The Termination of a Treatment of Hysteria as an Effect of Failed Interpretation
(Pour la revue mexicaine INTEMPESTIVAS, sur Psychanalyse et Déconstruction)
(For the Mexican journal INTEMPESTIVAS, on Psychoanalysis and Deconstruction)
In this text we will try to question the symptoms that descriptive psychiatry classifies as eating disorders—anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder—from the perspective of a Lacanian psychoanalytic approach.
Psycho-analysis emerged as the science of modern man within the decline of metaphysics, the limitation of philosophy’s claims to immutable knowledge. Established by Plato as speculation upon eternal structures, followed by the subjectification of truth in Christianity, Kant, and Romanticism, philosophy became with Heidegger a knowledge of the event situated within contingency and history. As metaphysical imperiousness fades, psychoanalysis is recognized as an historical project, invoking a new understanding of truth and bringing up questions about friendship, charity, health and salvation.
The discussion I am presenting here originated as an invited address to the Italian chapter of the Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration (SEPI). SEPI is an organization devoted to examining potential convergences between seemingly opposed and disparate theoretical and clinical approaches, and much of its discourse entails examining the assumptions, the procedures, and the evidence for these various approaches to see whether there are potential integrative possibilities that have been obscured by differing terminological universes and ideological predispositions. In the first national meeting of SEPI-Italy, however, a different line of demarcation between the attendees seemed to emerge. The introduction to the program of the conference referred to “a deep division between two different modes of understanding psychotherapy in general and psychotherapy integration in particular: the scientific that favors objectivity and the humanistic that privileges the subject.” It was this distinction that I was asked to speak to in my keynote address.
As the contemporary moment witnesses unprecedented levels of neoliberal horrors, Robert Pfaller makes the utterly compelling and refreshing argument that pleasure may be our strongest weapon of opposition. With uncompromising philosophical rigor, Pfaller brilliantly elucidates how under-appreciated psychoanalytic insights pave a path for combatting the hegemony of asceticism, in which societies zestfully pursue prohibitions and limitations to their pleasures. Such passionate concessions not only limit our capacity for experiencing pleasure, but also interfere with our ability to resist the increasingly repressive encroachments that threaten our social and political wellbeing.
San Lorenzo by the sea. A windy September afternoon, frayed clouds scudding by. From where I sit at the beach’s edge, with the village behind me, the sea is a violet ribbon, raveling and unraveling endlessly. I have been here, quite still, for maybe over an hour. In the sheltered spot where I’ve set up my deck chair, there is only an occasional gust of wind. I’ve slipped into a languid state. I would rather be lucid, active, productive… pick up my ideas of these past months, dig through my notes, my books, delve into my dissatisfaction. Something’s needed to overcome this state of inertia, to stimulate my intellect…I continue to be mesmerized by the ribbon of sea.