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HannaWaar Does psychoanalysis teach us something about
JacquesAlain Miller A great deal, because its an
experience whose mainspring is love. Its a question of that
automatic and more often than not unconscious love that the
analysand brings to the analyst, and which is called transference.
Its a contrived love, but made of the same stuff as true love. It
sheds light on its mechanism: love is addressed to the one you
think knows your true truth. But love allows you to think this
truth will be likeable, agreeable, when in fact its rather hard to
H.W. So, what is it to really love?
J.A. M. To really love someone is to believe that by loving
them youll get to a truth about yourself. We love the one that
harbours the response, or a response, to our question: Who am
H.W. Why do some people know how to love and not others?
J.A.M. Some people know how to provoke love in the other
person, serial lovers as it were, men and women alike. They know
what buttons to push to get loved. But they dont necessarily
love, rather they play cat and mouse with their prey. To love, you
have to admit your lack, and recognise that you need the other,
that you miss him or her. Those that think theyre complete on
their own, or want to be, dont know how to love. And
sometimes, they ascertain this painfully. They manipulate, pull
strings, but of love they know neither the risk nor the delights.
H.W. Complete on their own: only a man could think that
J.A. M. Well spotted! Lacan used to say, To love is to give
what you havent got. Which means: to love is to recognize your
lack and give it to the other, place it in the other. Its not giving
what you possess, goods and presents, its giving something else
that you dont possess, which goes beyond you. To do that you
have to assume your lack, your castration as Freud used to say.
And that is essentially feminine. One only really loves from a
feminine position. Loving feminises. Thats why love is always a
bit comical in a man. But if he lets himself get intimidated by
ridicule, then in actual fact hes not very sure of his virility.
H.W. Is loving more difficult for men then?
J.A.M. Oh yes! Even a man in love has flashes of pride, bursts
of aggressiveness against the object of his love, because this love
puts him in a position of incompleteness, of dependence. Thats
why he can desire women he doesnt love, so as to get back to the
virile position he suspends when he loves. Freud called this
principle the debasement of love life in men: the split between
love and sexual desire.
H.W. And in women?
J.A.M. Its less common. In most cases, theres a doubling-up
of the male partner. On one hand, hes the man that gives them
jouissance and whom they desire, but hes also the man of love,
whos feminised, necessarily castrated. Only its not anatomy
thats in the driving seat: there are some women who adopt a
male position. There are more and more of them. One man for
love, at home; and other men for jouissance, met on the net, in
the street, or on a train.
H.W. Why more and more?
J.A.M. Socio-cultural stereotypes of womanliness and virility
are in the process of radical transformation. Men are being
invited to open up to their emotions, to love and feminise
themselves; women on the contrary are undergoing a certain
push to masculinisation: in the name of legal equality theyre
being driven to keep saying me too. At the same time,
homosexuals are claiming the same rights and symbols as
heteros, like marriage and filiation. Hence a major instability in
the roles, a widespread fluidity in the theatre of love, that
contrasts with the fixity of yesteryear. Love is becoming liquid,
as noted by the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. Everyone is being
led to invent their own lifestyle, to assume their mode of
jouissance and mode of loving. Traditional scenarios are slowly
becoming obsolete. Social pressure to conform hasnt
disappeared, but its on the wane.
H.W. Love is always reciprocal said Lacan. Is this still true in
the current context? What does that mean?
J.A. M. This sentence gets repeated over and over without
being understood, or it gets understood the wrong way round. It
doesnt mean that its enough to love someone for him to love
you back. That would be absurd. It means: If I love you, its
because youre loveable. Im the one that loves, but youre also
mixed up in this, because theres something in you that makes me
love you. Its reciprocal because theres a to and fro: the love I
have for you is the return effect of the cause of love that you are
for me. So, youre implicated. My love for you isnt just my affair,
its yours too. My love says something about you that maybe you
yourself dont know. This doesnt guarantee in the least that the
love of one will be responded to by the love of the other: when
that happens its always of the order of a miracle, its not
calculable in advance.
