There is perhaps a tendency to think the symptom as a sort of tick. You are before your symptom whenever you have a repetitive twitch, perpetually fail in some repeated endeavor, can’t help saying a particular word, and so on. Yet perhaps a better way of thinking the symptom is as a way of receiving or even welcoming the Other. As Lacan liked to emphasize, the words of the Other always carry a certain surplus. “You’re telling me this, but what is it that you really mean?” Were there words an act of seduction, an act of aggression, an act of rejection, an act of indifference? This person here is talking to me, but what is the desire behind their talk. To say the symptom is a way of receiving the Other is to say that the symptom fills out this anxiety provoking void. A friend recently pointed out to me that I often take comments addressed to me in a hostile manner, interpreting them as criticisms or attacks, rather than as elaborations of what I’ve said building on that thought and exploring it. This would be a sort of symptom, a way of welcoming the Other. Of course, in welcoming the Other in this way the Other doesn’t feel very welcome. Indeed, the symptom drives the Other off, beats them down.
The aim of analysis is a sort of fundamental re-orientation of the symptom; a transfiguration of the co-ordinates within which you experience the symptom. The symptom allows for infinite variation, but it produces the monotony of the same. Like an algebraic function– F(x) = 2x –we plug in the values of x (all the Others we encounter), and we get an infinite series, but they are all variations of the same pattern: for 2 we get 4, for 3 we get 6, for 4 we get eight. Always the same welcome of the Other fit into the function without the Other ever arriving.
What would it really mean to welcome the Other? Lacan says that the analyst’s desire is an impure desire: that it desires absolute difference… That difference that composes the analysand. Of course, judging by the case studies we hear at Clinical Days and psychoanalytic interpretations in the world of theory, this is seldom achieved. But all the same… What would it mean to truly welcome the Other? What would it mean to hear beyond the symptom or the frame? I think of all the voices that have fallen silent in the last two years. Bloggers that grew quiet. Conversations that fell off. Blogs that went cold. All of these encounters gone. Did I not welcome beyond my symptom? Did I murder the difference of alterity? What would it mean to encounter in such a way that your difference is not effaced or absorbed, while truly welcoming the stranger, the Nebensmensch? What would it mean to escape the logic of Territory.