Over the past weeks, in the School, much has been written and by many in regard to the uncanny phenomenon of this epidemic, in attempt to formulate something about it; the challenges that it raises for each and every one of us both in our private lives and in our position as analysts. I had felt that I was especially incapable of formulating a thing that could hold some coherent thought, idea or annunciation. At last I stumbled into a phenomenon that touched my body and caused me to take action. It is about this I would like to tell in brief.
At some point during this current crisis, I transferred the majority of my patients, though not all, who were still willing to physically arrive from meetings in person to phone calls. The reasons for this were varied but here is not the place to elaborate. I chose the telephone not ZOOM because this way I could be closer to the body and listen.
As others have already written, this entails not a few difficulties which require the analyst to engage his capacity for invention, which sometimes also creates some surprising and interesting analytical effects.
And then, a few days ago, an analysand said: “It’s easier for me to speak in analysis when we’re on the phone than in the clinic with you being present. I can dare to say things and contents that I sometimes abstain from saying in presence”. At that moment I understood that there was a problem: It’s too easy! It circumvents something real, which Freud already perceived and therefore abandoned hypnosis.
J.-A. Miller answers Eric Favereau’s question whether the couch is important: “It [the couch] embodies the following paradox: you have to bring your body to the session, and at the same time, you have to strip it. The couch is a machine, a multiguillotine, which amputates the body, taking away its motor skills, its ability to act, its erect stature, its visibility. The couch materializes the abandoned body, the broken body, the slaughtered body. Lying on the couch means becoming pure speaking, while experiencing oneself as a body parasitised by speech, a poor body sick with the illness of the ones who speak.”
Indeed I have no doubt regarding the indispensability of the presence of the body of the analysand but also of the analyst. The electronic mediator may also be convenient for the analyst; to shrink into his bodily presence or to be spared the exertion of travel, as in my case, since I also work once a month for several days in Vienna.
Even though most of the time the absence of the body distinctly weighed upon me, my analysand’s statement along with several other signs from other analysands caused me to wake up and suggest that those who were prepared to return in person could do so under the health protection requirement and sure enough most agreed willingly.
At the same time, the recognition of the necessity of the physical presence of the two partners in the analytic meeting is not derived through clear and pre-known behaviour in any specifically given situation, if we do not want to fall into the deadening imaginary of the Standard.
Florencia Shanahan writes in a short and courageous text from April 12. 2020 and in her wisdom entitled it “Modes of Presence”: “Could I have continued living if he [the analyst] had not received me by phone every day, when my mother and brother suddenly died? I don’t know. Could I have gone to the encounter of the good hole if he had not received me daily by Skype, holding the gaze on the screen, for more than a month, while I was traversing the most radical anguish at the time of the subjective destitution that opened up the way towards the end? I don’t think so”.
Furthermore, in the previously quoted interview, Miller says, not the couch, but the analyst is the object of psychoanalysis. “A very particular object, which allows someone else to experience himself, as a subject, as speaking without knowing what he wants, or what he says, or even to whom he is saying it.”
In my opinion, this says that there is no one answer to the presence of the analyst and his physicality.
1. Interview by Eric Favereau. Le divan. XX1 e siècle. Demain la mondialisation des divans? Vers le corps portable. Par Jacques-Alain Miller. 3rd July 1999 at 23:51. [Available in an unofficial translation into English here].
2. Florencia F.C. Shanahan: Modes of Presence. Lacanian Review online. COVID-19 / 2020 #50. April 12th, 2020. Available online.