“Jouissance: The stuff that dreams are made of”
NEW YORK CITY, february 21-23, 2020


“The place of the real […] explains both the ambiguity of the function of awakening and of the function of the real in this awakening.”Jacques Lacan, Seminar XI: Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis

Freud explored the moral responsibility of the content of the dream in his text Some Additional Notes on Dream Interpretation as a Whole, specifically in the section B of this work.  He takes two models of dreams as the paradigm of moral responsibility: dreams of anguish and dreams of self-punishment.  From there, Freud raises the question about the relationship between jouissance and the dream.

As Freud states: “The ethical narcissism of humanity should rest content with the knowledge that the fact of distortion in dreams, as well as the existence of anxiety [anguish]-dreams and punishment-dreams, afford just as clear evidence of his moral nature as dream-interpretation gives of the existence and strength of his evil nature.  If anyone is dissatisfied with this and would like to be ‘better’ than he was created, let him see whether he can attain anything more in life than hypocrisy or inhibition.”[1]

Freud had already, in The Interpretation of Dreams, raised the ethical question of the relation of the responsibility of the dreamer and the jouissance in play at the navel of the dream.  Beyond the meaning of the dream, the question of jouissance and responsability was present from the start of the work of psychoanalysts with dreams.

Later on, Lacan took the nightmare as the paradigm of the failure of the symbolic matrix in the face of the irruption of the Real.  The unconscious as a network or net of signifiers fails to transform, process and catalyze the Real that bursts and converts a dream into a nightmare.  This work is described on detail in Seminar XI, specifically in the two firsts sections—The Unconscious and Repetition and Of the Gaze as Object petit a.  Here, Lacan introduces the object petit a with a double value: as a condenser of jouissance and one of the forms of representation of the Real.  This Real is the one that is wrapped up by a net of signifiers, using for examples the parapraxis at the dream of Signorelli as well as the nightmare of the father that sees his son burning.[2]  Lacan states: “How can we fail to see that awakening works in two directions and that the awakening that re-situates us in a constituted and represented reality carries out two tasks? The real has to be sought beyond the dream in what the dream has enveloped, hidden from us, behind the lack of representation of which there is only one representative.  This is the real that governs our activities more than any other and it is psychoanalysis that designates it for us”[3]

This is what allows Jacques Alain Miller to say that we wake up from the nightmare to continue sleeping and thus re-establish the equilibrium of our representations: “The awakening to reality is only a fugue from the awakening to the real, that awakening that is announced in the dream when the subject approaches, as Freud points out, that about which the subject wants to know nothing.”[4]

Emphasizing that jouissance is a substance that requires a body, and thus understanding a body as a substance made out of jouissance, is opposed to that field full of semblants offered by the symbolic: identifications, meaning, etc.  With this in mind, we ask: What is the relevance of the relationship of this transferential unconscious with the jouissance that emerges in these two types of dreams that Freud exposes to us in this work.

From the last teaching of Lacan, what could we say about dreams: Are they a compass of a moment of jouissance of a parlêtre, a speaking-being?  How do we work with dreams, keeping in mind this opposition between the transferential unconscious and the real unconscious?  Or, rather, could we say that the dream is a formation alien to the real unconscious?  Especially since the meaning is nothing more than a deceptive strategy of hidden jouissance, what Lacan calls joui-sense?

Or is the dream still a critical element of the analytic experience, from entry to exit?

In the next Clinical Study Days, we invite you to think about the notions of the dream and jouissance in the contemporary clinic, taking as reference the different moments of Lacan’s teaching, as well as the developments made by Jacques-Alain Miller about Lacan’s last teaching. What does our practice say today about current use of the dream and its relation to jouissance within the analytic experience?  And at this juncture, what status can we give to the body of this parlêtre, speaking-being, when it is taken by this symbolic fracture that is evidenced in the nightmare or in the dream of punishment when the body is being assaulted by the anguish that comes out of this mismatch?

These are some of the questions that will guide our work over the next year in preparation for our Clinical Study Days. We also invite you to hold these questions to orient the case presentations and following discussion that we will have during the Clinical Study Days 13.

Juan Felipe Arango

[1] Freud, S. (1925). “Some Additional Notes on Dream-Interpretation as a Whole.” The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIX (1923-1925). Hogarth: pages 123-138

[2] Lacan, J. (1964) Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. W. W. Norton & Company: page 60.

[3] Idem.

[4] Miller, J.-A.  (1987)  Despertar [Awakening], Matemas I. Ed. Manantial:  page 120.  [Translation from Spanish to English by Isolda Alvarez. Translation not reviewed by the author.]