When you are going to encounter a psychoanalyst, you encounter a partner – a new partner you have not encountered in your life and with whom you are going to play a new part (partie). So that for this part to take place you must both, you and him, be there in person. The part is played solely in speech. But why? Why does one add to one’s life this part to be played and this partner of speech, this supplementary interlocutor who in addition speaks so little as it must be confessed? One does it when one does not find oneself there with partners in one’s life. Of course, it would be simpler if there was such a thing as the sexual instinct. Quite simply, if the sexual instinct existed in human space, there would not be psychoanalysis because we would not have to ask ourselves any questions. That’s because there would be a blind, mute force which would guide you and lead you towards the partner that you must have, the type of partner, the standard type, the one who corresponds to you. Well, that would probably be the ideal. Besides, it is probably the idea or the ideal that one can have concerning the sexuality of animals. There is no need to be a psychoanalyst to know that this is not how things happen in the human space. Human sexuality does not pass through the instinct. Human being does not go straight to his partner. He has to pass through a whole labyrinth, through mazes, through a true palace of mirages, through impasses and his sexuality is shattered, problematic, contradictory and in the end, we can say, painful. There is no instinct, there are most complicated functions – there is desire, jouissance, love. And on top of that all these do not agree, do not harmonise, do not converge on the partner who would be the good of which one would have the certainty that it is the good.
First desire. Desire is not an instinct because the instinct knows, even if this knowledge remains opaque. The instinct says silently always the same thing, it is constant. Desire, on the contrary, does not know, is always linked to another question, is itself a question: what do I truly desire? Is it my true desire? Is my desire a good or a bad one, is it harmful, is it forbidden? Is what I believe to be my desire not an illusion? And this question about desire can lead to perplexity, to immobilisation. Therefore, desire does not know. Of course, there is what I demand. What I demand I believe to desire but is it what I truly desire? Then, in distinction to the instinct, desire is not constant, it is not invariable, but, if one can say so, intermittent, it goes and comes. It circulates, sometimes it is dispersed, sometimes it is focused, sometimes it is even annulled, vanished. I say then that I am bored or depressed. Here is something, someone I really desire. Here I get it. And suddenly, at the moment when it is offered to my jouissance, when I would only have to enjoy (jouir) it, here the desire is eclipsed. But if I enjoy (jouis) it, is it getting better? It can turn out that every time I enjoy something or someone. I enjoy them less. What I have enjoyed is less valuable. And my desire is more diminished.
Therefore, even if my desire is intense, this intensity does not give any permanent guarantee, either to me or to the other, because desire can be displaced or fade away or decrease with time. Furthermore, desire is not only mine. The instinct is. It is supposed to be inscribed in my nature, to function automatically. But this is not the case of desire. Desire depends on the circumstances, on the situation and most of all on the Other to whom it is addressed. My desire is linked to the desire of the Other in many ways. My desire can echo the Other’s desire. Then, it is necessary that the Other desires so that I desire in turn. Then I watch for the signs of his desire in order to desire. This can mean to say to desire what he desires, to confirm to me what he desires. But this can also mean to say that I have to desire a different thing than the one he desires so that my desire is mine for me, so that I am myself. So that I do not vanish in his desire. This desire for the Other who solicits me, incites me, wants something from me that disturbs (dérange) me in my routine, I can also hate him, desire to exterminate him, to abhor his manifestations, obliterate his signs. There is yet another way to find in the desire of the Other desire a compass for mine, it is that it poses an obstacle, a limit, a law, that it prohibits desire. It is that he says this does not have to be desired. I know where the desirable is. I know then that what is desirable is what is guilty, that to which one does not have a right, what is forbidden.
Of course, I would be able to give examples, but I am not going to give any. It is you who give them because I think that everyone can find to be recognised in what I say here at one moment or another, on one side or another, but to recognise their neighbours, partners. But yes, in these descriptions, even if they are allusive, one can recognise oneself as can others, precisely because desire is a bond, an ultra-sensible relation with the sign of the Other. Because desire passes from one to another, is communicated, reversed. And it is also the mirror to the skylarks, that is to say it is deceptive.