H.W. We dont find him or her by chance. Why that guy? Why
that girl?
J.A. M. Theres what Freud called Liebesbedingung, the
condition for love, the cause of desire. Its a particular trait or a
set of traits that have a decisive function in a person for the
choice of the loved one. This totally escapes the neurosciences,
because its unique to each person, its down to their singular,
intimate history. Traits which are sometimes minute are at play.
For instance, Freud singled out in one of his patients a cause of
desire that was a shine on a womans nose!
H.W. Its hard to believe in a love founded on these trifles!
J.A.M. The reality of the unconscious outstrips fiction. You
cant imagine how much in human life is founded, especially
where love is concerned, on little things, on pinheads, on divine
details. Its true thats its above all in men that you find causes
of desire like that, which are like fetishes whose presence is
indispensable to spark off the love process. Tiny particularities,
reminiscent of the father, the mother, a brother, a sister,
someone from childhood, also play their role in womens choice
of love object. But the feminine form of love is more readily
erotomaniac than fetishist: they want to be loved, and the
interest, the love thats shown them, or that they suppose in the
other person, is often sinequanon for triggering their love, or at
least their consent. This phenomenon lies at the base of the
practice of men chatting women up.
H.W. Do you not attribute any role to fantasies?
J.A. M. In women, fantasies, whether conscious or
unconscious, are decisive for the position of jouissance more
than for the choice of love object. And its the opposite for men.
For example, it may happen that a woman can only achieve
jouissance orgasm, lets say on condition that she imagines
herself, during intercourse itself, being beaten, raped, or
imagines that shes another woman, or even that shes elsewhere,
H.W. And the male fantasy?
J.A.M. Its very much in evidence in love at first sight. The
classic example, commented on by Lacan, is in Goethes novel,
the sudden passion of young Werther for Charlotte, at the
moment he sees her for the first time, feeding the rabble of kids
around her. Here its the womans maternal quality that sparks
off love. Another example, taken from my practice, is the
following: a boss in his fifties is seeing applicants for a secretarial
post; a young woman of twenty comes in; straight away he
declares his love. He wonders what got hold of him and goes into
analysis. There, he uncovers the trigger: in her he met traits that
reminded him of what he had been at the age of twenty, when he
went for his first job interview. In a way, hed fallen in love with
himself. In these two examples we see the two sides of love
distinguished by Freud: either you love the person who protects,
in this case the mother, or you love a narcissistic image of
H.W. It sounds like were puppets!
J.A. M. No, between any man and any woman, nothing is
written in advance, theres no compass, no pre-established
relationship. Their encounter isnt programmed like it is between
the spermatozoon and the ovum; its got nothing to do with our
genes either. Men and women speak, they live in a world of
discourse, thats whats decisive. The modalities of love are
extremely sensitive to the surrounding culture. Each civilisation
stands out for the way it structures the relation between the
sexes. Now, it so happens that in the West, in our societies which
are liberal, market and juridical, the multiple is well on the way
to dethroning the one. The ideal model of great lifelong love is
slowly losing ground faced with speed dating, speed loving, and a
whole flotilla of alternative, successive, even simultaneous
amorous scenarios.
H.W. And love in the long term? In eternity?
J.A.M. Balzac said, Any passion that isnt eternal is hideous.
But can the bond hold out for life within the register of passion?
The more a man devotes himself to just one woman, the more
she tends to take on a maternal signification for him: more
sublime and untouchable than loved. Married homosexuals
develop this cult of the woman best: Aragon sings his love for
Elsa; as soon as she dies, its hello boys! And when a woman
clings on to one man, she castrates him. So, the path is narrow.
The best destiny of conjugal love is friendship, thats essentially
what Aristotle said.
