Philosophy Hammer
Philosophy, Economics, Politics & Psychology Tested with a Hammer

35: Jacques Lacan part III:
Psychopathology, Neurosis, Perversion and Psychosis

Summary by: Jeff McLaren

         A psychopathology is a psychic structure that dominates our lives (Q1). Each one is a deeply internalized heuristic that has in the past been successful in providing the comfort necessary to overcome the difficulties in life associated with the development of Demands and Desires and the traumas of the Real. There are three broad categories of psychopathology: Psychosis, Perversion and Neurosis; neurosis is further broken down into two types of neurosis: Hysteria and Obsession (Q2).
         All people have a 'first choice' psychopathology that is always called upon first; the choice was made in early infancy around the time of the mirror stage of development. But it is possible to act in the form of another psychopathology. Most people (perhaps as high as 95%) are neurotic (this means that most people chose neurosis as children to overcome the trauma of their young lives). In Lacan's experience most women are hysterical and most men are obsessive most of the time. Everyone except psychos can and do move around the psychopathological categories however the one dominant category is the true personality of the individual the rest are acts (or over acting acts)(Q3). In order to determine the psychopathology (so as to apply the best psychotherapy) one must listen to the patient and this can be tricky since most of us can act within the bounds of the other psychopathologies.
         Neurosis: Hysteria
         Most hysterical symptoms include: being overly busy for others, fussy over others and concerned about others. Common complaints center on the demands of others or the fear of losing the demands of others. Hard work is the solution that protects most hysterics from facing their conflicts. The result is that hysterics are often hyper-active or exhausted; driven, resentful and stressed.
         The hysteric has one major desire which she under emphasizes by over emphasizing the desires of others. The conflict between the drives of her Id and the duties of her Superego is such that her ego has created lies that overstate the importance of the other's demands so that she does not have to face her own conflicts. She speaks and acts as if the demands of others are her personal responsibility (whether it is true or not). When a hysteric wrongly identifies her personal responsibility to a degree that is intensely harmful to her life she may benefit from a line of questioning that seeks to discover the idiom that defines her symptoms. Examples of advice that will not work (at least until the underlying conflict has been identified) are: relax; take a holiday; get your own hobbies (Q4).
         Neurosis: Obsession
         Most obsessional symptoms include: starting many projects and never finishing any; believing that one has to do (or not do) some ritual (such as: chewing food 40 times; not stepping on cracks). Common complaints center on how nothing in life seems to work out and on how difficult it is to choose anything.
         The obsessional has two major desires which he believes are in conflict (whether it is true or not is not important to him). The obsessional believes that if he acts on one desire he will eliminate the possibility of the second. Therefore he is stuck and unable to move forward in life towards his desires due to a fear that he will ruin one of his true desires. Usually the obsessional's Id has its desire and his Superego has its own opposing desire too. The obsessional's ego refuses to eliminate one and so keeps both desires alive by preventing the obsessional from ever achieving either desire. By allowing the obsessional to work towards one desire the ego gives some jouissance. As he gets closer to his goal, the intensity of his jouissance diminishes as the worry and frustration of possibly losing the other desire grows. At this point the obsessional gets more jouissance by pursuing the second desire at the expense of the first. The result is that there is a back and forth and no forward movement. Examples of advice that will not work (at least until the underlying conflict has been identified) are: just make a decision; do your best; never give up (Q5).
         The phallus is a signifier of apparently veiled power or movement but in actuality at a deeper level it is a signifier of the veiled desire of the other. Its opposite is called castration. Their mutual ebb and flow structures all the relations between the sexes (as we will discuss next time in Lacan part 4). The pervert gets his jouissance from symptoms which distinguish the phallus from the penis (Q6).
         Perversion is usually the most enjoyable (or at least most satisfaction generating) of the psychic structures. The enjoyable nature is often heightened by the transgressive nature of most perversions.
         Psychos really are the crazy people in the world. The rest of us can live with inconsistency and incompleteness in our language; we learn to adapt as necessary. Psychos do not. Some of their definitions are far too strict (where we would make allowances for other meanings; psychos stick to one meaning) and some of their definitions are too wide (where we would never make a conceptual connection; psychos might). Therefore some of the greatest geniuses and some of the greatest criminals in human history have likely been psychotic (Q7).
         Q1 Lacan believed that due to the trauma of life we are all broken and have developed self-deceiving coping mechanisms that help us get through life. For him there is no mentally healthy person; there is only degrees of neurosis and perversion (or you are a psycho). Do you accept that we are all self-deceiving and therefore all suffer from a psycho-pathological disease?
         Q2 Lacan's psychopathology's classification system seems to cover all possible cases: 1) psychological symptoms that are symbolic and in the mind are neurosis (internal conflict only); 2) psychological symptoms that are physical are perversions (internal conflict with the world) and 3) psychological symptoms which breaks with language are psychosis (fragmented or no internal conflict – with or against the world). Does this really cover all possibilities? Or is there another source or aspect of internal conflict in conflict with the real world?
         Q3 Is it conceivable that our principle heuristic for functioning in life was set in early childhood? People can change many things in their lives and thoughts but Lacan believed that once a neurotic always a neurotic – unlike believes and preferences your psychic structure is something you cannot change. Do you believe that people can change their basic heuristic or are we condemned to acting?
         Q4 Modern psychology considers hysteria to be an atavism; an old remnant of a bad science. A partial list of what was formerly referred to as hysteria is now labeled: dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, dissociative identity disorder, depersonalization disorder, and dissociative disorder etc. Lacan would claim that these disorders are actually the solutions some individuals come up with to hide their deeper problems. Is there any advantage to keeping the term Hysteria?
         Q5 Do these descriptions really sound like they would be biologically influenced? If so why? If not how do we explain that in Lacan's clinical practice most women were hysterics and most men were obsessionals?
         Q6 Lacan's explanation of a male flasher's motivation goes like this: The flasher believes his woman victim has a special power: the phallus because she can move or excite him. He believes that he can symbolically castrate her (that is take away her phallus) by showing her his penis and pointing out that she doesn't have one. A reaction that shows shock or surprise is the flasher's jouissance and is usually interpenetrated to symbolically represent a woman's acknowledgement that she does not have the phallus. This 'acknowledgement' is the victory of the flasher to castrate the phallus holder for the purpose of reestablishing his possession of the phallus. Do you detect any truth in this explanation or is it all to far out?
         Q7 Lacan equates some criminals with some geniuses by claim that abnormal language meanings are the cause of the criminality or the inventiveness. Progress in knowledge or technology is caused by the same language deficiency that causes some criminal behaviour. Is this believable that there is a link or similarity between genius and criminality? If it is, should we want to have genius children knowing that they are also potentially psychotic criminals?
         Lacan use the idea of the phallus function and the castration complex to explain the desires that structure of all human relations from childhood to old age. Next time we will see how the Id, the Ego, the Superego, the Imaginary, the Symbolic, the Real, our needs, our demands, our desires, our fantasies and our psychopathologies interact to shape our lives.

© 2008 - 2018, James Jeff McLaren