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We See in Hysteria Something which is a Defence against Dissatisfaction

The Letter, Issue 66/67, Autumn 2017/Spring 2018, Pages 11 - 18



Ros McCarthy

Hysterical discourse is an attempt at creating a rapport with the Real of the body. The body’s expression of symptoms comes from the Real, a body disposed to jouissance. For the hysteric, it is a jouissance deprived of the phallic signifier. The pseudo original signifier replacing S1 is foundational and gives rise to a new moral order. The pseudo signifier and S2 will organise a gap, which will maintain a dissatisfaction. At the core of the hysteric’s discourse, the subject supports himself only by dissatisfaction as a result of the failure to seize the lost object through the signifier. Objet a as cause of desire is subsumed under an object as lost as if it were another human being. This is defended against through insistent demand.[2]

Keywords: Hysteria; loss; jouissance; signifier; drive; Other

Situated in Draft G, in his letter to Fliess in 1895, Freud outlines a schematic diagram of sexuality, divided along the lines of a somatic-psyche boundary and an ego boundary. It depicts a quadrant with a psyche-soma frontier and an ego frontier.[3] It is interesting to note that the schema is embedded in Freud’s paper on ‘Melancholia’, in which he states ‘The affect corresponding to melancholia is that of mourning - that is, longing for something lost. Thus in melancholia it must be a question of a loss - a loss in instinctual life’.[4] We see melancholia in other discourses in the clinic, where ‘the shadow of the object, [has fallen] on the ego’,[5] where object-loss retreats to ego-loss. In these presentations, there is a persistent encounter with the Real of loss, whereas in the work of mourning there is usually an endpoint to grief, according to Freud. In the discourse of the hysteric there is inescapable proximity to the Real of loss, aggravated by the repression of the phallic signifier.

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