The Congress

Presentation of the XIIth WAP Congress

Its interpretation and use in lacanian treatment

Silvia Baudini and Fabián Naparstek

I have every right, like Freud, to share my dreams with you. In contrast to those of Freud, my dreams are not inspired by the desire to sleep. What moves me is rather the desire to wake up. But this, in the end, is something particular.”[1]

1900 is the year that marks the beginning of psychoanalysis: Freud publishes The Interpretation of Dreams. In 2020, 120 years later, we in our orientation, the Lacanian orientation, are centering the theme of the XIIth WAP Congress around “The Dream. Its interpretation and its use in the Lacanian treatment.” The dream, in the singular, is the dream that is tied to the dreamer, to a body that dreams and that speaks about this dream to its analyst. We listen to the dream in the singular, as J.-A. Miller would have it in the translation of Freud’s Traumdeutung, where the translators rather go for the plural version of the interpretation of dreams.

The dream is engagedin this way with the speaking body and with that which of the unconscious is verified when we analyse the parlêtre.

This theme[2], which so characteristic of psychoanalysis from its origins, but which at the same time poses new questions for us today, arises out of exchanges with J.-A. Millerand other colleagues. In Rio de Janeiro, J.-A. Miller advised us that we had put too much emphasis on the body and not enough on the unconscious. Taking up the dream thus orients us in that direction. In this way, this theme is also articulated with the elaboration that we pursue from one Congress to the next; “A Real for the 21st Century”, “The Unconscious and the Speaking Body”, and “The Ordinary Psychoses and the Others, Under Transference”. In its turn, this theme, with its “Lacanian treatment”, exposes the work of analysts in their practice. Let us recall that “Lacanian Practice” was the title of the Comandatuba Congress, which we preferred not to repeat on this occasion.

We consider that posing the question of the practice by way of the dream is a way of making it the other side of the era. Given that we live in an era that some describe as the era of transparency[3], in which there is a loss of meaning, where everything is exposed and shown in an explicit way, with the loss of the distance between the intimate and the public. The era of what has been called “post-privacy praxis”.[4] Nonetheless, dreams still maintain a link with the most intimate and at the same time continue to present themselves as enigmatic for oneself and for others. Dreams are not transparent! Dreams still push to be interpreted. We still close our eyes in order to dream!

Not long ago, Christine Angot surprised readers with a book calledA Week of the Holidays,[5] in which she ‘lays bare’ in the most explicit way an incestuous relation between a young girl and her father, without veil. J.-A. Miller speaks of the happiness of the unconscious[6] confronted with the inferno that this young girl experiences in the presence of this obsolete and pathogenic[7] father. “Why does she not run away? Why does she not cry out? Why does she not act up? Why does she not escape? Because the NO, the limit, the brake, comes from the unconscious. The brake on this unstoppable father emerges from the royal road of the unconscious. Her dream, recounted, is the buffer for him. She goes from being crushed by her tropism towards this father to the happiness of the unconscious, which does not signify a festival of jouissance, but rather an entry into the world of the extravagances of desire. Perhaps this brief novella and J.-A. Miller’s commentary allow us to orient ourselves in an era that has changed with respect to that of Freud in order to follow the path of singular desire that says NO to the worse, to that of the father that could lead to the worse”.[8]

In 1911, Freud advised doctors about the use to be given to the interpretation of dreams.[9] It would never be right to detain the interest of the analysis for the benefit of the exhaustiveness of the interpretation of the dream. A dream is made of words, it is a text, and as such it is read. In turn, for Lacan a dream does not introduce any unfathomable experience, one reads its equivocations in an anagrammatic way.[10] In his very last teaching, Lacan leaves linguistics behind – Miller says that he stops making a delirious use of linguistics[11] – that is to say that he stops making the symbolic order the key to psychoanalysis.[12] We thus distinguish that which in the dream corresponds to the field of Oedipal fiction and to the field of lalangue. Lacan indicates that the fact that the analysand only speaks about his or her parents is because it is they that taught him or her lalangue.[13]

In the Opening of the Clinical Section from 1977[14], Lacan indicates that the psychoanalytic clinic should consist not only in questioning analysis, but rather in questioning analysts, so they provide an account of what is hazardous in their practice, that which justifies that Freud should have existed.[15] He puts the clinic, the practice of each one, above the theories, including his own. He says “I have collaborated”[16], but he adds that this is not a reason to stop there. We could thus think that this Congress opens a space and a time for questioning the dream on what is hazardous in each practice, how the dream comes each time to give account or not of a real for each one.

