Volume 2: Cases and Commentary in a Lacanian Key
Bruce Fink joins me for a second interview to discuss Volume 2 of Against Understanding: Cases and Commentary in a Lacanian Key (Routledge, 2014). We talk about everything from desire, jouissance, and love to variable-length sessions and “why anyone in their right mind would pay for analysis.” Just like one might go to a personal trainer to shed some pounds, one goes to an analyst to lose something. We often enter analysis against our will and immediate interests, kicking and screaming, to have our symptoms – the sources of our most precious satisfaction and exquisite misery — taken away. We pay, in other words, to be castrated. This is a better deal than it initially seems: we cede self-pity related to primordial loss – the loss of something we never had in the first place – in order to be able to pursue our desire and derive more joy from our enjoyment.
In the second volume of Against Understanding, the initial chapters on practice and technique cover fundamental questions like the goal of analysis, ethics, diagnosis and fantasy. Next there are several close readings of Lacan’s papers and seminars on Kant and Sade, semblance, personality, and love. The Cases section takes up the themes of the earlier chapters, demonstrating Fink’s talent for communicating complex ideas in a direct and remarkably limpid style. He wades through Lacan’s explanation of why and how both sadists and masochists seek to stage the other’s anxiety; discusses the role semblance-as-ideology might play in fantasy; and interpolates Freud’s phases of “a child is being beaten” to get at the specific ways several of his analysands fantasize and enjoy.
True to Lacanian theory and practice, Fink does not lay emphasis on affect and empathy as central facets of technique in the book. Yet, during our interview, as he discusses his reluctance to display mastery in case presentations and reveals his willingness to stretch (and not only scand) sessions of patients in crisis, his compassion and humility are very much in evidence.