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GUY LE GAUFEY

THE TIGHT-ROPE WALKERS


The idea according to which Freud began with psychoanalysis by putting an end to his practice of
hypnosis is generally very well accepted today. In spite of some criticism which claims that the
connection is not so obvious, the analytic community (lets suppose for the moment that such a thing
exists) holds to this assertion through thic and thin. !ut it is e"ually evident that something from
hypnosis had been ept alive in the new techni"ue of free association, and a simple loo at two of Freuds
texts will be enough to support this# the first one written in the glorious time of hypnosis, the latter, ten
years later, in Die Traumdeutung.
The former text, the little nown and not much read Psychische Behandlung, was an essay
written in $%&', to be included in a collective boo whose title was# Die Gesundheit: Ihre Erhaltung,
ihre Strung, ihre Wiederherstellung ((ealth# its preservation, its troubles, its return). !ecause this boo
was nown only in its third edition (dated $&')), this essay is even attributed to $&') in the Standard
Editin, which seems clearly impossible given its contents# an emotional defence in favour of hypnosis, a
techni"ue which, according to this Freud, represented *a progress in the art of healing+.
,uring the $%%'s, as a medical practitioner strongly impressed by -harcot and !ernheim (whom
he was in the process of translating), he used hypnosis almost daily. In this essay, after a long
introduction about the importance of words in the relation between body and mind, he gives a brief
account of the means through which hypnosis can be achieved. .fter having given an account of how
many and multifarious these can be, he sums them up in a single sentence #
!ut the same result can be brought about by describing the onset of the state of
hypnosis and its characteristics "uietly and firmly to the sub/ect 0 that is, by
1taling him into2 hypnosis
$
.
Isnt it bi3arre, this 1taling him into2
4
5 !ut here 6trachey had to translate a sort of Freudien pun#
!enn man "#$ ihr die %y&nse als 'einredet(. *7inreden+ is rather pe/orative a verb in 8erman9 it
$ 6. Freud, *:sychical (or ;oral) Treatment+, Standard Editin, <ondon, (ogarth :ress, $&)=, vol. >, p. 4&?.
4. ;ore bi3arre in the French translation than in 7nglish, where the verb *to tal into+ is a precise and good
translation. !ut the French language is here compelled to elaborate a long proposition# *autrement dit en lui insinuant
lhypnose par la parole+.
The tight)r&e !al*ers, &. +
generally means 1to mae someone believe in something2, or even 1swallow it 0 hoo, line and siner2.
.nd through his inverted comas Freud suggests that this common verb has to be translated as 6trachey
did# ein)reden, to tal into, to tal inside. Irrespective of the order given by the hypnotist (*sleep+, or
anything else), the ey to hypnosis is clearly lined for Freud with the success in 1taling the patient
into2. @hat does that mean5 That is too big a "uestion for us to answer it now, if indeed it is even
possible.
<ets rather suppose that such a state is established. To what end5 Freud is then clear#
(ypnosis endows the physician with an authority such as was probably never
possessed by the priest or the miracle man, since it concentrates the sub/ects whole
interest upon the figure of the physician9 it does away with the autocratic power of
the patients mind which, as we have seen, interferes so capriciously with the
influence of the mind over the body
=
.
This *autocratic power+ is extremely interesting. It appears twice in this text, under two forms#
Eigenm,chtig*eit, and Sel-sherrlich*eit, which are so close to each other that the French translator
decided to stic to a single word (*autocratisme+), and 6trachey choses respectively *autocratic power+
and *autocratic nature+. .ccording to Freud, the main benefit of hypnosis would be the putting aside of
this autocratic power which every human being is naturally able to bring into action, a power then
described as a very strong obstacle on the way to acting upon the body by means of the mind. 6o, if we
could put it offside momentarily, we could wor in association with the powers of the mind as a surgeon
wors in agreement with the functioning of the body under anaesthesia.