But there is also something else than desire. There is jouissance and at this level one cannot recognise oneself. At this level there is no human partner At this level one does not have a human partner who is either of the other sex or of the same sex. There, there is a relentless demand (exigence) that in Freud’s terms is called the drive. A demand that does not quench like thirst, which does not satisfy like hunger, an imperative, absolute demand, which cannot be expressed in words, but which is insatiable, always wants more, does not know limits or end of time. This demand has no face, no head, it is acephallic. Nor does it cling to the person of the other either, but only seeks self-fulfillment, to buckle its loop on itself by means of something that allows the body to enjoy (jouir) itself. This something that the drive needs, and without which it is anxiety, was recognised by Freud first in different pieces of the body but he also noticed that these body pieces of the body were also replaceable by lures, by semblants. And what is this lure? It is the small piece of fabric that the child begs for to fall asleep and which mysteriously calms him, but it is also the most elaborate artistic object or the most recent technological object, and that is for each an essential partner. But it is not human. It is inhuman or rather a-human and it does not lead you directly to the sexual partner, it is not at all the same as the sexual partner. It is bizarre, no doubt, but that’s what Freud’s discovery and what we do again in a psychoanalysis: it is that there is the side of desire and the side of jouissance and that these two sides do not fit naturally. There is an abyss, a break between the two. Eroticism as they say is not all in one piece. It is divided.
Fortunately, between jouissance and desire, there is love. Love allows us to believe that all this holds together: on the one side the sexual partner, on the other side the a-human partner who needs jouissance. Love allows us to believe that this makes one and even allows us to believe that you make one with your partner. And it even happens that through love you obtain, you create a superhuman, divine partner, God himself. Only love is aleatory. Love always depends on an encounter, it is never written down in advance. The way in which desire, pleasure and love combine is very special to everyone and it depends on chance. We experience this through psychoanalysis. We always end up showing that sexuality, the rapport to sex is determined for each person by an encounter, at random, by a certain chance. And precisely because it is not written in advance, we cannot give a general formula of it, valid for all. There on this point, concerning sexual rapport in the human species, science must declare forfeit. There on this point it is impossible to find a formula inscribed in the reality of things, in the real, a formula which the sexual rapport would obey. We would say that everything in this world knows what to do, planets and animals. For the former, there is the formula of gravitation, for the latter, there is instinct, but between men and women the sexual rapport is not programmed, is not written in a program in advance.
So instead of the missing formula, what is there? There is a whole variety. The unpredictable variety of human sexuality. There are the encounters of love, there are the repetitions of desire, there are the traumatisms of jouissance and these encounters, these repetitions – these traumas are always surprising. Impossible predictions, impotent pedagogies and prevention of course cannot do anything because the sexual rapport with the other not being written in advance, it is invented. There is always an element of invention in a couple. No doubt there is a logic at work, but it is not universal, it is particular to everyone and we can only reconstitute it retroactively. What is this logic? This is the way in which everyone deals with the lack of sexual programming if I may say so. And we can only deal with traviole, with a certain failure, that is, with a symptom. Anytime a person has what appears to be intercourse, it is always symptomatic. A bond, a union which in reality does not meet any norm, any normality. The norm, normality, are only appearances.
What is behind, what is most real behind is a symptom. Of course, there are symptoms that we can cure, cease to make use of, but there is an inescapable symptom, one that we cannot be cured of because it comes from an absence in the real, from the absence of a model, of law, of sexual relation. As for this incurable symptom, which is present in sexuality as such, we cannot really give it a solution. It remains an enigma. We can only make do with it. To do a psychoanalysis is to delimit, extricate, isolate the way in which you encountered the sexual enigma. It is to lighten up how your unconscious has interpreted this enigma, and it is to find a better way to deal with it.
Translated by Bogdan Wolf
This is a transcription of the 14th episode of the series “History of… psychoanalysis”, broadcaste by France Culture on June 16th, 2005. Source: www.causefreudienne.net/linvention-du-partenaire