The scarce in-depth discussions of Lacan’s concept of passage-à-l’acte that are currently available in the psychoanalytic literature generally stop at the point of its disruptive and sometimes literally destructive side. However, from the late 1960s onwards, and especially with his Seminar XV on the psychoanalytic act (Lacan 1967-68), Lacan also considered its constructive face, which brings into play the goal and the end of the psychoanalytic treatment. In a sense, Lacan had already foreshadowed this aspect of passage-à-l’acte in Seminar IX, i.e. before the introduction of the conceptual matrix of anxiety, when he singled out the opening sections of Descartes’ Discourse on the Method (Descartes 1985[1637]) as an example of passage-à-l’acte (Lacan 1961-62, session of 22 November 1961). What is Descartes’ purpose in these pages? He expresses a fundamental doubt, and ultimately discards everything he has acquired during his journeys in the world of learning as spurious knowledge. He liberates his mind from the straightjacket imposed by the purportedly scientific opinions of his era, in order to clear the path for the discovery of a new beginning—a new unary trait that does not so much distinguish itself through its power of unification as through its formal one-ness—in the famous cogito ergo sum. Descartes separates himself from the alienating constraints imposed by the Other (of authoritative knowledge), and proceeds to the formulation of an innovative philosophical principle.

If this too is a passage-à-l’acte, then we can begin to understand why Lacan considered its constructive side for the end of analysis, and why he invented a procedure called ‘the pass’ to verify its effects (Lacan 1995[1967]). The analyst’s correct handling of the transference, then, does not entail its interpretation or its reduction to an unconscious psychic conflict, whose template is known by the analyst, but rather its employment as a tool for the analysand’s construction of the fantasy. It is worth noting, here, that at the very end of Seminar XI, when discussing the end of analysis and the analysand’s so-called ‘traversal’ of the fantasy, Lacan returned to Freud’s mysterious notion of working-through. Lacan underscored that the end of analysis occurs ‘after the mapping of the subject in relation to the a, [when] the experience of the fundamental phantasy [sic] becomes the drive’ (Lacan 1994[1964]: 273). This statement was immediately followed by the idea of the traversal of the fantasy, which has gained momentum as the most significant of Lacan’s contributions to a theory of the end of analysis, despite its being a hapax. Yet Lacan launched this idea by means of an open-ended question—‘How can a subject who has traversed the radical phantasy (sic) experience the drive?’ (Lacan 1994[1964]: 273)—and deplored the fact that it had only been investigated from the viewpoint of an analytic treatment with training effects. At this precise point, Lacan rekindled Freud’s notion of working-through, which he employed to designate the process whereby an analysand runs through the cycle of analytic experience a sufficient amount of times for the fantasy to give way to the drive, and for making possible the transition from analysand to analyst. Hence, in Lacan’s reading of Freud, working-through coincides with the traversal of the fantasy, prefigures the emergence of the drive (jouissance), and makes way for the concurrent adoption of the position of psychoanalyst by the former analysand.