<ater on, when Freud changed his way of *operating+ thans to his new *fundamental rule+ of
free association, his aim, with respect to this Eigenm,chtig*eit, remained the same as the one from the
time of hypnosis# to put it offside. The first time he apparently conveyed this fundamental rule 0 that is,
to FraAlein 7lisabeth 0, he told her thatB
CBD perhaps she thought that her idea was not the right one9 this I told her was not
her affair9 she was under an obligation to remain completely ob/ective and say what
had come into her head, whether it was appropriate or not
?
.
This clear dismissal of the patients authority over his stream of thoughts and, in conse"uence of
the fundamental rule, over his stream of words, is the main characteristic of psychoanalytical treatment to
this very day.
The fact that the fundamental rule follows the line of hypnosis is nowhere more visible than in the
last page of the first part of the famous seventh chapter of the Inter&retatin . Dreams, whose title is
*The Forgetting of ,reams+. @ith the help of a new terminology, in which the expression *purposive
idea+ is crucial, Freud now reEdefines his rule as an instructin given to the patient not to bother
=. I-id., p. 4&%.
?. 6. Freud, Studies n %ysteria, 6tandard 7dition, vol. II, p. $)?.
The tight)r&e !al*ers, &. /
worrying about having purposive ideas during the session. @hich allows him to add immediately that two
purposive ideas always remain at stae#
@hen I instruct a patient to abandon reflection of any ind and to tell me whatever
comes into his head, I am relying .irmly n the assum&tin that he !ill nt -e a-le
t a-andn the &ur&si0e idea inherent t the treatment CBD There is another
purposive idea of which the patient has no suspicion 0 ne relating t mysel.
)
.
The second one refers undoubtedly to that *figure of the physician+ mentioned in a previous
"uotation, the one to which the patients autocratic power has slipped, and who is now in charge of this
authority *never possessed by the priest or the miracle man+. The first one is essential too# the patient is
supposed (*I am relying firmly n the assum&tin ) not to abandon the idea that all . this is nly a
treatment. .nd this is in agreement with a double statement Freud maes in the same text. (e notices that
the power of the hypnotist is such that the patient is *completely tractable+ (you could tell him to tae a
bite out of a potato under the impression that it is a pear), but we must also recognise that *the best
hypnotic suggestion does not exercise unlimited power but only power of a definite strength
F
+.
@ith that, we are well armed with enough "uotations from Freud to adress the problem, or even
the paradox correctly# what if such a power is to be abandoned, but nt cm&letely 5 Is it /ust a hoax 5 If
you *give up your Gight of 8overning your selfe+ to someone, you are not supposed to eep a piece of it
in such a way that, if you no longer agree with what this one is asing you to do, you could brea off the
deal and recover the completeness of your right to govern yourself. The above "uotation comes from
1e0iathan, where (obbes expresses the deal that is supposed to stand at the very roots of the -ommonE
@ealth and citi3enship#
I .uthorise and give up my Gight of 8overning my selfe, to this ;an, or to this
.ssembly of men, on this condition, that you give up thy Gight to him, and
.uthorise all his .ctions, in lie manner
>
.
.s mythical as such a deal would be, once it is done, it is done. @e get a glimpse of this when
something lie a riot occurs, where a politic power in charge is outflaned by forces its police cannot
control. The reasoning, in the aftermath, is always the same# the riots were triggered by *strangers+, or by
*irresponsible elements+, which clearly means people who were not, or no longer are citi3ens, because
this power 0 which I do not suppose here to be stupid or dumb 0 is strictly unable to conceive that a
citi3en could withdraw the authorisation through which this very power exists. .s a citi3en, you have the
right (at least democratically speaing) to fight the people in charge, but you are never allowed to fight
this power itself because, in so doing, you would also destroy the citi3en in you, you would be turning
your violence against yourself, which, in the logic of a @elfare 6tate, is paradoxical. Hour right to govern
yourself cannot be understood as a right to put the roots of the politic power, and therefore the roots of
). 6. Freud, The Inter&retatin . Dreams, <ondres, $&%4, :enguin !oos, p. F&&. Italics are mine.
F. 6. Freud, *:sychical Treatment+, &. cit., p. =''.
>. T. (obbes, 1e0iathan, -ambridge, -ambridge Iniversity :ress, $&&F, p. $4'.
