The phrase "[[passage to the act]]" comes from French clinical psychiatry, which uses it to designate those impulsive acts, of a violent or criminal nature, which sometimes mark the onset of an acute psychotic episode.
As the phrase itself indicates, these acts are supposed to mark the point when the subject proceeds from a violent idea or intention to the corresponding act.
Because these acts are attributed to the action of the psychosis, French law absolves the perpetrator of civil responsibility for them.<ref>CHemama. 1993. p. 41</ref>
As psychoanalytic ideas gained wider circulation in France in the first half of the twentieth century, it became common for French
analysts to use the term ''[[passage à l'acte]]'' to translate the term ''Agieren'' used by [[Freud]]: i.e. as a synonym for [[acting out]].
However, in his seminar of 1962-3, [[Lacan]] establishes a distinction between these terms.
While both are last resorts against [[anxiety]], the [[subject]] who acts something out still remains in the [[scene]], whereas a [[passage to the act]] involves an exit from the [[scene]] altogether.
[[Acting out]] is a symbolic message address to the big Other, whereas a [[passage to the act]] is a flight from the [[Other]] into the dimension of the [[real]].
The [[passage to the act]] is thus an exit from the symbolic nework, a dissolution of the social bond.
Although the [[passage to the act]] does not, according to [[Lacan]], necessarily imply an underlying [[psychosis]], it does entail a dissolution of the [[subject]]; for a moment, the [[subject]] becomes a pure [[object]].
--In order to illustrate what he means, [[Lacan]] refers to the case of the young homosexual woman treated by [[Freud]].<ref> Freud. 1920a</ref>
[[Freud]] reports that the young women was walking in the street with the woman she loved when she was spotted by her father, who cat an angry glance at her.
Immediately afterwards, she rushed off and threw herself over a wall down the side of a cutting onto a railway line.
Lacan argues that this suicide attempt was a passage to the act; it was not a message addressed to anyone, since symbolization had
beocme impossible for the young woman. Confronted with her father's desire, she was consumed with an uncontrollable anxiety and reacted in an impulsive way by identifying with the object. Thus she fell down (Ger. ''niederkommt'') like the ''objet petit a'', the leftover of [[ signification]]. <ref>Lacan. 1962-3. seminar of 16 january 1963</ref>