How does Lacan’s ‘analyst’ differ from Freud’s?

In Lacan’s view, the analysand is not ‘analysed’ by the analyst; it is the analysand who analyses, and the task of the analyst is to help him to analyse well. What does this mean and how does Lacan’s ‘analyst’ differ from Freud’s?

The analysand’s ‘way of playing’, corresponding to the particular way in which the analysand’s ego makes sense of its world, may be thought of as the analysand’s way of ‘framing’ her or his experience. In this framing there is an implicit identification of the second kind with a way of making meaning, whether or not aspects of it have been raised to the level of consciousness. This is Lacan’s ‘paternal metaphor’ corresponding to the place of the father in the parental matrix signifying the way meaning is organised within the family system, whether or not supported by the ‘actual’ father in the sense of the sperm donor.

The Freudian approach works with the way an individual takes up their being within the context of the parental matrix, using the myth of Oedipus to frame the ways in which the child takes up her or his identifications in relation to those on offer.  The assumption here is that the child will not take up all aspects of their identifications, some aspects remaining transferred onto the individuals within the parental matrix.  Working with the counter-transference thus becomes a way of enabling the individual to further work through the way they take up their identifications. It’s worth noting here that Freud remained focused on the first two kinds of identification, the third being associated by him not with people but with situations in which particular feelings were evoked, the example used by him being of an outbreak of schoolgirl hysteria.

A key development in Lacan’s work came when the ‘paternal metaphor’, referred to as the Name-of-the-Father (NoF), became the Names-of-the-Father (NoFs) plural. For an existing way of framing to be ‘broken’, there had to be the possibility of different ways of organising meaning aka different NoFs. More than one kind of organising metaphor had to be possible. What had to be questioned, then, was the way an individual was invested in a particular way of organising meaning – their unconscious valency

The Freudian approach thus worked within the fullness of an existing social order to improve the way an analysand played the hand dealt them by their parental matrix, while the Lacanian approach worked with what remained absent for the analysand within the context of that legacy. The Lacanian approach understood desire to be a relation to a ‘more’ that always remained despite every attempt to reach it, but which only the analysand could be responsible for reaching for – like the artist for whom each successive work never quite realised what it was s/he was trying to give expression to.  The difference then was between being true to a legacy versus being true to desire – different ways of understanding the meaning of destiny.  

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