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Some Short Cuts To Desire

The Letter, Issue 24, Spring 2002, Pages 30 - 37


Aisling Campbell

In modern life there is a proliferation of various alternative therapies centred on the body (for instance, craniosacral therapy, body emotive therapy among others); there is also a general public paranoia about the effects of conventional medicine on the body.[1] Both are symptomatic of a denial that the body is an effect of the registers of the symbolic, imaginary and real as explicated by Lacan. They represent a wish for a return to some imagined state where man is in tune with nature and all that is 'natural'. In a similar vein Lacan is frequently criticised for ignoring the body in favour of the signifier or there is the criticism that psychoanalysis ignores what is popularly known as body language. Those who voice these criticisms tend to see the body as completely exclusive of the field of the signifier; however nowhere is the body more in evidence than in analysis, especially when the signifying chain grinds to a halt, revealing the dependence of the real of the body on the signifier. Some months ago, in the course of a session with an analysand, I had a sense of her body looming large, being almost too close for comfort, although if anything she was slight in build. Moments later she commented that she felt uncomfortably large, as though she were taking up the whole room. The symptom that had provoked her to seek analysis was an inability to finish any intellectual project. The sessions were often characterised by a kind of immobility of the signifying chain which indeed was invariably associated with an almost physical paralysis, embodied in the kind of moment I have described. This brief example serves to illustrate how the body cannot be ignored in analysis. Furthermore, the body is a coalescence of the real, symbolic and imaginary; in the topological as well as in the purely optical sense it is truly three- dimensional.

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