⚯ Reading Notes | Mental Health & The Social order

⚯ Reading Notes | Mental Health & The Social order
Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash
[M]ental health is part, a subcategory, of the set of the public order.
There is no other definition for mental health than that of public order. [...] Mental heal [is] defined, then, by reference to [the] public order.

Mental health works to maintain the social order. Psychoanalysts don't maintain or rebel against the social order. For the psychoanalyst the social order is a thing, it's there in the same way that gravity is a thing, the psychoanalyst knows how to deal with it in ways where the social order does not determine the psychoanalyst's actions.

Crossing the street

The most important thing in life with respect to mental health to go well [andar bein] in the street Or even to cross it, to cross the street without being run over. The common way we have of expressing this in Paris --and common sense always has a point– would be to say that a mental patient is someone who you would not trust to cross the street with a child. This seems to me to be a valid criterion of mental health.
[I]n the countryside, when there were no streets or even cars, the standards of mental health were much less strict than they are today in the cities where the traffic is intense. The more intense the traffic, the more exacting the mental health.

I think this is very important. In places that are dense, there is a certain kind of social order, and it is different than the sort of social order one finds in less densely populated areas.  I think this is something we see now in the split between the urban/suburban areas and the rural areas in the United States.


The crucial problem, then, for the concept of mental health is that of the decision about the responsibility of the individual. That is, whether someone is responsible and can be punished or whether, on the contrary, is irresponsible and should be treated. It appears evident enough to me that the best definition of a person in good mental health is that of being able to be judged for his actions.
But let us focus on the idea of irresponsibility. someone is irresponsible who is unable to give the reason for his actions, who is not able to answer for them. The very word 'responsibility includes the 'response,' it has the same root. Responsibility is the possibility of answering for oneself.

The social order wants people who are members of that social order to 'be responsible' to be able to give reasons for their actions that the social order can understand and support. If someone acts in ways that they (and others) can't explain as congruent with the social order 'corrective action' must be taken. (It is scary to me just how many people take great joy in being the agents of said 'corrective action,' at how many people get off on making others comply with the social order.)

The psychoanalyst, as such is not a mental health worker and perhaps this would be precisely the secret of psychoanalysis. [...] The psychoanalyst can neither promise nor give mental health. He can only welcome: welcome the patient who comes to the consultation. Furthermore, when everything is going well, it is [the psychoanalyst] who remains locked up there [in the consulting room], as if he had withdrawn himself from circulation.  

Miller's words here make me think that a mental health worker is someone who is an agent of the social order (the Other as social order). The mental health worker aims to get the patient to behave themselves, to not be seen by the social order as 'out of line,' as a deviant in need of correction. The psychoanalyst is not someone who is an agent of the social order.  

[M]ental health is always a question of use, the good use of force.

There you have it.

On Psychosis & Paranoia:

Paranoia can also at times be perfectly compatible with public order [...] It is only from a paranoiac that I have heard, in my consulting room, that he was in perfect mental health. I don't know if anyone who was not a paranoic would be able to ay this.
"Do not give ground before psychosis" is a well known phrase of Lacan that is repeated everywhere [...] Do not give ground, but with exceptions. We could discuss this, for example, in relation to the analysis of paranoiacs, because this presents technical difficulties not easy to overcome. The paranoiac is precisely in the subjective position of the accuser and not the accused, the paranoiac is being persecuted but the others are to blame. (Emphsiss is mine.)

The neurotic is capable of the dialectical reversal, of seeing that they play a part, are responsible for, and must give response to, the role they play in their own suffering. The psychotic (the paranoiac in particular) can't perform the dialectical reversal.  

The condition, therefore, of distinguishing the subject of the enunciation is that he is able to distance himself from what he enunciates. [...] It is the subject capable of judging what he says and what he does.  