The Freudian thesis on dreams implies that they are a (hallucinatory) fulfillment of wishes. In this respect one can isolate three stages in the work of Freud. A first moment where all dreams are thefulfillment of a wish, on the basis of which the dream becomes interpretable. A second phase, with the appearance of Beyond the Pleasure Principle, where Freud has to recognize the appearance of dreams that are not thefulfillment of a wish, and are thus not interpretable. Finally, a third period where we have a Freud that lays down his arms and accepts variation to his central thesis about dreams. It will no longer be a question of exceptions – as in Beyond the Pleasure Principle – but rather that the dream has a fault.

Although it is certain that the limit to the interpretation of dreams is present from the beginning in Freud’s postulation of the existence of a navel of the dream, in the third stage that we are speaking about he takes a further step. The visualor figurativetransposition of the representatives into images is the mechanism of a ‘harmless hallucinatory experience”[17] and the compromise (the transaction) is the result that permits the processing of drive impulses. On the basis of this point Freud redefines his central thesis andcommits himself to observing that it is not a question of an exception here but rather of a structural modification. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle the exception refers to traumatic dreams. Nevertheless, in this last stage he arrives at the deduction that “unconscious fixation to a trauma seems to be foremost among theobstacles to the function of dreaming”.[18]This is to say that to the degree thateach subject entails a fixation to trauma, the dream becomes “an attempt at the fulfillment of a wish”[19], but with the possibility of failure, given the activation of the drive pressure associated with the traumatic fixation.[20] Thus, the function of the dream, like any fully-fledged psychic act, is to “transform the memory-traces of the traumatic event into the fulfillment of a wish”.[21]

In this sense, the dream of Irma’s injection puts in play the presence of an imprecise day’s residue given by the tone of Otto’s voice which goes on resonating. Freud thus proposes that one dreams in order to go on working, and at this point there is a strict relation between the function of the remainder and the function of the cause. Lacan in his turn works this dream and takes account of two interruptions. On one hand, the view of the throat, a sight that provokes anxiety. In the light of this he asks why Freud doesn’t wake up and indicates that he “has guts”[22]. In this dream Freud goes to “the foundation of things”[23], putting the body in play as a body that speaks and enjoys, beyond narcissism, beyond the image, or rather, as Lacan says in Seminar XXIII, the image is “not without entailing affects”[24]. In the same place Lacan situates the real, anxiety, the feminine sexual organ and death. Nonetheless, we should clarify here that this anxiety-provoking sight does not cease to have an imaginary frame within the limits of the opening of the mouth. On the other hand, the second interruption is linked to writing[25], the very limit of speech. “The dream, which culminated a first time, when the ego was there, with the horrific image I mentioned, culminates a second time at the end with a formula, with its Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin aspect, written on the wall, beyond what we cannot but identify as speech, universal rumour.Like my oracle, the formula gives no reply whatsoever to anything.”[26] Considering things in this way we encounter two limits to a permanent circulation between the symbolic and the imaginary. When one has the dream (iS)[27] we find interruptions linked to waking and it would need to be verified on each occasion what type of interruption is involved. But also when we interpret the dream (sI)[28] there is a limit called the navel. In both cases the structure of the dream with its waking and with its limit allows us to situate an orientation in the treatment.

As J.-A. Miller reminds us, for Lacan the status of the unconscious is not ontic but rather ethical. He tells us that it is entirely legitimate that someone might not expect anything from a dream or its meaning. He says: “At the origin there has to be a subject who decides, on the contrary, not to be indifferent to the Freudian phenomenon.”[29]. Not being indifferent to the Freudian phenomenon, which is not the same as interpreting dreams in the Freudian way, means that one has to decide to be an analysand, to be ananalysand of one’s own not wanting to know anything about it. Given that, as Miller says, it is completely legitimate to think that “I can’t hope for anything by recounting my dreams and trying to make sense of them”.[30] The position of the analysand goes beyond this legitimacy. It implies a forcing and a decision. On this path, the term use introduces a beyond of the fictions of being. Miller puts this on a par with the term structure. The use de-structures the symbolic system in order to introduce us to the syntagm of the logical use of the sinthome. It is a question, Miller says, of a superior pragmatics.

In the same way, J.-A. Miller indicates[31] that there are dreams that can make present a jouissance not taken up in the fictional machinery of interdiction, where jouissance is made present as an event of the body. In the same way, in certain psychoses the dream does not call for interpretation and can be a way of placating the unbearable voice of the hallucination. The dream as formation of the unconscious is governed by the logic of interdiction and permission, as in the dream of Anna Freud. There, jouissance has to be refused in order to be attained on the inverse scale of the law of desire.[32] But when Lacan situates feminine jouissance as the regime of jouissance as such, it is no longer a question of prohibition and permission, but rather the dream is an event of the body, opaque for being resistant to meaning, but not to logic, given that it concerns a real that can be demonstrated.