H.W. The problem is that men say they dont understand what
women want; and women, what men expect of them
J.A.M. Yes. What objects to the Aristotelian solution is the
fact that dialogue from one sex to the other is impossible, as
Lacan said with a sigh. People in love are in fact condemned to go
on learning the others language indefinitely, groping around,
seeking out the keys keys that are always revocable. Love is a
labyrinth of misunderstandings whose way out doesnt exist.
Translated by from the French by Adrian Price for NLSMessager
1. perfume
Posted October 13, 2008 at 2:03 am | Permalink
2. claroquesi
Posted October 13, 2008 at 10:32 am | Permalink
while at times this interview seeks to discuss that stereotypes are changing,
Socio-cultural stereotypes of womanliness and virility are in the process of
radical transformation. J.A.M Still Upholds very stereotypical views on both
women and men, some would say that these ideas are a
conservative,stereotypical, and outdated conjecture: In women, fantasies,
whether conscious or unconscious, are decisive for the position of jouissance
more than for the choice of love object. And its the opposite for men. For example,
it may happen that a woman can only achieve jouissance orgasm, lets say on
condition that she imagines herself, during intercourse itself, being beaten, raped,
or imagines that shes another woman, or even that shes elsewhere, absent.
BOO! Bad taste.
3. claroquesiputa
Posted October 13, 2008 at 10:34 am | Permalink
I cant believe this article! I would argue that the production of the rape fantasy in
women is a male production. This article is regressive, Im horrified its
4. madeleine
Posted October 13, 2008 at 12:36 pm | Permalink
Sommes-nous si abrutis quon ne puisse plus lire Lacan quen anglais ?
5. Tim Themi
Posted October 13, 2008 at 9:14 pm | Permalink
Well, interesting comments, and it raises the crucial question: When an analyst
speaks, in general terms about gender relations, gender differences, and gender
character traits, we might assume he speaks as if he knows from a wealth of
clinical experience, from inductive inferences compiled from numerous
observations of countless patients who were not led into saying what was said by
the suggestive influence of the analyst, direct or indirect but this is precisely
what we do not know, nowhere is this information given, and neither do we know
whether it is all but a free-association in the mind of the analyst, thinking about
his own partner, or about some singular relationship that falls too close in that
moment of utterance, whether within the clinic or without. With that said though,
fixating too reductively on the latter epistemic concerns, can also make for the
road to a resistance, rather than to an unconcealing, of a subjects individual
truth, where lies the meaning of their desire, which may not have a real meaning
at all..
6. Martin gr.
Posted October 14, 2008 at 4:15 am | Permalink
I think this article is about the unconscious love, like love at first sight. I was
wondering if any other types of love can exist between two sexes.
In addition, I agree with the first entry of claroquesiputa; but we should bear in
mind that the stereotypes are not yet transformed entirely. Their transformation is
slow, so we still can talk about stereotypical fantasies in women and men.
7. claroquesiputa
Posted October 14, 2008 at 10:02 am | Permalink
But as 21st century analysts, shouldnt we take into consideration, or make
statement that these may be stereotypical ideas/assumptions but instead of
conjecting their truth?
8. alice
Posted October 15, 2008 at 10:01 am | Permalink
claroquesiputa which part of the article makes you mad to the point of saying it
promotes rape?
9. shahriar
Posted October 16, 2008 at 4:32 pm | Permalink
I often read J.A. Millers writings with somehow admiration, wonder and being
defended; why? becoz sometimes I found something tastes conformist in them.
Talking about love without a gest or gesture of not-knowing is necessary, I think.
Love is a pretend, Lacan said; so it can not be acknowledging our lack but it is a
fake, a play of simulation that I (lover) have something (phallus) so I can fill in
your lack mu beloved! but it is not a successful fake, becoz at the same moment, I
have to play being devoid of something so I need you my beloved and so on.
Psychoanalysis is a bribe (as you wrote so many times before) just love.
