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What can be done with Anxiety? Enjoyment and Acting

The Letter, Issue 64, Spring 2017, Pages 73 - 82


Christian Fierens

There are two different answers to the question ‘What can be done with anxiety’? depending on two different conceptions of psychoanalysis. The first one depends on a more or less Cartesian conception of the affect and is related to Freud’s first theory of anxiety. The second depends on a more or less Spinozist conception of the affect and is related to Freud’s second theory of anxiety and to Lacan’s theory of affects.

Keywords: anxiety is not a flaw; affect; Descartes; Spinoza; enjoyment; action

Anxiety is probably one of the most frequent reasons for consulting the social worker, the psychologist, the psychiatrist or even the general practitioner. But it seems that they may achieve nearly nothing by addressing anxiety simply as an affect. Anxiety affects. It is a very unpleasant experience for both the patient who doesn’t know precisely why he is anxious and the practitioner who finds himself powerless to help him: that experience is all the more unpleasant as neither is able to identify the object of such anxieties. We are afraid of or frightened by something: we know or at least we have a premonition of an object which is frightening. But in anxiety, it seems that we are being affected in the absence of any concrete object. Of course, the psychoanalyst may say that anxiety has an object, it is the object of an unconscious wish. He may state that much, but we usually fail completely to locate such an object; and even if we could fathom in imagination its hidden object, anxiety keeps going on - as it does not crystallize in any usual kind of fear. The object remains a mere theoretical point of view (as we may not directly handle it). We should be able to find a way out for anxiety and its object should be made quite concrete in the course of the practitioner’s intervention.

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