Acceptance/rejection: this pair of polar terms describes the dominant way of dealing with the otherness of jouissance in public discourse, to locate it somewhere. However, if we look closely at the way acceptance and rejection function in time—both in the public rhetoric and in the course of personal psychoanalysis—we can recognize the somersaults people do with them.

Acceptance: “I accept you as you are”; “I accept myself as I am”. Even if you managed to find a place from where these words can be said, what are the limits of this acceptance? How long or how short is the time it takes to arrive at the moment when something becomes unbearable, when something unacceptable is discovered?

Rejection: an attempt to remove certain foreigners from the body of society. For example, they could be Jews, homosexuals, communists, “enemies of the people”[1], migrants or “foreign agents”[2]. The downside is an increasing dependence of society on the force needed to carry out this removal. If at first an alien, vicious, dirty or corrupting jouissance is attributed to foreigners (who drink the blood of Christian babies, engage in sabotage, rape “our” women, promote “non-traditional relationships” to children[3]), then when the moment comes to criticize a particular political regime, transgressive jouissance is attributed to its leaders and executioners. For instance, there is the special depravity of Lavrenty Beria or Henrikh Yagoda, Nazi orgies, or a striptease pole in Vladimir Putin’s palace[4].

Psychoanalysis begins where the acceptance/rejection pair and the incorporation/expulsion topology turn out to be inadequate. In order to suspend the dominance of these polarities, a special treatment of time, inherent in psychoanalysis is necessary, in which it is discovered that acceptance and rejection are the effects of a short circuit, the effects of haste in resolving the issue of dealing with jouissance, with tension experienced in the body. If we get out of this haste of definition, opening up the field of indefiniteness, or uncertainty, then we can find a special certainty. Not the certainty that necessarily runs along the contours of socially established categorization, but the certainty of intimate naming (even if the socially established and intimate may verbally coincide for a subject)[5]. Then an analysand may be surprised to find how (s)he hastily converts the indefiniteness of a certain tension in the body into what can be defined. With this operation a fantasm may take shape, allowing the subject to notice the time gap where this conversion, this interpretation could be questioned and cast its universality into doubt. It’s also possible here to face the problem of the radical Other, of sexual difference, which, as Freud emphasizes, is not covered by the polarities inherent in drives, including the polarity of acceptance/rejection[6].

To do this, it is necessary to open the time gap by means of psychoanalytic practice, within and between the sessions. A gap where it would be possible to separate the signifier from the meaning chasing after it, the content of speech from its act, and not rush to understand words and to categorize them. Such haste dominates public life today: “you say so, so you are…”, or “you say so because you are…” (e.g., man/woman/gay/Russian/black…). This is what is called identity politics, the logic of which can be found in statements that are seemingly at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum.

For example, there is the question that is regularly raised in the United States, ‘does a person who is not a queer/woman/black have the right to talk about the problems of queers/women/blacks?’ Or the recent statement of the Russian figure skater Tatyana Navka, who likened male figure skating to “gay propaganda” and was glad that “there is no such thing in Russia”[7]. According to this logic, the signifier and the signified, the meaning and naming, the subject of speech and the ‘I’ collapse, creating not only a separation of ‘ours’ from ‘theirs’, but also the effect of the absolute present, in which all sins of this person are recorded forever, with the deadly consequences that come from gluing one’s future to one’s past. Here “cancel culture” and Vladimir Putin’s statements against “rewriting history”[8] unexpectedly converge.

In this light, psychoanalysis is a practice that orients a subject to the real of their own time, but at the cost of meeting with indefiniteness, with the psychoanalyst as a moderator of that process.

[1] An expression which gained particular popularity in the USSR during the Stalinist terror.

[2] The law on “foreign agents” applied to individuals (and not only to organizations as it was since 2012) was introduced in Russia in 2018 and improved in 2020, which gave permission to consider anyone who is engaged in a political activity and receives any kind of support from abroad as a “foreign agent”. The practice of naming “foreign agents” is increasingly popular in Russia today in relation to, first of all, journalists who are disliked by the authorities.

[3] The law “prohibiting the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors” was introduced in Russia in 2013 and makes it impossible to publicly portray or discuss relationships different to the one between a man and a woman, without special markings, e.g., “18+”.

[4] A film by opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation, which discusses the secret palace of Vladimir Putin, built with corrupt funding.

[5] We can refer to the case described by Fabien Grasser about a person who defined himself as “discriminated”, which gave him a certain mental stability. Fabien Grasser. Nomination et Interprétation // Les noms et la nomination. ACF IdF, L’Envers de Paris. 2012.

[6] Freud, S. (1915). Instincts and their vicissitudes. SE 14: 109140.


[8] For example: (Psychoanalyst Mikhail Strakhov drew attention to this statement by Putin in his blog: