Tuesday, July 16, 2013

16 July 2013

Leo Bersani [Wisconsin]
Adam Phillips [Commonweal]

psychoanalysis has misled us into believing, in its quest for normative life stories, that knowledge of oneself is conducive to intimacy, that intimacy is by definition personal intimacy, and that narcissism is the enemy, the saboteur, of this personal intimacy considered to be the source and medium of personal development. Psychoanalysis tells us, in short, that our lives depend on our recognition that other people — those vital others that we love and desire — are separate from us, “beyond our control” as we say, despite the fact that this very acknowledgment is itself productive of so much violence. Difference is the one thing we cannot bear. The dialogue of this book is a working out of a new story about intimacy, a story that prefers the possibilities of the future to the determinations of the past.

“Psychoanalysis is about what two people can say to each other if they agree not to have sex.” . . .

The new Penguin translations of Freud translate das Es, accurately, as “the It.” James Strachey’s Latinizing of the term as the Id in the standard edition of Freud’s work improperly removes it from ordinary language, and in so doing it misses its flat neutrality. Das Es, Freud tells us, is the repository of repressed sexual impulses; the word itself, however, both in German and in its precise English translation, suggests something beyond, or, more accurately, before all characterization. The It is unconscious not because (or not only because) it is the hiding place of the repressed; rather, the unconscious It, lodged within a subject that it vastly exceeds, is the reservoir of possibility, of all that might be but is not. . . . think of the unconscious as before consciousness . . . The It in the I transforms subjecthood from psychic density into pure potentiality . . .

There is, I have been suggesting, a mode of talk . . . a verbal play with the unspecifiable It of pure potentiality. The analytic exchange is psychoanalysis’s brilliant discovery of a relational context that needs, indeed allows for nothing more than virtual being. . . . the reprehensible failure to add passion to talk. . . . The impersonal intimacy of the psychoanalytic dialogue, the intimate talk without sex, might be re-experienced as an intimacy without passion. . . . to endure the sexual . . . to emerge on the other side of the sexual. But where is that? . . .

a special kind of talk unconstrained by any consequences other than further talk. . . . conversation suspended in virtuality. . . . willingness to entertain any possibility of behavior or thought as only possibility. . . . to free desiring fantasies from psychological constraints, thereby treating the unconscious not as the determinant depth of being but, instead, as de-realized being, as never more than potential being. . . . a love freed from demand.

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