Lacan states that in Inhibitions, Symptoms and Anxiety (1926, S.E. XX) Freud speaks of everything but anxiety just "to leave the emptiness in which there is anxiety." This affect, related to the structure of the subject, is not repressed but adrift; only the signifiers that anchor it are repressed. For Lacan anxiety, angoisse, is not without an object, but this object is unknown. Since anxiety is linked to desire, and fantasy is the support of desire, the starting point is the fantasme elaborated in the Graph of Desire in Les formations de l'inconscient: <>a (Subject barred by the signifier/relation to/objet a, which is the object of desire, the imaginary part-object, an element imagined as separable from the rest of the body). He then proceeds to define objet a which relates anxiety with desire.
Objet a is the cause of desire, not its aim. On one hand, it is "the residue of division when the subject is marked by the 'unbroken line' of the signifier in the field of the Other." Objet a is different from the a of the mirror stage, it is not specular; neither is it "visible in what continues for the subject the image of his desire." It is what is lost during the original constitution of the subject where the Father is primary. If we consider the body, objet a is not created by the separation from the mother, but from the separation from the body proper. Objet a is the placenta, l'hommelette, and even the breast tied to the subject and detached from the mother. They are all objects of desire for us, and there is no anxiety for the woman. In a system centered on the signifier, objet a seems to be the irreducible Real, "a lack which the symbol does not fill in," a "real deprivation."
On the other hand, anxiety arises when lack comes to be lacking. It is not nostalgia for the material breast, but the threat of its imminence. Lacan uses Jone's analysis of the nightmare, "this being, the incubus, who weighs on our chest with his opaque weight of foreign jouissance," "who crushes the subject under his jouissance," and who is "a questioner." Anxiety, like desire, is linked to the Other, to the jouissance and to the demand of the Other. Lacan links it to the terrible commandment of the Father-God: "Jouis!" For instance, what or whose apparition does for the sudden gap of an opening window (The Wolf Man)? An uncanny strangeness or familiarity, it is the horror of the Thing against which only desire and law combined are able to protect us. This takes place when the subject loses the support of the lack that allows him to constitute himself: - F (the phallus as symbol of lack). It is difficult to situate - F and objet a in their mutual rapport. The phallus is sometimes the agalma, and sometimes an operating libidinal reserve that saves the subject from the fascination of the part object. Hence, the importance granted to symbolic castration in front of "the father's opaque and ungraspable desire," a castration at the origin of the law.
Anxiety, then, is an affect, not an emotion; the only affect which is beyond all doubt and which is not deceptive. Whereas Freud distinguishes between fear (focused on a specific object) and anxiety (which is not), Lacan posits anxiety as not without an object: it simply involves a different kind of object, one that cannot be symbolized as other objects are. This object is objet a, the object-cause-of-desire, and anxiety arises when something fills the place of it, when the subject is confronted by the desire of the Other and does not know what object he is for that desire. Also Lacan links anxiety to lack. All desire springs from lack, and anxiety appears when this lack is in itself lacking: "anxiety is the lack of a lack." Anxiety is not the absence of the breast, it is rather the possibility of its absence which saves the subject from anxiety. Acting out and passage to the act are last defenses against anxiety.
And what happens in the cure? How can the analyst measure how much anxiety a patient can bear? How may the analyst deal with his own anxiety? The desire of the analyst is here involved and he has to institute, along with anxiety, the - F, an emptiness whose function is structural.