Saturday, 19 July 2008


After receiving the news about the acceptance of my article in the journal, I sabotaged its pleasure by a week's worth of recoiling from the public. Why did I sabotage it? In 1916, Freud wrote about a clinical 'surprise' he called Versagung (frustration). For Freud, the general principle of psychoanalysis as a curing procedure is to ask patients to give up some of the pleasures, i.e. pleasures that are symptomatic of the traumatic memory (for him, the traumatic memory necessarily goes back to the primal scene). By surrendering these pleasures, the patients would be able to rationalise their traumas, which would generate a higher form of pleasure than those the mind invented in order to cover up their traumatic memories. It surprised Freud that there were patients who refused to surrender (in Žižk's words, they surrendered the surrender), and considered the psychoanalytical process of uncovering their traumatic memories too traumatic to bear. These patients often imagined protectors (for Lacan, the Other of the Other) to protect them from being exposed to these traumatic memories.

One type of such patients sabotaged their successes by escaping into guilt. Freud observed that in such cases, pleasure is completely censored by a one-sided 'ethical' debate proposed by the ego. The 'ethical' stance that the ego takes, for Freud, is the parricidal and incestuous ban he propounded in Totem and Taboo. If I follow Freud wholeheartedly, my own sabotaging of my pleasure did stem from my parricidal fear for 'taking over' the idea and teaching of my professor on the one hand, and perhaps in its mise en abîme, my own parricidal fear that initiated this blog a couple of weeks ago on the other.

Žižek obviously wouldn't allow me to stop there. The ego is the Law of the Father, which is instantiated by the father who is already dead, articulated in the symbolic order as the phallic father. Versagung is therefore, first and foremost, a result of the objet petit a blocking the enjoyment of the subject, a piece of the real (the truth that the father is already been murdered by the son), the symptom of the patricide itself. For Žižek, therefore, by surrendering the surrender, the subject completely enjoys the symptom, and externalises her/himself as the real. As a result, the subject fully realises that the father is already dead, only that he shouldn't let the father himself knows. The real, being 'outside' subjectivity (but it is precisely from this 'being-outside' that subjectivity is formed and split), is lawless. In this sense, Versagung represents to Žižek a mode of resistance, by which the Law of the Father is suspended not for the constitution of subjectivity, but an eternal escape into this state of lawlessness as an end itself.

Now, I'm back again facing the public, and I have spent an afternoon re-arranging all my furniture for therapeutic purpose. Perhaps all of these effort to 'cure' myself from Versagung is symptomatic of my inability to surrender the surrender, a fear for the spoiled spot on the screen that is the return of the repressed.

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