The tight)r&e !al*ers, &. 2
citi3enship, into "uestion. .t least, it is unconceivable, for very good (obbesian (and republican, and
democratic) reasons.
There is also another way of looing at this strange abandonment of any Eigenm,chtig*eit, a very
modern one arising from some new standards in sexuality9 I refer to sadoEmasochistic rituals, or 6J;
practice as it is called today. Kne is supposed to actually abandon any power of turning down the whims
of the other, and to submit oneself entirely to the sadistic caprices of this other, the common aim of both
parties being the attainment of better climaxes. ;ore generally, in his now famous paper *Is the Gectum
a 8rave 5
%
+, <eo !ersani draws our attention to the fact that powerlessness could actually be something
decisive in sexual pleasure, insofar as, he suggests, *There is a big secret about sex# most people dont
lie it+. They would not lie it -ecause they would feel, somehow, that such a powerlessness constitutes
part of the price to be paid, whether one is male or female, leading each to a momentary loss of sexual
identity, something the machoEstyle is forced to deny constantly through pro/ecting it onto a construction
named *femininity+.
In each of these different cases (hypnosis, analysis, <eviathan, 6J;), and in spite of their
numerous dissimilarities, the turning point is the same# someone is supposed to have agreed, on /oining in
such a game, that heLshe
&
is not able 5 allowed 5 to go bac on it. @e easily relieve our conscience by
thining that he will be capable of stopping the game at any given time 0 but this is not so obvious. Kf
course this possibility remains conceivable from the cold viewpoint of an impartial observer who finds
himself standing outside, but the other one trapped in the game (the hypnotist, the analyst, the :rince, the
sadist) is not necessarily so opened up and *tractable+, and not because of any illEwill, but rather because
he is the one in charge of the game, and because he taes care of his business. @e now have to tae into
account something that is usually hidden by the posture of the free observer # in these games, n-dy is in
the place of a referee, or an umpire, able to say# *enough+, or *brea+, even in the most hidden reaches
of the mind of each one. There is here a fundamental dissymetry, which turns around the fact that one is
supposed to have .reely abandoned ones right of g0erning nesel.. If one does not, there is no game9 but
if one does, the usual paradoxes lined to intentinal ser0itude arise.
@ithout plunging more deeply into this philosophical maelstrom, lets note that our four examples
(hypnosis, analysis, <eviathan, 6L;) can be described as games in which, wether explicitly or implicitly,
an initial agreement is re"uired, but where there is, for all that, no clear picture of a .inal agreement. Kf
course, many benefits are expected in each case9 some relief from pain, a constitution and a -ommonE
@ealth, new intensities of pleasureB !ut they all depend on a certain &!erlessness, an abandonment of
this bi3arre Eigenm,chtig*eit, a loss which is set as the price one has to pay to enter the game. Mo one
%. <eo !ersani, *Is the Gectum a 8rave 5+, in 3IDS 4ultural 3nalysis, 4ultural 3cti0ism, 7d. by ,ouglas
-rimp, an Kctober !oo, -ambridge, ;IT :ress, $&%>.
&. I dislie so much this politically correct grammatical couple that I will content myself from now on with
the trite machismo which uses only the masculine as generic.
The tight)r&e !al*ers, &. 5
will be suprised to discover, later on, that a central concept in each of these cases is that of *resistance+,
even if, with (obbes, this resistance is not so easy to locate. It is thans to (obbes, however, that we are
also able to touch another crucial point.
The :rince is he whose acts and words re&resent the acts and words of those who have abandoned
to him their right of governing themselves. 6o thus when this :rince says or does anything as a :rince, he
speas and acts as any of his *authors+ ((obbes word) would have spoen or acted in *lie manner+
(except that the :rince now has the power of the ensemble of these authors, each one named, from now
on, a *citi3en+). The power of this :rince over each citi3en is therefore unlimited because no one can
consciously rebel against him without rebelling against himself too. It is as simple as this# a citi3en is not
a slave, he is free !ithin the .rame!r* . that la! which the :rince is to concern himself with as every
citi3en has ased him to do. .nd there is not the least irony in it# freedom bears no relation with wildlife,
in spite of any romantic notions to the contrary. Gather, freedom is a conse"uence of a submission to an
unlimited &!er.
