The Position of the Analyst

Contribution to the Lacan-Jung Dialogue ‘Position of the Analyst’, held at Middlesex University on Saturday 2nd December 2017. The full text of this article appeared as a chapter of my book: Lacanian Psychoanalysis from Clinic to Culture, Routledge 2020.

Lacan’s trajectory of approaching the question of “the position of the analyst” starts with Hegelian thoughts on the Other’s desire. Then, he opposes the idea of transference and the so-called counter-transference before his 11th seminar in 1964. A few years later, on the effect of psychoanalytic training and the analyst of the school, we have “The Proposition of the Analyst of the School 9th Oct 1967”. Eventually, he designed “la pass” – a process through which to find a way of understanding the position of the analyst. He never put forward a theory on the position of the analyst as what it is, but rather as what its function is. The analyst is (1) a subject who occupies such position to (2) function at the level of (3) the Real unconscious.

The Position of the Analyst

Being an analyst is a permanent and full-time job, but only on paper! The job description involves a constant renewal in every clinical case. Case by case, the analyst’s function and his codes of duty, changes. Her/his position is only metaphorically a pair of listening ears sitting on a chair behind the couch. He is situated in the position of the analyst somewhere in the analytic discourse operating with the analysand in and from the realm of the unconscious. S/he operates from a position far from “knowing what s/he does” as s/he does not know beforehand and does not have any clue where to situate herself/himself as an operating agent before the start of each clinical case. After positioning oneself in the work, the mode of operation does not have any instruction or protocol. The analyst reinvents a mode of operation every single session, in-tune with the analysand’s unconscious dynamic. They both operate beyond the chair and couch on “the language” beyond spoken words. The analyst’s position does not have any pre-existence as such. Now, regarding the type of function we associate with the position of the analyst, Lacan described Socrates’ and Plato’s roles as the analyst and philosopher respectively. In Plato’s Symposium, Socrates questions certainty around the truth and desire. He is not seduced by Alcibiades’ efforts and offers. As early as Lacan’s 8th seminar on Transference, the analyst’s position is equated with an “agalma holder” (Lacan, 1960). The analysand assigns certain qualities and characteristics to such a position, holding something which the analysand desires. In Lacan’s teaching, the desire of the analyst evolves from the Other’s desire to a desire of “désêtre” (Lacan, 1967). As such, the analyst does not merely function at the level of the symbolic law, the law of the father (Lacan,1964a).

In Lacan’s view, the analyst’s position is beyond a phallic function. In other words, the analyst’s desire does not function at the level of “secondary repression”, which is only a metaphorical and symbolic function. Rather, the desire of the analyst targets primary repression, dividing the subject and his desire. It aims at the desire of nothing, on what cannot be said or articulated (Lacan, 1966). Lacan, in his four discourses, puts the position of the analyst at the level of the semblant of objet a as the cause of desire. (Lacan, 1970) This is an operation beyond the symbolic, coming from the void of what is lacking. Therefore, the position of the analyst is far from a puzzle-solver or indeed a truth or fortune teller. The analyst in the Lacanian orientation distances herself/himself from the position of the “subject supposed to know”.

The function of the analyst depends on the way in which he relates to his own desire as a subject, but his desire in the work is not defined as the desire of the Other. The analyst has rather an artist’s position in relation to what is alien to the analysand. The analyst reshuffles the symptom from which the analysand complains to give way to the construction of the analysand’s sinthome. Lacan brings a new light to the position of the analyst in Seminar 17, The Other Side of Psychoanalysis, in challenging Freud’s Oedipal myth. He de-phallicises the concept of the desire of the analyst. According to him, the function of the analyst goes beyond the function of the dead father. The analyst’s desire as a subject differs from the desire of the analyst while occupying that position in the clinical work (Lacan, 1970).
Each analyst develops his own version of its function in a specific mode of practice. To follow Freud and Lacan is not the aim of being formed as an analyst. Searching for the validity of their theories in each clinical work would be equivalent to “not doing” an analysis. It would be merely the analyst’s own sinthome with little or no effect on the analysand, to construct a way in which he can then deal with his mode of being.

If for Freud the position of the analyst means accepting the loss of the object and castration, which he equated with the feminine position in relation to the phallus, then for Lacan the function of such a position is to ensure the radical mode of not being he called: “désêtre”. Each analyst finds his own “exit-door” through which to form the position of being a cause through his formation process as an analyst. When Lacan formulated the position of the analyst as the place for causing the analysand’s desire, he distanced such a function from being only interpretative of unconscious fantasies. If the analyst frustrates demand in order to allow desire to burgeon and articulate itself, this does not reduce his position to target only desire only. In Lacan’s later teaching, one could see his emphasis on the “destitution” for the subject as an exchange of a “restitution” -as might be the case in other therapeutic approaches. However, there will definitely be a way for each subject of analysis to deal with and enjoy her/his being. The analyst’s desire is not confined only to the analysand’s well-being. As a result of this desire, the analysand finds her/his version of compromise in dealing with his “non-being” in a certain way.

Here, I would like to refer to a rather common belief amongst some analysts that women make better analysts. This is only true if by “being a woman”, we are evoking a non-existing position of “The woman” in both male and female analysts. The position of the analyst needs to function from a non-existing position as “The woman” which operates not only on phallic jouissance but on the “Other jouissance”. As there is not a universal form and symbolic position of “The woman”, we cannot simply set a qualification point for ‘becoming an analyst’. In other words, the closest analogy to the position of the analyst in Lacanian theories is “to be the woman”. Being attentive to something beyond phallic jouissance, that is, to the Other jouissance as is also the case with the position of the analyst.

To sum up, the position of the analyst moves from “subject supposed to know” to “being the cause of desire” and eventually operates at the level of original repression and Real castration. The desire of the analyst is targeting a very opaque mode of jouissance which cannot be addressed in any form of symbolic register. In the next part, we will explore the clinical implication of the analyst’s position in today’s practice of psychoanalysis.


Lacan, J. (1960-61). Le Séminaire Livre VIII: Le Transfert. Paris: Seuil

Lacan, J. (1966). Écrits: Du « Trieb » de Freud et du désir du Psychoanalyste, 1964a. pp. 851-854. Paris: Seuil

Lacan, J. (1966). Écrits: La Science et La Vérité, 1966. pp. 855-877. Paris: Seuil

Lacan, J. (1967). La Proposition du 9 octobre 1967 sur le psychanalyste de l’École. pp. 14-30, In : Scilicet 1, 1968

Lacan, J. (1969-70). Le séminaire XVII : L’envers de la psychanalyse. Jacques-Alain Miller (Ed). Paris: Seuil, 1991