Remember: Paranoia is the opposite of the kind of fragmentation and inconsistency we find in schizophrenia. The paranoiac is scared that their i(a) will be "broken up" by something, and that fear drives the paranoiac to engage in all sorts of defensive evasive maneuvers and preemptive attacks on what they fear will break up their i(a). Because of this, the paranoiac is a slave to I(A), and the demand to be stable, consistent, healthy, etc. The paranoiac avoids freedom/responsibility via the demand that comes from I(A).

On Freud, Guilt, & the Drive

On the basis of the connection between mental health, public order, responsibility, right and response, it is possible to understand the importance, the pre-eminent place that Freud reserves for the concept [...] of guilt. [...] Freud did not define society by mental health but on the basis of a myth, and not just any myth but that of a primordial crime at the origin of the Law.  It is the myth that says Everyone is guilty. It is the mythical response to "I feel responsible [i.e., guilty] but don't know what for," the [felt responsibility for] the death of the father. [...] [T]he subject of the unconscious is always and accused. And it was to demonstratethis that Freud invented the superego.

Hot shit, and happy fucking damn, wow.  

What do we call drive[...]? We speak of the drive when things are presented in this dimension of 'not being able to stop doing them.'  [...] If we speak of subjective position in the drive, we could say that it is a question of the relation of the subject to a demand against which he cannot defend himself. In this sense there is a connection between the drive and the superego[.]

I think this is important, but I can't get a handle on it... Is Miller saying the superego and the drive are demands against which the subject can't speak, can't give an account of, cant be 'held accountable for?  

Drive v. Desire

How are we to differentiate them if not by the fact that we speak of the drive when the subject complains that he cannot defend himself and of desire when the subject complains about defending himself too well? The difference lies precisely in the defense. In desire, the defense is internal to the very dynamic in as much as desire and refusal of [i.e., defense from] desire are linked in the same movement. [For example, desiring to speak out, but restraining one's self from speaking.] We speak of drive, on the contrary, when the subjective function is incapable of introducing the defense.

Psychoanalysis can enter this great country to the degree it transforms itself into a state of rights. We can see the connection: psychoanalysis and human rights enter at the same time. You have to have the right to remain silent. You cannot have psychoanalysis where there is only the right to speak, or even the obligation to speak.


For his own mental health it is necessary that the analyst should have been cured of the sense of guilt. It would be dangerous, otherwise, to address oneself to him. The formation of the psychoanalyst could be summed up by being cured of the sentiment of guilt.[...] [The formation of an analyst has] to cure them of the sense of guilt in so far as they direct the treatment and at the same time, and this is the most difficult, not cure them of it as subjects. So it is a question of curing them of their sense of guilt in their function as analysts and nonetheless strengthening it in them as subjects.
The negative therapeutic reaction, to use a Freudian expression that does not seem to me all that apt, has the aim precisely of passing the guilt onto the analyst: You cannot cure me, in other words, displacing the guilt onto the Other.  

To explain it in financial terms, it is as if the subject had the bearer's cheque that he cannot cash. This bearer's cheque is called the [symbolic] phallus. [The lack of this symbolic phallus] is the very basis of the [analysand's] complaint in psychoanslysis [and the patient's complaint in psychotherapy]. [The analysand/patient is saing some versin of] I have the right to something that I cannot cash in.The subjct always arrives in analysis to cash his cheque and the psychoanalsyst it the cashier [the analyst asks some verson of] --Explain to me what bearer's checuq you have.

Here were see the patient/analysand saying to a therapist/analyst, "Hi. I'm going to pay you. Then, because I pay, you are obligated to provide me with something --a phallus– that will cure/fix me."  

The patient/analysand sees the analyst as the banker who they can use to transform a check [a desire] into money [an object]. This is, of course, a fantasy.

Psychoanalysts are, in these terms, those who have given up hope of the barer's cheque, who have abandonde the idea of cashing it in, with the paradoxical result that their pockets are full.  

Unlike patients/analysands (and most therapists) the analyst is someone who has given up on the idea of getting the object they desire, and as a result, the analyst's desire is much more fulfilled.  

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