*Inlimited+ means precisely that no citi3en can draw a line in front of the law in such a manner as
to protect his freedom. It is rather difficult to thin calmly about these matters nowadays because we have
our heads filled with stories about how one has to protect oneself against some misuse of the law. I am
taling not about that, but only about the fact that freedom implies that the citi3en does not have the least
right to retract himself from the deal which maes him a citi3en, that is# a full respect for the law. The
difficulty here comes from a very common topological mistae# this *unlimited+ can be frightening if we
hear in this, as a mere synonym, the idea of an in.inite power. 6omething unlimited, however, is not
necessarily infiniteN . brief loo at a simple sphere is enough to put that idea in chec# there is not
*limit+ of any ind on its surface, yet this surface can nonetheless be perfectly finite. . plane, yes, or a
line is necessarily infinite if it is unlimited, but the idea of abandoning a power which, in fact, did not
exist as such before its very abandonment, leads us to something much more warped than a plane or a
line. Indeed, in a supposed wilderness, the act of governing oneself is obviously not a right, but rather
merely a fact (if it is anything at all). It becomes a right only when comes to be abandoned in favour of a
social contract. .s citi3en then, one is entirely sub/ected to the law. There is no part of oneself which, -y
nature, may escape the law. If there are nonetheless some parts of ones life which this law has decided
not to now, this is also a decision of the law, never that of any citi3en.
That being who, with his neighbour, has contracted to the transformation of both of them into
citi3ens through abandoning their right to this same :rince 0, what was he before 5 . man 5 . beast 5 .
wolf 5 That could appear so sophisticated a "uestion that it might appear not to be worthwhile to attempt
to answer it. !ut, if what is not sub/ected to the law has to be located in this being from whom (from
which 5) the citi3en has, out of the blue, blossomed, wouldnt it be interesting to mae some valuable
The tight)r&e !al*ers, &. 6
statements about that 5 Is that being still at stae behind, beside, or inside the citi3en 5 Is he the one
capable of stopping the game when it has gone too far 5
Infortunately, no en"uiry will give us the least shadow of an answer, for any answer of that ind
will concern the primary causes from which a political, a philosophical or metaphysical system springs
up, as it does in (obbes, or in Gousseau. @hat we could, instead, remind ourselves of is that freely
waiving ones right to govern oneself puts in train a sort of irreducible splitting of the one who waives it.
-ould it not be the case that this splitting is one of the main results of those games 5
To the apparent contrary of this state of powerlessness, something altogether different emerged in
the very beginnings of psychiatry, under the French name of *Traitement moral+. Kn the same basis as
that which Freud supported in his $%&' paper, a French psychiatrist, FranOois <euret, overemphasised the
influence of the mind over the body, going so far as to bluntly denied any somatic aetiology in madness.
In his 7ragments &sychlgi8ues sur la .lie, published in $%?=, he argued that
insanity was only the exaggeration of an error in thining, and that the normal
operations of the mind were the most appropriate standard by which to /udge the
pathological extent of a hallucinatory delusion
$'
.
The treatment he practised and recommended was therefore based upon the idea that the physician
has to force the madman to recover a more or less complete power of governing himself. In this
perspective, the freudian Eigenm,chtig*eit, far from being abandoned, dismissed, or put offside, is
re"uired as the very source of the healing. To this end, <euret used a rather rough techni"ue 0 cold
showers, abrupt reversals from care to disdain, etc. 0 which brought him strong reproaches from most of
his colleagues. !ut his aim was clear# to tame the madman in such a way that he himself would be
capable of taming the errors in his own way of thining, thus transforming him into a true
Eigenm,chtig*eit champion.