10. Gradiva
Posted October 19, 2008 at 2:18 am | Permalink
Shahriar, thank you for your great comment, instead of focusing on womens
I am not sure how what you are saying is mutually exclusive with what JAM said
in the article
11. dora
Posted November 10, 2008 at 11:28 pm | Permalink
halooo!!! what about homosexual love? as usual, ignored!
12. Bake
Posted November 23, 2008 at 5:37 am | Permalink
wtf, wassup with the desperate need of distinction? Did u read the article at all?
The love process is the same, but focused on the same gender. Negative Oedipus
13. beatrix
Posted November 25, 2008 at 1:17 am | Permalink
14. Dario
Posted December 6, 2008 at 6:54 am | Permalink
Love was mentioned many times in this article. But it seems to me, that J.A.M.
uses word love to describe very different feelings and types of relationships.
Love at first sight? How can you love someone at first sight when you dont
know that person? You can fall in love and you can have strong emotions,
affection, but thats not love. It is commonly used term (love at first sight) today,
but its wrong. Different people say they love, thinking of strong emotions they
have for someone, but thats not necessarily love. Not everyone is capable of love,
even they say they love and feel something about someone. Thats why I think this
article is bad. I expected more.
15. Wanda
Posted December 30, 2008 at 12:41 am | Permalink
Finally someone really knows whats really going on inside the human person. I
married one! Just as discribed above, and to the T. (Hes so proud, yes he
completes himself aliminating healthy emotion towards another). So everyone
needs to read it again. Only this time pay attention, you may learn something. Its
been 27 years of marriage for us. And so far, having first hand experience its
been tense. Thanks for the confirmation!!!
16. analysethat
Posted November 4, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink
The Love at first sight is of course a revival of first love be it mother or father -the
primary care taker. We recognise what we believed we once had (in the imaginary
relating) and thought we had lost. Now we think we have recovered that which we
though we had and lost, a long time ago. Of course what we imagined we had and
lost never existed. So what we recovered also does not exist which is why so many
relationships break down. Many of us can learn a mature love and this is possible
when we accept the lack in ourselves and the Other. I think this is what is meant
17. T
Posted September 1, 2013 at 5:13 am | Permalink
This sounds pessimistic, but what isnt? Love starts when the subject poses the
question : What does the othe person want from me? That is also how seduction
begins from the person who poses the question. This type of love is the divine love
that puts the object of love in the position of the Other, me thinks.
18. Hemendra Pathak
Posted September 17, 2013 at 2:22 am | Permalink
I believe in love. Love makes the life liveable. The problems in the world are most
of the time due to lack of love. When I am in love, I am prepared to feel its
greatness, its happiness. At the same time I am prepared to face the sadness it
may give.
But by analysing love, we find few reasons psychological or whatsoever. Does that
mean that I have not to feel happiness of love in present ? We may presume that
no love succeed and because of this presumption, should I not fall in love, Should
I avoid the greatness of love in present ? Is it not that I am sacrificing my present
for future which is never there ? Am I afraid of unknown future and killing my
present ? Past is dead and future is to come never. It is the present which matters.
I am in love and I am feeling happiness, its my truth. If I dont live the present
moment, I will never live because it is always present where we have to live.
For me, love is never something negative. Love has power to make someone
strong enough to conquer the world. And when one has no love, it is possible that
he can destroy the world.
For me, fragrance is important. It exists right now and I am feeling it. If I go on
thinking that why this flower has fragrance, why such type of fragrance, what are
the elements of fragrance ? All these will lead me to some scientific analysis and
at the end I may find some description of fragrance. But while doing all these
analytical work, I will loose the fragrance itself which is in present.
So, let people do the analytical work. I am happy with my love, with my present,
with the fragrance of flower. I am happy with the great feeling of love, I am happy
to be lost in the love,I believe in the love, I am living for love, Love is my life.
I believe that the people who do not believe in love or who are negative about love,
are the unfortunate people who could not love someone or who could not receive
love from someone.
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