The Letter, Issue 23, Autumn 2001, Pages 22 - 32
THE DRIVES AND THE STAKES INVOLVED*
Precocious impasses in the drive's link to the mother are common occurrences in child care. Rather than acting as the privileged vector to an outside world, ensuring the subject's inscription in the field of the grand Autre, the big Other, the drive fixates and encloses itself in a vicious and unproductive circle. An object - whether it be the breast, faeces, the voice, or look - takes on a value of exclusivity, either because it becomes the choice object, or because it is the impossible object. From that moment on it will be as if the loop that the drive makes from the child to his mother, around the partial object (Lacan's objet petit a), has been interrupted, or closed in on itself.
This is the case, for example, in certain forms of child psychosis, where mother and child seem to blend into one, in an exclusive, imperious and limitless drive exchange. This is particularly present in the field of the oral drive, where the insanity of the drive relationship manifests itself, above all, in violent anorectic opposition. However, it is equally present in the anal drive, where maternal demands can be devastating. The object at stake effaces everything else, and the mother, indeed the whole family, rotates around the child's meals (which can take up most of the day), or sessions in the toilet, where the child's product becomes everybody's sole preoccupation. Sometimes there is recourse to physical violence, with force-feeding, or active extractions. It is noteworthy that generally the first reaction of those who witness these scenes - care professionals in particular - is often to attempt to separate mother and child, in an effort to break up this union which seems so incestuous. What provokes such a reaction is what Lacan terms jouissance: in other words what Freud situated as being beyond the pleasure principle, and which borders on the subject's death.