I would claim that, insofar as he is to conceive himself as standing at this old crossroad, the
psychoanalyst is still today dealing with these two opposites in the treatment he directs. Kn the one hand,
thans to the fundamental rule, he can hold that the patient has more or less abandoned his power of
governing his stream of thoughts. (ere, I would /ust emphasise that this rule is not to be taen as an ideal,
and that it is generally out of place to push the patient too fre"uently into implementing it better. Knce it
has been said, some slight clarifications can be made 0 very few, indeed 0, and that is allN The possible
resistances of the patient will not be further weaened by any reminder of the rule which, in any case,
would immediately only set up to be targetted by them, whereas it is none other than the law which
distributes the speech between the two actors on the analytical stage. 8iven this other Freudian axiom
$'. Ian ,owbiggin, Inheriting 9adness, Kxford, Iniversity of -alifornia :ress, $&&$, p. =&.
The tight)r&e !al*ers, &. :
according to which a repressed idea will, through the transference, always turn out to be consciously
represented, you are /ust supposed to wait and to watch out. .ll of a sudden, it will come out, -y itsel..
Kn the other hand, Freud, faced with hysteria, was forced to note that this rule was not functioning
all that well, 0 not only with obsessional patients, but also with phobic people, inasmuch as they ept
standing more or less comfortably behind the inhibition to which they were compelled because of their
phobia. In *Mew @ays of :sychoanalytical Treatment+ ($&$&), he wrote that there exist two inds of
phobic people# the first ind is capable of facing angst, whereas the second ind is not, at least not alone.
(e went on#
@e have some chance to succeed with the latter form only if, through the influence
of analysis "durch den Ein.lu; der 3nalyse$, we bring it to the former one, that is
through getting the patient to go out alone and then to fight off angst.
@hat does that mean *through the influence of analysis+ other than that, gently or not, directly or
not, you push your patient to cope with what he complains of not being able to 5 If you are not clever
enough, the reply is foreseeable# *I came to you -ecause I couldnt do that, and now you as me to /ust
go and do it N .re you idding 5+ !ut the truth is that, in the case of such inhibition, you can construe
absolutely nothing, put it anyway you lie, and still nothing will really move. True, a symptom can be
removed by means of interpretation. !ut a mere inihibition, a reine %emmung as Freud called it in the
first chapter of Inhi-itin, Sym&tm and 3ngst is beyond the reach of any interpretation because it is
entirely located in the ego, the Freudian ego. There is so little that is unconscious in an inhibition that an
interpretation, no matter how enlightened, can only give it more consistancy. The patient will patiently
agree with his analyst as long as the latter eeps lining his inhibitions to his story.
@e can tacle this problem on the analysts side too. Kf course, he is not supposed to direct his
patient as a spiritual adviser for, if he did, he himself would brea the rule that he first proposed to follow.
;oreover, if the patient is constantly asing for such guidance, every analyst would recognise how
dangerous responding to this ind of demand would be for the treatment. .pparently, therefore, things are
rather clear on this side9 and nonetheless, how fre"uent, in some cases is this movement which would
lead the analyst to admonish his patient N I do not claim here that it must never be done. I am not exactly
taling about techni"ues. !ut I do want to show how much the analyst is trapped in a tension between the
posture of the hypnotist and that of the tamer.
.s usual, there are those who try to escape so essential a tension through crafty tactics. This was
the case with the soEcalled *therapeutic alliance+ through which the analyst was invited to establish a
rational lin with the *healthy part+ of his patients ego. Kne way or another, we must recognise that
every analyst does this. !ut the "uestion remains# how far can this lin be trusted 5 Mot that far, if
neuroses are even approximatively what we thin they are N @e cant rely on such an *alliance+ very long
without guessing that it places the patient in the position of a gun dog, or better# a pointer. This ind of
The tight)r&e !al*ers, &. <
animal is supposed both to be hypnotised in the Freudian way (that is# his master *tals him into+, so that
he is perfectly obedient), and to be able to perfectly tamed his instincts at the right moment, so that, alone
and in front of the wild fowl, he will be capable of stopping and staying put. Kn the one hand# no
inhibition of any ind, no longer any Eigenm,chtig*eit to resist his masters voice9 on the other, the
ultimate in inhibition, the capacity to hold bac his most powerful drives. Isnt it a miracle of balance, the
voice of the master decisively matching the power of nature 5
. plague all those stuffy Freudian and post Freudian stories N ,ont we now have something
newer and better adapted to analytical techni"ues5 I mean the <acanian signifier, the sub/ect that has
nothing to do with the old and ohEso narcissistic alter ego, and the *ob/ect a+ which is a sort of strict
opposite to any honest ob/ect 5 True again, the landscape has really changed. !ut the fact that the splitting
is now mainly on the side of the analyst has /ust inverted the positions, letting the forces in not so
different a state.
