Desire of the analyst

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desire of the analyst (dÈsir de l'analyste)

The phrase 'the desire of the analyst' is an ambiguous one that seems to oscillate in Lacan's work between two meanings:

. A desire attributed to the analyst

As well as attributing knowledge to the analyst, so also the analysand attributes desire to the analyst. The analyst is therefore not only a SUBJECT SUPPOSED TO KNOw but also a 'subject supposed to desire'. Thus the phrase 'the analyst's desire' does not refer the real desire in the analyst's psyche, but to the desire which the analysand attributes to him. The task of the analyst throughout the treatment is to make it impossible for the analysand to be sure that he knows what the analyst wants from him; the analyst must make sure that his desire 'remains an x' for the analysand (Sl1, 274). In this way the analyst's supposed desire becomes the driving force of the analytic process, since it keeps the analysand working, trying to discover what the analyst wants from him; 'the desire of the analyst is ultimately that which operates in psychoanalysis' (Ec, 854). By presenting the analysand with an enigmatic desire, the analyst occupies the position of the Other, of whom the subject asks Che vuoi? ('What do you want from me?), with the result that the subject's fundamental fantasy emerges in the transference.

e    A desire proper to the analyst        The other sense of the phrase 'the desire of the analyst' refers to the desire which must animate the analyst in the way he directs treatment. This is easier to define negatively than positively. It is certainly not a desire for the impossible (S7, 300). Nor is it a desire to 'do good' or 'to cure'; on the contrary, it is 'a non-desire to cure' (S7, 218). It is not a desire that the analysand identify with the analyst; 'the analyst's desire   . . . tends in a direction that is the exact opposite of identification' (S11, 274).

Rather than identification, the analyst desires that the analysand's own unique truth emerge in the treatment, a truth that is absolutely different to that of the analyst; the analyst's desire is thus 'a desire to obtain absolute difference' (S11, 276). It is in the sense of 'a desire proper to the analyst' that Lacan wishes to locate the question of the analyst's desire at the heart of the ethics of psychoanalysis. How is it that the analyst comes to be guided by the desire which is proper to his function? According to Lacan, this can only occur by means of a training analysis. The essential requirement, the condition sine qua non for becoming an analyst, is to undergo analytic treatment oneself. In the course of this treatment there will be a mutation in the economy of desire in the analyst-to-be; his desire will be restructured, reorganised (S8, 221-2). Only if this happens will he be able to function properly as an analyst.