Rómulo Lander

Is the rock of castración the limit to analysis?

Romulo lander [caracas]

The 7th international conference of ‘lacan in ipa’ will take place in the city of sao paulo, brazil. The official subject chosen is: ‘anxiety: the affect which does not deceive’ assertion raised by jacques lacan in his famous seminar-10 of the academic year 1962-63 devoted to the study of anxiety. The panel that i will be working with has a specific theme, entitled: is the rock of castration the limit to analysis? This is an assertion raise by sigmund freud in his paper ‘analysis terminable and interminable’ written in 1937.

In this text of 1937 freud speaks of a ‘rock bed’ as a limitation to the progress of a clinical analysis. This assertion is later presented as ‘the rock of castration’. This rock bed sentence has always called upon us to think about the limits of clinical psychoanalysis. There are two additional problems that are closely related to this issue of the limits of analysis. Here i am referring to ‘the purpose’ and the ‘end of analysis’. This is something which i will make some comments at the end of this paper.

The metaphor of the ‘rock bed of castration’ used by freud, refers to the limit that occurs, when the work on the unconscious, goes deeper and deeper, and the analytic work reaches a point beyond which it cannot continues. It is a metaphor that comes from the underground geological explorations. It occurs when the drill that pierces in the depths of the earth, faces the rock bed and cannot make more progress. Freud proposed that in a similar way, the analysis may encounter a barrier [the rock bed] that prevents the analytic work to progress deeper. Freud thought that this barrier was a metaphor of castration. When the analysand reaches the rock bed, he has to accept its inevitable castration [insufficiencies] which will constitute the limit of the analysis.

Here we found a difficulty that compels us to ask: what did freud means with the barrier of castration? The question i am presenting intent to go beyond castration. I will apply concepts that steam from structural lacanian proposi-tions and using these concepts will answer with this: the barrier of castration or ‘rock bed’ refers to the various deficiencies that are present during the early formation of the psyche. We shall remember that structural psychoanalysis describes three basic noxas : trauma, conflict and defect. the defect refers to deficiencies, which is something structural. In some texts it is called structural defect. This lack or defect represent what the subject did not receive at the time of his psyche constitution. It represents a hole or lack, something irreparable. The unavoidable presence of these deficiencies in early childhood, gives rise to what is called a lack. the psychological theory of the lack will refers to areas of the mind that are empty giving rise to what are now called: the clinic of emptiness.

This lacks can only be relieved by an unconscious replacement [called suplen-cias]. These substitutions sometimes look like a symptom and other as a sint-home. After 1960 jacques lacan develops the theory of the substitu-tions [symbolic and imaginary]. The concept of substitution crosses all lacan’s work. We find it as an operational concept from the beginning of the 60s. This occurred when lacan study the psychotic structure. At that time lacan introduces the new concept of ‘forclusion of the name of the father’. With this concept lacan shows the difference between types of substitution. Some occurs in psychotic structures and others in neurotic structures.

The forclusión of the name of the father [something not inscribed] will leave a lack in the psyche. This lack need to be relieve, replaced, obturate for the subject to achieve mental stability . This stability comes with the knotting of the three orders [rsi], where the substitution takes the place of a fourth knot. Sometimes the difficulty of the psychotic structure is so serious that the substitution makes the subject to go crazy. For example, a auditory or visual hallucination [as a substitution] may create an effect of goce [jouissance] so intense, that the subject goes crazy. The subject does not recognize the hallucination as something of their own, but as something alien. The hallucination is part of a attempt to repaired the lack, but unfortunately this hallucinatory substitution is perceived as alien. The amount of goce [jouissance] created is unmanageable. This puts the psychotic, as lacan said: in a sea of jouissance. In other cases the substitution in the psychotic structure is recognized as something of their own, such as occurs in the extreme obesity, and in the compulsive consumption of drugs. Initially this substitutions are identified clinically as a symptom, which is not. It is subsequently that lacan is going to create the new concept of the sinthome. Something that is not a symptom, nor is it phantom. It is a fourth knot that creates the psychic stability in the psychotic structure.

In neurosis the lack will give rise to another type of substitution. The best example is the dialectic of the subject with the petit-a. The object petit-a, speaks to us about the lost object, an object always sought and never found. This lost object is found in fiction the object petit-a, which is found in the body of the other. This illusive find, speaks of a way to repair the lack. To repaired the lack the object petit-a will be converted in a particular modality of a lack repaired [suplencia]. This particular object of passionate love or hate, will appears in the neurotic as a substitution.

In short: the work of the analysis will eventually be faced with a limit. Freud called this limit the rock bed of the castration, beyond which it is not possible to continue the analytical work. This rock bed is formed by the structural de-fects in the subject. The only thing that the analysis can offer then is that the subject in analysis may clearly know his limits. It is worth repeating here the idea that the subject needs its substitutions to maintain its psychic stabili-ty. The substitution is not a symptom, and it is clear that the psychic con-flict and psychic trauma, do not belong to the rock bed.

Researching about the end of analysis is a challenge for analysts. Freud saw it as impossibility. The acceptance of castration finds its limit in this famous rock bed. Lacan theory allows us to overcome the disappointing idea that the analysis does not end, but that simply is interrupted at some crucial point. Historically there was a time when militant analyst insisted that it has to go to and end. There were proposal of crossing the phantom, of des-idealize the analyst, until it came to the final proposal of ‘not to renounce in their desire’.

I would like to take a few minutes to mention other aspects of this issue of the purpose and the end of analysis, both topics related to the limits of the analysis.

Talk about the purpose of analysis is to talk about the objectives of the cu-re. There are analysts who insist on the therapeutic intention of psychoanalysis. Where the aim is to achieve cure of some unspecified illness in the analysand. There are other analysts who believe that the purpose of the analysis is not to cure anything, since there is no illness, but to offer a special dialog called psychoanalytic that will helps the analysand to get to know himself. Jacques lacan said that the purpose of the analysis is to help the analyzing to ‘not to renounce in their desire’ and ‘being what it is.” i have to say that this assertion lacan agrees fully with wilfred bion.

Talk about termination in analysis does require making a clarification. One thing is the interruption of the analysis with mutual agreement with the analyst, without having reached a true end. Another thing is the end of analysis. The end of the analysis is usually an theoretical end, and refers to arrive at ‘becoming what it is’. This is something that requires big sacrifice to the analysand. The majority of analysand cannot have access to it. Both analyst and analysand conform with a interruption, without end.

Both, the interruption and the end of analysis, allow the analysand to review several aspects of the life. Here are the following issues: (a) aspects of jouis-sance at the time of termination of the cure (b) significance and benefits of the crossing of the phantom in the cure. (c) the consequences of the identification with the desires of the analyst. (d) the importance of the analyst becoming a waste. (e) problems with the identification with the ideals of the analyst. (f) problems with transference instant cure (g) the fate of the post-analytical effects.

Each of these seven sections requires elaboration, which exceeds the limits of this paper, but it is something that i already have written in spanish and english. I offer to send a copy by e-mail, to whoever asks.


Freud s [1937]: analysis terminable and interminable
Lacan, j. [1960]: the ethics of psychoanalysis
Lander, r. [2010]: lacan, for the non-lacanian
Lander, r. [2004]: subjective experience and logic of the other
Lacan, j. [ 1963]: the anguish