Transference is now to be conceived as bringing into play a newcomer, the famous su=et)su&&s>)
sa0ir. The first day it appeared in <acans seminar as the very ey of transference, Pune =
rd
$&F?, it was
totally confused with the analyst himself# *<e su/etEsupposQEsavoir, dans lanalyse, cest lanalyste
$$
+.
!ut only three years later, in his extremely important paper Pr&sitin du ? ct-re sur le &sychanalyste
de l@>cle, he wrote#
@e can see that, if analysis consists in the preservation of an agreed situation
between two partners, who stand there as the analysand and the analyst, it cannot
expand itself but at the price of the ternary constituant introduced in the discourse so
instituted, whose name is# sub/ectEsupposedEto now, a formation not from artifice
but from vein, as detached from the analysand. @e have to see what "ualifies the
analyst to answer this situation which we see as not wrapping his person. CBD @hat
is here paramount to us is the analyst in his relation to the nowing of this supposed
sub/ect, Ca relationD not secondary but direct
$4
.
Kur initial "uestion about hypnosis and moral treatment crops up again, but with new nuances. If
(first possibility) the analyst and the s.s.s. are conceived as one and the same person, we /ust fall bac
into the s"uare *hypnosis+ as <acan defines it, thans to his own terms, on Pune 4?
th
$&F?. !ut if, all to
the contrary, we consider that they are two different persons 0 as it is suggested, for instance, in some
cases of obsessional neurosis, when you are told that this extremely aggressive thought was not at all
directed against *you+, but against the *analyst+ only 0, we can guess that we are not heading the right
way either. If the analyst, on his part, allows himself to be dragged into believing in the difference
between himself and this mere offspring of transference which is this strange s.s.s. (or even believing in
the very opposite# a striing similarity), then this analyst will be the one who acts out the main resistance
$$. P. <acan, 1es 8uatre cnce&ts .ndamentauA de la &sychanalyse, :aris, <e 6euil, $&>=, p. 4'?.
$4. P. <acan, *:roposition du & octobre $&F> sur le psychanalyste de lQcole+, Scilicet I, :aris, <e 6euil,
$&F%, p. 4'.
The tight)r&e !al*ers, &. ?
to analysis. Inevitably, along this way, he will some day try to bring the patient to face *reality+, using as
an argument this *reality+ which he had first put aside thans to the fundamental rule. This is only one of
the usual deadlocs through which an analysis caves in, and turns into a psychotherapy in which words
are but the means of mastering nature, whether outside or inside. !ut if you are rather more een to drive
out this ind of sub/ect trapped within a symptom, you had better stay at this awward crossing where
you do not now, yu !ill nt *n!, if you actually are that devil s.s.s. or not.
This ignorance and fragile balance of the analyst in face of these two slopes 0 the *I am+ and the
*I am not+ (this s.s.s.) 0 is rather unstable, and can be narcissistically "uite uncomfortable on occasions.
This point of balance on this analysts part is certainly close to what Freud called *neutrality+, although
in a much more precise sense which does not gather together all the many meanings he tried to grasp with
it. In spite of the fact that this concept loos outdated for some people today
$=
, I thin it has to be reE
located as opening and supporting the field of transference such as psychoanalysis welcomes it# not only
a way of remembering through actingEout, not only a path strewn with loves deceits and
disappointments, but a very strange balance, on the patients side this time, between a perfect
&!erlessness able to give way to hypnosis, and a no less perfect all)&!er.ulness which stubbornly
builds its interlocutor as its own creature.
$=. Including Kwen Geni, in his recent paper# *The :erils of Meutrality+, Psychanalytic Buaterly, <RS,
$&&F, pp. ?&)E)$>.