practice, psychoanalysis operates by way of the connection of sense and semblant.

Although the sense varies, the symptom remains, which would allow its assimilation into the real, which is what psychoanalysis works with. There would then be the real that harbours the symptom on which one cannot have any direct impact. Psychoanalysis thus offers a mechanism where something can be reached with the semblant…if we consider that ‘it’ has a sense. This takes us to the theme of interpretation and the effect that Lacan always preserved: its resonance. How does the semblant operate? Is the resonance the form that has an impact on a point in the real? Lacan talks about the poetic effect, and we must indicate the equivoque that would be a resonance that makes a hole. Is this kind of interpretation closer to the object a?

As psychoanalysis treats the real through this way, it would be of the order of semblant and we can add that there is no other way. Psychoanalysis differentiates itself from the treatment of postmodernity, which considers that everything is semblant – excluding, in this way, the real. If everything is semblant, this opens onto the cynical perspective, which is that of freefloating jouissance, with the difficulties that result from this, namely of symptomatising it.  Semblants cannot be approached separately from the orientation towards the real.

Thus, in psychoanalysis, we cannot directly reach the jouissance that is contained in the symptom, because that will generate negative transference. In other words, we cannot approach jouissance with just any semblant; this is the teaching of the four discourses.

One has to keep in mind that the semblant takes a place in the discourses, it takes the empty place that allows the element that is found there to take the place of the agent. The discourse is founded in place of the semblant1, because it is the agent that specifies the way jouissance is treated. In every discourse, the semblants are supported in different ways and each has its foundation. The S1 appears as the semblant of command; the S2 as the semblant of knowledge; the (a) as semblant of jouissance… Each one has a status as important as that of the other, nevertheless it is not the same thing, because, depending on the semblant with which we treat jouissance, the effects change. They can express themselves through the different forms of rejection or other diverse declensions, as Lacan shows when he says that jouissance “is not challenged, is not evoked, is not tracked down, is not elaborated, other than through a semblant.”2

That is, no doubt, a paradoxical formulation, because this place of the agent is in all cases marked by the impossibility to act on what escapes. We must not forget that discourse is a mechanism that finds its main application on jouissance, which is to say that it has a civilising function, but that it cannot render this kernel into reason, which, although foreclosed, agitates it. We are dealing with the other ambilic of discourse, the one Freud discovered in the dream as resistant to an ultimate interpretation that would reach it.


The semblant is thus for psychoanalysis an instrument of which one can make use, on condition of not sliding into other discourses. This is not easy to achieve, of course. The last teaching of Lacan starts from this point to underline the uncomfortable position of the analyst.

Why is it uncomfortable? Lacan was looking to make the way in which the analyst situateshimself in discourse bearable, because it is not easy to raise this function to the position of semblant of the object, which is the key of discourse3 that would allow him to be ‘worthy’ of maintaining the tranference.

The analytic discourse puts the object a in the place of agent, a semblant suited to treating jouissance. This is because this object constitutes the kernel that allows us to elaborate jouissance in relation to the existence of the knot. The analyst deals with this ‘emission’ that is the a. To this effect he has to “make of his body and his existence as analyst a representation” and he has to take account of that.4 When Lacan speaks of representation, he situates this imaginary function in the body5 – which gives it consistency and allows the necessary cycles in the cure. The analyst ‘in body’ (again) (‘en corps’/encore) installs object a. One has to go through the object a to find the real. It is a matter of finding it again, in a certain way, which shows that there is no linear progress, other than towards death – since we are dealing with cycles starting from the structure defined as tauric.6

The position of the analyst involves knowing how to maintain the void and to not identify with the semblant but to make it function. Indeed, the semblant and identification are not one and the same thing. In one of the declensions Lacan gives to the term semblant, he plays with to ‘s-eem’ (s’embler) and ‘s-embling’ (s’emblant)7, which situates it on the side of ‘to precipitate’, and what precipitates is something in relation to being.8 This makes it propitious for identification, which crystallises in an identity.9This is why it is a matter of keeping to the difference between one and the other, to be able to support the place of semblant of the object in discourse. Knowing how to deal with this object without being it, is the adequate way of treating jouissance.

Although the semblant of the object should be in the position of command in the analytic discourse, one should not for all that understand, as the IPA does, that it is ‘a semblant more semblant than nature, openly displayed’, and it is starting from this difficulty that Lacan gives an orientation.10 “But remember, that the semblant of who speaks as such is always there in all kinds of discourse that it employs; it is even a second nature. So be more relaxed, more natural when you receive someone who comes to you to ask for an analysis. Don’t feel so obliged to stick your neck out. Even as buffoon, you are justified to be one. You only need to watch my television. I am a clown. Take that as an example and don’t imitate me!”

