When I encounter, especially with young subjects, a sentence that begins with “I talked to …”, I find myself sometimes asking, ‘did the conversation take place in presence, by phone, or in writing?’ It seems that the distinction between these different modes does not produce a disturbance in the speech sequence of those subjects.

The phenomenon of blurring the modes of encounter provoked thoughts about the widespread use of virtual means in the School in the Covid-19 era. In its early stages, the experience of ease around virtual accessibility bothered me, as I was aware of the jouissance that accompanied the “time saving” and the “less effort” involved in not mobilizing the body to the session. In my position as an analyst, feelings of heaviness and too much effort appeared. A disturbing question arose: can psychoanalysis exist without the presence of the body? In later stages, the prolonged use of virtual means began to push the analytical experience to the edge, between the unbearable and the impossible.

In the social phenomenon from which I started, what appeared at first glance, as a phenomenon of blurring, seemed at second glance to carry cuts and particular preferences. For instance, there is that which requires the presence of the body and is “not for the phone”. Or one can send a written message and disappear, without any desire to develop a conversation. These seemed to me as attempts to write the sexual relation.

In an interview with Jacques-Alain Miller (1), he addresses the question of the virtual impact on the analytic session. Miller says that unlike the social field where you can find in a bed for two, your body and the body of another, the couch is “a bed for one”. It causes the appearance of a paradox: the sexual relation is present, and yet absent. The analyst must be present with his body for his absence from the couch to be noticed. The analysand’s body must be present for his body to be experienced as stripped from its activity and its own image. This paradox emphasizes the impossibility of writing the sexual relation.

Miller concludes that the virtual modes of presence will stumble in the face of the sabotage of the real of the analytical session, and lead to the disappearance of this paradox. The analysand might imagine that when the analyst is in his room, thousands of miles away from the analysand’s body, the analysand is alone – but in bed, and that the meaning of the sexual non-rapport is equal to no sexual relationships.

The crucial point does not concern the danger of blurring the analyst’s abstinence, but rather the fact that language does not entirely cover the real; the analyst’s silence is not due to phone line interruptions. It is the condition for language not to be perceived as a means of communication, but as a “pure” speech that effects the analysand’s body.

Miller stresses that in psychoanalysis, more than the couch, it is the analyst who puts himself in the place of the object. I read this comment as the ethical responsibility of the psychoanalyst to not withdraw from the discontent of his time. That means, as a first step, that he should not identify with the virtual sabotage. And that he must induce, through his act, a disturbance to the jouissance, which is nourished by blurring the modes of encounter. As a second step, without the couch and the presence of the analyst’s and analysand’s bodies in the same room, the analyst will have to invent new ways to sustain the paradox of the sexual non-rapport, which is fundamental to maintaining the real of the analytical session.

(1)  https://www.liberation.fr/cahier-special/1999/07/03/le-divan-xx1-e-siecle-demain-la-mondialisation-des-divans-vers-le-corps-portable-par-jacques-alain-m_278498