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The mOther Of All Anxiety

The Letter, Issue 23, Autumn 2001, Pages 63 - 76


Carol Owens

This paper represents an attempt to unpack some of the key elements in Lacan's seminar on Anxiety[1] in the context of three clinical examples. My exploratory focus will be on the points at which anxiety appears in each case as it is framed by and within the field of the specular image via the scopic and invocatory drives; the ways in which anxiety becomes narrated as moments at which the formations of the unconscious are made immanent; and, the movements/articulations/actions made by each client which implicate the correlation between the affect and its effect. Commensurate with this focus will be a serious engagement with the particular ways in which anxiety is caught up with 'm-other-ing'.

Lacan has drawn our attention on manifold occasions to the function of the mother as the first big Other in terms of the structural development of the subject. While this aspect of the mother will be pertinent to my discussion, I am also interested in creating a condition for the understanding of the mother subject as she is caught up with her own child-as-subject and who functions as an Other in whom the specular image of secondary narcissistic identification is operational. In other words, I will be arguing that the child subject can act upon the mother's subjectivity akin to Lacan's praying mantis[2] as the voracious desirer in the face of whose desire the mother asks 'what kind of an object am I for their desire?' and, 'what do they want of me?'. In addition but in complementarity, the mother is caught up with an entire world of specular images whose gaze falls upon her ability to mother, and as such bring into play questions of the mother's relation to desire and the law.

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