I see the analyst upside down on my phone screen. He says, “Some people rotate their phone.” These are my first virtual sessions in the days of Covid-19. What can we learn from the appearance of a “Virtual slip”?

The pandemic forced the screen on many analyses and raised a crucial question: With the appearance of the figure and the sound on the screen, in the existence of the analysand’s signifiers and the act of the analyst, how can we articulate the difference between existence on the screen and reality, and the effects on analytical experience?

In the analytical experience we are following unconscious knowledge, which realizes only in retrospect. We find a similar dynamic in Lacan’s distinction between the eye and the gaze, the voice and the resonance. The metaphor of Plato’s cave demonstrates that we see only the reflected shadows of what is happening outside, hear only the different resonance, of the various phonemes, returning from the entrance and end of the cave. [1]

The precedence of the gaze and voice involves the extraction of the object from the field of the drive, and refers not the being but the split subject, which is our concern in the analytical experience. We can detect this point of split that disappears from the being in several planes.

In the field of speech the vanishing point may be embodied in the fact that the Master signifier is the agent that acts, while the subject is nothing but supposed relative to another signifier. The subject does not give meaning to the signifier, but gives it a body of jouissance. In the invocatory plane this is equivalent to the fact that we don’t hear the voice in our ears and in the plane of being (raison d’être), but in the resonance of the thing (d’être réson). [2] In the scopic field, the split can be located at the stain, which is the point that disappears from the eye, indicating that “you never look at me from the place from which I see you”. [3]

A virtual screen presents an image of the world of being, and of metric relations, where when the figure gets closer to the screen it looks bigger and sounds louder, and vice versa. We can describe screen sessions as “I see myself seeing myself”, an auto-eroticism on the very circuit of the drive, revolving around forbidden jouissance.

But analysis in presence takes place in a libidinal space, moving in the path of desire. Although the analyst’s voice arriving from behind the sofa sounds close and loud, the analysand does not see him. The speech sent from the place of the subject to the void of the analyst’s room returns to the subject as resonance from afar. The obstacle we encounter in the path of desire is the basis for the principle of the Oedipus complex, by which the closest figures are the forbidden ones. [4]

To maintain desire, the object must be extracted from the body, and create a lack. Here virtual analyses meet a difficulty, since the screen is opaque and does not allow to extract unreflected images, as the objects gaze and voice.[5] Therefore, being in different spaces on both sides of the screen, the resonance of the analysand’s voice might not return through the walls of the transference. The lack might not be produced if he is not looked at from the objects that are bound in the unknown desire of the Other.

A virtual slip may indicate an unconscious attempt to re-establish a libidinal space, through an obstacle. In the absence of a lack, anxiety may arise around prolonged virtual analyses, as a sign in the body of the lack of a lack [6], a way to maintain desire on the horizon. [7]

But, since Freud emphasizes that psychoanalysts should not withdraw from the discontent of their times, we have to consider whether analytical effects may, however, appear also in analyses held virtually. We may find a support to this effort in the difference Miller indicates between Plato’s cave and the prison of Lacan. [8] It may be that the screen will affect analyses oriented by the cave and the virtuality of appearance more than those oriented by the dilemma of the prisoners, where confronted with being alone with the Other, not knowing and willing to reduce our jouissance over our identity. Future testimonies and reports on the analytical act will be our guide.

  1. Lacan, J. Talking to brick walls, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. A.R. Price (Cambridge: Polity, 2017), 82-83.
  2. Ibid, 99, 103.
  3. Lacan, J. The four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XI, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan. Norton, 103.
  4. Miller, J.-A. Introduction a l’érotique du temps, 2004, La cause freudienne 56, 63-64.
  5. Lacan, J. The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire in Écrits, trans. Bruce Fink (London/New York, 2006), 693.
  6. Lacan, J. Anxiety, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book X, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. A.R. Price (Cambridge: Polity,2014), 42.
  7. Lacan, J. Transference, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book VIII, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Bruce Fink (Cambridge: Polity, 2017), 370.
  8. Miller, J.-A. Les us du laps, 1999-2000, (lesson de 10 de may 2000), 236.