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The Meaning Of Psychoses In Lacan's Reading Of Freud

The Letter, Issue 22, Summer 2001, Pages 97 - 116


André Michels


If psychoanalysis found its starting-point as well as its reference- points with Freud in terms of the neuroses, it is no exaggeration to claim that through Lacan and his work with psychotic patients it received a renewed impetus.

The early Freud considered his main field of work to be the study of the psychoneuroses. In this, hysteria served him as both guide and paradigm. It was not, however, the same as Charcot's, Bernheim's or Janet's hysteria, and it was also very different from that of the medical and psychiatric tradition; it can rightly be seen as a product of Freud's own. It allowed him to decipher and name other neurotic structures as well as to distinguish these from the psychoses and perversions. To this day this organisation has retained its validity, despite numerous and severe criticisms from the biological sciences. A start had to be made somewhere. Freud succeeded in this through his interest in dynamics and his consideration of structures beyond phenomenology and the empirical diversity of observation. In so doing he succeeded in opening up and at the same time organising a clinical field that until then had not been dreamt of.

For him, too, Aragon's statement applies: 'La femme c'est l'avenir de l'homme. It was women who installed him in his practice, who shaped his way of working in such a way as to allow him to go beyond Breuer's cathartic method. It was from his hysteric patients, 'ces bouches d'or' as Lacan called them, that the theory of the Oedipus complex evolved, which provided Freud with the answer to the origin of the neurotic symptom.

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