The body introduces itself by logical necessity. Lacan points out11 that the real is outside of sense and this ‘blanc sense’ or ‘sen – blan’ [‘sens blanc’ homophone with ‘semblant’] means that the body necessarily makes believe (fasse semblant). Lacan later12 takes this point up again in order to say that he tried to establish the analytic discourse as the most plausible semblant, the most adequate for treating jouissance, a sort of short-circuit of language by the body. This means that the semblant is kept up in presence, which is where the resistance of the analyst serves this function. One must remember that Lacan situates resistance on the side of the analyst. In “La Troisième” he underlines this fact: “in order to make believe (faire semblant)”– he refers to the object a – “one must be gifted.”13 This ‘being gifted’ involves the analyst consenting to occupy the position of object. We could think that responding to the demand were one way of putting this difficulty into action. Elsewhere, Lacan spoke of women being better analysts from this point of view; he pointed out, however, that there exists a real difficulty in occupying this place of object.

The resistance of the analyst to serve his function is due to this non-consent. Indeed, in the analytic discourse, the place of semblant is not sustained by the S1 or the S2, but by a way that involves the analyst and his body. This evokes the reading of the syntagma ‘the presence of the analyst’ even if it opens the risks of such a position. “That the analyst makes believe (fasse semblant), as if he was there for things to work on the sexual plane” is “wholly admissible”, but it is “annoying if he ends up believing it and then this freezes him completely.”14 In other words, it is a presence that sustains itself through the lack of the sexual relation, in order to allow the analysand, by maintaining this hole, to put in play his mode of jouissance. The psychoanalyst has to practise in always new ways, in order to maintain a void that allows the analysand to lodge his particularity there. He works with the necessary veil over this opening, without filling it. Lacan points out that, to the extent that the historical time of the installation of the analytic discourse is recent, there is no tradition that would guarantee it. Let us add that in any case, tradition wants that the analyst’s particular jouissance must be treated in an analysis, to be able to produce this discourse as such.


This point is at the centre of the formation of the analyst, where the difference between authorising and ‘auto-r(itual)ising’ is pointed out by Lacan in his “Italian Note”. This ‘autor(itual)ising’ is a way of trying to plug the hole by making a regulated, bureaucratic Other exist. It gives an account of a radical difficulty of working this “shady waste” that manifests as a “not wanting to know anything about all that”. It is the attempt to reduce the effects of analytic discourse that makes semblants vacillate, which are those of the analyst.

“A theory including a lack that has to be found across all the levels, being inscribed here in indeterminacy, there in certainty, and shaping the knot of the uninterpretable, I get down to this not admittedly without experiencing its unprecedented atopy.”15 It is in the practice that the analyst has to be equal to the structure that determines him. This is why the psychologising semblants of the discourse of the master, the subject of representation, of communication, of ‘good feelings’, the ‘good of the other’, create a problem in the practice because one loses the compass of the analytic discourse.

This means that to the extent that these semblants are the product of the discourse of the master, the practitioner in his analysis has to submit to the egoic and symptomatic formatting in order to know how to do differently, starting from what constitutes his place. Lacan separates thus the position of the analyst from the profession, as what completes through giving a ‘professional identity’, an identificatory foundation.16 In this way the analyst in his position can know how to deal with his body, welcoming what he hears of the analysand’s interpretation. He will also be able to know how to deal with the master discourse to the extent that the analytic discourse is part of the communal discourse, that is beginning to be more and more permeable and which becomes “the armour of good feelings”17, which means that it is infiltrated with the master discourse.

1 Lacan, J., (not in English translation) Le Séminaire « L’insu… », 8.3.77, Ornicar ?, p. 16.

2 Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book XX, Encore, transl. Grigg, R., Norton, London 2000. (Le Séminaire, Livre XX,

Encore, Paris, Seuil, 1975, p. 85).

3 Lacan, J., (not in English translation) 14.6.72. Unpublished.

4 Lacan, J., idem.

5Lacan, J., (not in English translation) “La Troisième”, Intervenciones y textos II, Manantial, Buenos Aires,

1988, p. 82.

6Lacan, J., (not in English translation) Le Séminaire, Livre XXIII, Le sinthome, Paidos, Buenos Aires, 2006,


7 TN: ‘s’embler’ does not exist, but it is put in the reflexive verb form and phonetically evokes the verb

‘sembler’‘to seem’; it also alludes to ‘emblee’, which means ‘right away/directly’. Likewise, ‘s’emblant’ does

not exist, the ending ‘-ant’ indicates ‘-ing’ in English, thus we have a contraction of ‘seeming’, ‘semblant’ and

‘directly’. The idea is to connect this word game with the word in the next sentence, ‘precipitate’.

8Lacan, J., 8. 3.77, op.cit.

9 Lacan, J., (not in English translation) 18.11.76, Ornicar? 12/13.

10 Lacan, J., “La Troisième”, op. cit., p. 81.

11Lacan, J., (not in English translation) “RSI”, 11-3-75, Ornicar ? p. 5.

12Lacan, J., Seminario El sinthome, op.cit., p. 120.

13Lacan, J., (not in English translation) “La Troisième”, op.cit., p. 83.

14Lacan, J., (not in English translation) “Lacan en Italie”, Milán, 12 mai 1972.

15Lacan, J., (not in English translation) “La méprise du sujet supposé savoir”, Autres écrits, Paris, Seuil, 2001, p.


16Lacan, J., (not in English translation) “Segunda carta al Foro”, 11.3.81, Escansión. Nueva serie 1, Buenos

Aires, 1989.

17Lacan, J., (not in English translation) 14.6.72. Unpublished.

Translated by Natalie Wulfing


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