If there were only the unconscious and the symptom: if there had never been the parlêtre and the sinthome; if the metaphor of the symptom was not “the formal envelope of the body-event”[1] then yes, one could imagine analytical sessions performed only by Skype, Zoom or WhatsApp. In this case, psychoanalysis would fully participate in the semblantisation of the world and would cease “in getting the patient forget that it is merely a matter of words […]”[2] It is the ignorance of Lacan’s elaborations that make us think that it is enough to speak for there to be an analytical cure, regardless of the presence of bodies.

The brief experience of exchanging via remote communications with analysands that we are accumulating in recent days, confirms this. These conversations are often necessary. They maintain the link, they recall that once there was a handshake, that the body of the analysand arrives to the session to be put in the dressing room, so that the subject, stripped from the routine of his reality, could be transformed into a pure emitter of words, as much as possible.[3] Sometimes these virtual sessions allow to lodge with the analyst a dream, a slip, a bungled action, a worsening of the symptom, and for the analyst to respond by a meaningful interpretation. However, these operations remain in the order of a ”[…] lucubration of knowledge about a real.”[4]

Once it is admitted that the real and jouissance are the result of an encounter between the signifier and the speaking body,[5] it is clear that presence is essential to touch this real. As Jacques-Alain Miller points out,[6] if the body is placed on the couch to be put in parentheses and absent as an image, it is precisely this absence correlated to the principle of abstinence that makes present the real of the sexual non-relation. Furthermore, the body must be present so that outside-of-meaning interpretation can touch the body. Many analysands remember some gestures of their analyst that produced a body event, that turned their lives upside-down, that sliced off a bit of their jouissance and that had a real effect. The same gestures staged in front of a camera and transmitted by Skype or Zoom would have a comical effect. It is because jouissance as pegged to the body cannot be hit in absentia.

Nevertheless, a dialectic is required here. If psychoanalysis has no standards, it does have principles.[7] The presence of the body of the analysand and the analyst at the analytic session could be considered as one of those principles. But to adhere to our principles without fail, we transform them into standards. In this period of confinement where the possibility of the meeting of bodies is almost reduced to zero, not only because it is prohibited, but also because it is impossible without risk, a use of the means of remote communication seems to indicated in some cases, provided that we have an idea of what we are doing.

A practice of consultation by these means, in a CPCT for example, does not effect the principle of presence necessary for the analytic cure, because we do not consider that a telephone conversation is a cure. Rather, we rely on a principle coined by Jacques-Alain Miller: “there are no contra-indications to the encounter with the psychoanalyst”.[8] In other words, in certain cases, if an analytical cure is contra-indicated, an encounter with a psychoanalyst is not necessarily so. Paraphrasing this principle, let’s say that in particular moments, there is no contra-indication to an exchange of a psychoanalyst with his analysands by means of remote communication.

Éric Laurent proposed “to make use of Skype in order to bypass it.”[9] This formula echoes the use of the Name of the Father that Lacan proposes once he devalues it and makes it pure semblant: to bypass it, on the condition that one make use of it.[10] Skype and other means of remote communication, sinthomes of the culture of our time, can be considered as a bridge built above the non-rapport of the sexual relation, provided that one can then do without it, that is to say that a presence is made possible at another time. The Skype conversation is not the same as a face-to-face meeting, it is its evocation. If it cannot be considered as an analytical session, it can be inscribed as a recall [un rappel] to a possible meeting.[11]

This recall of presence takes on its meaning if we consider that in psychoanalysis the subject’s time is logical, not objective. As Jacques-Alain Miller points out, logical time belies value of mere evidence that is given to succession in objective time. It is a “singular temporality that includes Lacan’s retroactive schema […] a re-election of anterior and posterior relationships.”[12] We could therefore consider that a telephone call constitutes a recall of a presence which had taken place in the past or which will eventually take place in the future.

We do not know how long this disaster will last and the resulting containment measures. Be that as it may, the crisis lasts over time, an objective time, and it is here that there seems to be an interest in introducing subjective and logical temporality, against objective and successive temporality. Hence the importance of the concept of recalling [de rappeler]: recalling the presence, without wanting to make this recall equivalent to the thing itself. The implications here are clinical, but also political. It is a question of ensuring that psychoanalysis is not forgotten.


Translated by Joanne Conway



Originally published in French in L’Hebdo-Blog, Issue 198, 5th April 2020. Available online.

[1] Miller J.-A., “The Unconscious and the Speaking Body”, Scilicet, The Speaking Body : On the Unconscious in the 21st Century, Paris, NLS, 2015 p.36. (First published in English in Hurly-Burly 12, pp. 119-132, 2015).

[2] Lacan J., “The Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of its Power”, Écrits, The First Complete Edition in English, Edited by J.-A. Miller, Transl. by B. Fink, Norton & Co. London: New York, 2006, p. 490.

[3] Miller J.-A., “The Couch. XXIst Century. Tomorrow the Globalisation of couches? Towards the portable body”, Interview by Eric Favreau, in  Libération, 3rd July, 1999. Available online.

[4]  Miller J.-A., “A Real for the 21st Century. Presentation of the IXth WAP Congress” Scilicet, A Real for the 21st Century, NLS, Paris, 2014, p. 32.

[5]  Cf. Miller J.-A., “The Unconscious and the Speaking Body”, op. cit., pp. 27-42.

[6]  Miller J.-A., “The Couch . […]” op. cit.

[7] Cf. The Lacanian practice of psychoanalysis: without standards but not without principles (La pratique lacanienne de la psychanalyse : sans standards mais pas sans principes) , IVth WAP Congress at Comandatuba, 2004, unpublished..

[8] Miller, J.-A., Contraindications to Psychoanalytical Treatment, Available online.

[9] Laurent, É., “Enjoying Internet” (Jouir d’internet), interview, in La Cause du désir, n°97, November 2017, p. 18.

[10] Cf. Lacan, J., The Sinthome, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XXIII, J.-A. Miller (Ed.), A.R. Price (trans.) London, Polity Press, 2016, p. 125.

[11] Cf. Proposition made by Éric Laurent during a debate to the NLS General Assembly twelve years ago.

[12] Ibid.