Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

After-Words, a Discussion of Bruce Fink's "On the Value of the Lacanian Approach to Analytic Practice"

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

After-Words, a Discussion of Bruce Fink's "On the Value of the Lacanian Approach to Analytic Practice"

Article excerpt

When do two living systems with the same parentage diverge in such a way that they are no longer cross-fertilizable, becoming distinct, unbridgeable species? Did the decisive Lacanian divergence take place more than a half century ago with his excommunication from the International Psychoanalytic Association, pushing him and his followers onto a psychoanalytic Galapagos? And with the subsequent luxuriant growth of a unique theoretical clinical system, is there nowadays the possibility of a new crossbreeding? Or will we at best have conceptual gene-splicings, piecemeal appropriations, or a kind of grafting of stock transplanted to a new terroir?

With this thought experiment of the IntemationalJoumal-"what is unique to the Lacanian approach to psychoanalytic practice and its relevance to non-Lacanian analysts?"- we ask a question whose time may have long passed. Certainly, Fink (2007) himself once vehemently thought this way, particularly when he wrote in his influential book Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique: A Lacanian Approach for Practitioners: "I hope it is clear from my account in this book that the Lacanian approach to psychoanalytic technique is not likely to converge anytime soon with any of the English schools of which I am aware..." (278); "The disagreements [are] based ... on irremediable differences in theoretical perspective" (278). With his invited paper for this volume, he is more conciliatory to the possibility, though with a measured reservation. I admire his bravery in taking this on. At the start he makes it clear that there is "no single Lacanian approach" (1), that his familiarity with non-Lacanian schools is limited, and so his characterizations are likely to seem reductionistic. What is more, as Fink now ruefully acknowledges at the beginning of his paper, he is in certain regards a man without a country, criticized by some Lacanians as "overly 'American'": "overly direct, transparent, and simplistic, leading me to make excessively practical recommendations as regards technique" (1), while Fink (2007) himself has been scathingly dismissive of Americans for the very same reasons (Margulies 2014). It really does flow downhill.

Perhaps the most informed group of analysts who deeply considered the question of integration of Lacanian thought into mainstream psychoanalysis are, alas, beyond the conversation we can have today-the field has moved on, and so have they-that is, those who began as students and analysands of Lacan, fell under his brilliant and charismatic sway, and then felt they needed to free themselves to find a different analytic path. They experienced something as missing, yes, a "lack." As Gilbert Diatkine (Birksted-Breen, Flanders, and Gibeault 2010) put it: "We are often Lacanians without knowing it. One must read him to realize the influence he has had on us ... in order to free ourselves from it" (3). Pontalis (Birksted-Breen, Flanders, and Gibeault 2010) expressed his deep gratitude to Lacan for "awaking us up from the dogmatic sleep into which psychoanalysis risked lapsing"-and then, apres, his subsequent gratitude to Winnicott, who "freed me-freed us from Lacan" (16). This freedom included liberation from the exclusive focus on language so as to explore affects, the preverbal child, play, the significance of the body, the therapeutic relationship, and more (Birksted-Breen, Flanders, and Gibeault 2010). And so perhaps it is now with contemporary non-Lacanian French analysts who remain within the IPA and who absorbed the pervasive Lacanian influence of their teachers and analysts-it is still in their intellectual DNA-with whom this discussion might be best engaged. Just take a look at the remarkable volume by Birksted-Breen, Flanders, and Gibeault (2010), and you can see Lacan's influence everywhere within the larger French psychoanalytic world. There is then an almost counterfactual imagining this discussion poses-what if Lacan had remained within the IPA? What if there had been some earlier success at cross-fertilization? …

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