“Covering everything from Aristotle to zombies to Breaking Bad, Carol Owens and Stephanie Swales have written a masterpiece unlocking the secrets of ambivalence. In Psychoanalyzing Ambivalence with Freud and Lacan, they demonstrate that ambivalence is perhaps the central category in social relations. The need for this book is especially urgent today, in an era characterized by its various ways of refusing ambivalence, which are, Owens and Swales make clear, ways of refusing the price of interacting with others altogether. Psychoanalyzing Ambivalence with Freud and Lacan speaks to the contemporary political catastrophe better than any book I’ve read.” –Todd McGowan, Professor, University of Vermont, USA
Taking a deep dive into contemporary Western culture, this book suggests we are all fundamentally ambivalent beings. A great deal has been written about how to love—to be kinder, more empathic, a better person, and so on. But trying to love without dealing with our ambivalence, with our hatred, is often a recipe for failure. Any attempt, therefore, to love our neighbour as ourselves—or even, for that matter, to love ourselves—must recognize that we love where we hate and we hate where we love.
Psychoanalysis, beginning with Freud, has claimed that to be in two minds about something or someone is characteristic of human subjectivity. Owens and Swales trace the concept of ambivalence through its various iterations in Freud and Lacan in order to question how the contemporary subject deals with its ambivalence. They argue that experiences of ambivalence are, in present-day cultural life, increasingly excised or foreclosed, and that this foreclosure has symptomatic effects at the individual as well as social levels. Owens and Swales examine ambivalence as it is at work in mourning, in matters of sexuality, in our enjoyment under neo-liberalism and capitalism. Above all, the authors consider how today’s ambivalent subject relates to the racially, religiously, culturally, or sexually different neighbour as a result of the current societal dictate of complete tolerance of the other. In this vein, Owens and Swales argue that ambivalence about one’s own jouissance is at the very roots of xenophobia.
Peppered with relevant and stimulating examples from clinical work, film, television, politics and everyday life, Psychoanalysing Ambivalence breathes new life into an old concept and will appeal to any reader, academic or clinician with an interest in psychoanalytic ideas.
The Days of Assembly of the Lacanian School play an important role in the life of the School. During the Days, members from the Bay Area as well as from other areas of the world gather in person to participate in Palimpsest, Passage, and other presentations by members of the School. In 2019, we met for the second annual Days of Assembly from May 24 through May 26 at the California Institute for Integral Studies and at Sessions Restaurant at the Presidio. The first day consisted of clinical case presentations and fruitful discussions about the practice of Lacanian psychoanalysis; theoretical presentations on psychosis and addictions were also highlights of the day. On the second day, five members gave their Palimpsest presentations and became Candidates of the School. On the third day, two Candidates gave their Passage presentations and became Analysts of the School. In each Passage and Palimpsest, what stood out was the singular way in which each member took up her/his presentation, which ranged not only in format—from case study to theoretical explorations to an artistic film and dramatic poetry reading—but also according to the subjectivity of each person. The Days of Assembly also included numerous opportunities to socialize and share meals and even a hike together. The Days strengthened relationships amongst members of the School and assisted in enriching the plurality of our discussions around the numerous ways in which Lacanian psychoanalysis has both clinical and theoretical importance.
Moncayo’s collection of essays accomplishes what Roland Barthes would call a “bathmology”—a science of degrees—within the field of psychoanalysis. Precisely because he does not separate Lacan from Freud, Freud from Darwin, or Lacan from Winnicott, he multiplies illuminating distinctions. With a curiosity that knows no bounds, he probes boundaries between concepts and offers crucial distinctions, like the opposition between pure and applied psychoanalysis. Here, it seems, we can have both at once, all the while knowing their difference.
Jean-Michel Rabaté, University of Pennsylvania and American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
This is the most in-depth, clinically astute, and illuminating exploration of perversion that I know of! Swales convincingly guides us through the maze of sadism, masochism, voyeurism, exhibitionism, and fetishism, illustrating her discussions throughout with eye-opening case material. A must-read book for all clinicians wishing to work with patients many shy away from owing to myriad transferential difficulties and misconceptions.” – Bruce Fink, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Duquesne University
Psychosis, an invasion of mind and body from without, creates an enigma about what is happening and thrusts the individual into radical isolation. What are the subjective details of such experiences? This book explores psychosis as knowledge cut off from history, truth that cannot be articulated in any other form. Delusion is a new language made of ‘incandescent alphabets’ that the psychotic adopts from imposed voices. The psychotic uses language in a singular way to found and explain a strange experience that he or she cannot exit. Through the exegesis of language in psychosis based on first person accounts, the book orients readers to an enigmatic Other, pervasive and inescapable, that will come to inhabit every aspect of the psychotic’s being, thought and bodily experience. Drawing on the author’s own experience of psychosis and psychoanalysis, as well as conversations with analyst colleagues, Dr Rogers offers ways to listen to language in delusion, and argues for the promise of a modified psychoanalytic treatment with psychosis.
‘This extraordinary book about psychosis as an encounter and relationship with language draws the reader in through a narrative that shows us how lacking mainstream psychiatric and psychoanalytic diagnostic categories are. Incandescent Alphabets is an amazing conceptual and poetic alternative that makes of the experience of psychosis an illuminated manuscript from which readers learn about the author, the people she works with, and about themselves.’
–– Ian Parker, psychoanalyst and author of Psychology after Psychoanalysis: Psychosocial Studies and Beyond