Marie-Helene Brousse invites us in this way to reviewfrom the perspective of the dream the advances made by Lacan and then by J.-A. Miller on the real unconscious,distinguished from thetransferential unconscious, which is decipherable. “How does this new binary present itself and what use do we make of it in treatments of the Lacanian orientation from the perspective of the dream?”[33]

The unebevue, the Unbewusst, pure homophony, happiness of the unconscious. “The unebevue reclaims a signifier that would be new, not so there would be a supplementary signifier, but rather because in place of being contaminated by the dream, this new signifier would give rise to an awakening.”[34]

For his part, Eric Laurent proposes that we differentiate the Freudian formula that maintains that dreams are the fulfillment of a wish from a Lacanian formula where dreams would indicate the realization of an awakening. An anti-Freudian Lacan that would allow the dream to be deciphered – giving to deciphering all the value that it can still have today – in order to become an instrument of awakening.[35] Being aware, at the same time, that there is no state of permanently being awake; that would be death. It is on the basis of its use and not only its interpretation that the dream maintains its validity in the current epoch. If each Congress is a heresy that makes the School One exist[36], we believe, and thus hope, that the next Congress will contribute to orienting analysts in their reading of the dream in the Lacanian treatment of today.

Translated by Roger Litten


  1. Lacan, J., ‘Latroiseme’, English translationforthcoming in The Lacanian Review.
  2. Harari, A., and Santiago, J.: Report of the Meeting of the Council of the WAP, February 2019.
  3. Byun-Chul Han, The Transparency Society, Stanford University Press, 2012.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Angot, C., Une semaine de vacances, J’ai lu, Flammarion, 2012.
  6. Miller, J.-A., “Encounter with J.-A. Miller, Jam Session”, in Feminismos. Variaciones y Controversias, COL, Grama Ediciones, Buenos Aires, 2018, p. 22.
  7. Ibid., p. 19.
  8. Naparstek, F., “De lo insoportable del padre a la alegria del inconsciente (Comentario sobre el encuentro de Jacques-Alain Miller con Christine Angot en el Teatro Sorano)” in Ibid., pp. 48, 49.
  9. Freud, S., “The Handling of Dream-Interpretation in Psychoanalysis”, in Standard Edition, Vol. 12, p. 91.
  10. Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book XX, Encore, Norton, New York/London, 1998, p. 96.
  11. Miller, J.-A., El ultimisimo Lacan, Paidos, Buenos Aries, 2012, p. 216.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Lacan J., Le Séminaire, livre XXIV, L'insu que sait de l'une-bévue s'aile à mourre, in Ornicar? n°17/18, Paris, Lyse, 1979, lesson of 17th May, 1977, “Vers un signifiant nouveau”.
  14. Lacan, J., Ouverture a la section Clinique, in Ornicar?, n° 9, 1977, pp 7-14.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Freud, S., “Lecture XXIX, Revision of the theory of Dreams”, in Standard Edition, Vol. 22, p. 17.
  18. Ibid., p. 29
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book II, The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, Norton, New York/London, 1991, p. 155. (Published translation has: “he’s a tough customer”)
  23. Ibid., p. 154
  24. Lacan, J., TheSeminar, Book XXIII, The Sinthome, Polity, Cambridge, 2016, p. 129.
  25. Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book II, op. cit.,p. 158
  26. Ibid.
  27. Ibid., p. 152.
  28. Ibid., p. 152.
  29. Miller, J.-A., “Habeas corpus”, in The Ordinary Psychoses and the Others, Under Transference, Scilicet, NLS, 2018, p. 23.
  30. Ibid.
  31. Miller, J.-A., L’Êtreetl’Un, lesson on 2nd March 2011, unpublished.
  32. Lacan, J., “The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire”, in Écrits, Norton, 2006, p. 700.
  33. Brousse, M.-H., intervention in the course of the Soirée of the WAP,“Une soirée de rêve. Vers le XIIecongrès de l’AMP!”, January 28th, 2019.
  34. Miller, J.-A., El ultimisimo Lacan, op. cit., p. 145.
  35. Laurent, E.,intervention in the course of the Soirée of the WAP, “Une soirée de rêve. Vers le XIIecongrès de l’AMP!”, January 28th, 2019.
  36. Ibid.