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Number 9: Winter 2013

From Leakage to Slippage: The Question of Trauma In Psychosis

Dorothée Bonnigal-Katz

Before considering the consequences of this leakage in more clinical terms, I would like to return to the unavailability of metaphor in psychosis and briefly discuss its consequences in terms of technique. For reasons that I will address a little further on, the psychotic perspective is characterized by its radical literality: to put it bluntly, it does not accommodate any form of “as if”, a feature which is consistent with the failure of the mechanisms of repression. By confining representations to the unconscious, repression indeed allows the subject to operate as if the repressed representations were not there. In this sense, repression can be envisioned as the instatement (primal repression), the implementation and the maintenance (secondary repression) of a fundamental “as if” which functions as an anchoring point. In the case of psychosis, this constitutive “as if” fails to be instated properly and in the absence of an anchoring point, the subject does not have the luxury of “pretending” that anything is not there when it actually is (and vice-versa). This has obvious linguistic consequences that underlie the specificity of the psychotic (schizophrenic, more particularly) relation to language as I will later suggest, accounting, paradoxically, for the fact that psychotics cannot recognise themselves as the subjects of what they say. Like repression, language is indeed predicated on a fundamental “as if”: we use words as if they stood for the things they name. But we also “know” that they are not the things, the way we “know” of the presence of unconscious representations in the substratum of our psyche. This “as if”–the locus of lack–is incidentally what allows us to (mis)recognise ourselves as the subjects of what we say. But if the word is the thing as it is for the psychotic, if the very possibility of “as if” is permanently foreclosed, language can never be the site of any form of subjective (mis)recognition: the void of literality replaces the lack inherent in the figurative.