Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Libres Cahiers Pour la Psychanalyse No. 21, Printemps 2010: L'angoisse [No. 21, Spring 2010: Anxiety]1

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Libres Cahiers Pour la Psychanalyse No. 21, Printemps 2010: L'angoisse [No. 21, Spring 2010: Anxiety]1

Article excerpt

Libres Cahiers pour la Psychanalyse No. 21, Printemps 2010: L'angoisse [No. 21, Spring 2010: Anxiety]1 Editions in Press, Paris, 2010; 170 pp; £20

For their 21st issue, the Libres Cahiers pour la Psychanalyse propose a rereading of the 32nd lecture in the New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis series (Freud, 1933a, 1932-36; Strachey, 1964). Written during the summer of 1932 with the aim of boosting the Verlag's finances, these lectures are addressed primarily to a wide, cultivated readership with an interest in psychoanalysis. They are also an opportunity for Freud to announce how his thinking has progressed, and to return to various points of discussion while prolonging his reflection on certain established concepts. A Foreword written by the editorial committee provides a synopsis of the lecture that is the focus of interest here and has spurred the thinking of 11 contributors.

In the opening text Daniel Wildlçcher considers the origins of the question. 'The Language of Anxiety', a chapter from his book, Metapsychology of Meaning (Wildlçcher, 1986), considers the different stages of elucidation of this particular 'state of affect' and draws our attention to the maintenance of a paradox amidst the oscillations of Freudian thought: 'how can anxiety be at once defined as a traumatic experience and as the very signal of that experience'? Melanie Klein tried to reply to this question, referring to the Freudian model of a danger signal perceived by the primary ego as belonging to the sphere of the death drive; here, she returns to the theory of trauma as conceptualized by Laplanche (1970, 1980), who sees ''the stamp of the death drive in the demands of the drives in the raw'' (Wildlocher, 1986, p. 26). Distinguishing fear from anxiety and inverting the Freudian model, Laplanche positions anxiety in the external and primary trauma of maternal seduction. Faced with these contradictions, the author suggests that the essential reason for them is that ''these theories do not all address the same object'' (p. 27). In a gesture to the notion of programming, he constructs an overview describing ''the sequence of operations which contribute to the state of anxiety'' (p. 27). According to him, ''the structural or generative explanation, rather than those relating to representation, gives a better indication of the specificity of the emotion being analysed'' (p. 33), since ''representation as a structure is composed of sequential chains activating the different forms of mental activity here being programmed'' (p. 33). What is at stake at this point is to set against a phenomenology of 'lived experience' an analysis of affect as independent from semantic and cultural codes, and that defines universal forms of this typical emotion.

Jacques le Dem's contribution sees the problem quite differently. For him, ''the debate not only involves the nature of anxiety but how to treat it'' (p. 72). The 32nd conference maintains the link between anxiety and sexuality: ''with the description of automatic anxiety and the excess of the drives which cancels the very function of anxiety [''anxiety as signal''], Freud remains faithful to his first theory of actual neuroses...'' (p. 73). Thus, ''when instinctual impulse tends to become excessive and uncontrollable, one solution is to turn to the outside world in search of a dangerous situation which can be controlled'' (p. 69). The author sees this as a possible source of risk-taking behaviour or acting out in the course of the treatment, as illustrated in the case of a patient who forgets the analyst's door code after the holidays and keys it in backwards when arriving for the following session. ''Backwards?'' remarks the analyst, which leads the patient to memory associations concerning dangerous climbing activities suspended on the same cord as a partner. ''The rectitude of desire'' (p. 67), as the patient says, is never free from upsurges of anxiety, and these are perceived or acted out under the effects of repression: as the author makes clear, it is in relation to this that theoretical reversal takes place, repression no longer being the source of anxiety but its consequence. …

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