Die Not des Lebens

Die Not des Lebens
Anne Béraud

“The first and immediate aim is not to find an object in real perception which corresponds to the one presented, but to refind such an object, to convince oneself that it is still there.”[1] Thus, from the beginning, the object is lost. “If Freud speaks of the reality principle”, Lacan says, “it is in order to reveal to us that from a certain point of view it is always defeated; it only manages to affirm itself at the margin. And this is so by reason of a kind of pressure that […] Freud calls die Not des Lebens […] Something that wishes. ‘Need’ and not ‘needs.” Pressure, urgency. The state of Not is the state of urgency in life.”[2]

That’s what it wants; Freud and Lacan indicate this to us while tracing its path, on the margin, pushed by the urgency of life and satisfying itself in spite of everything. The pleasure principle fixes the search trajectories of the object to be refound, and subjects this search to encounter nothing but the satisfaction of Not des Lebens.[3]

The urgency of life is satisfied via the drive that is to do with the body as enjoying body [corps jouissant]. Lacan could say that the subject is always happy at the level of the drive. As a correlative activity of the lost object, the drive produces a jouissance. It is satisfied even if the subject can suffer and complain about it. In effect, the activity of the drive is in violation of the pleasure principle,[4] but pushed by the urgency of life, it always finds satisfaction, and that is on the side of the reality principle. Satisfaction is therefore life itself. It cannot be ended otherwise than by death. The whole question is the manner of [getting] satisfaction. The symptom fulfills this function, charged with displeasure. Analysis reduces the symptom to the bone, clearing it of its suffering flesh. What remains is the letter of the sinthome, trace of jouissance and mark of absolute singularity.

This state of urgency of life, consubstantial in my case to a Hilflosigkeit, my existence carries the brand [la griffe].

Translation: Raphael Montague

1 Freud, S. (1923-25/2001). “Negation” SE Vol. 19. London: Vintage. pp. 235-42.

2 Lacan, J., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book VII, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, W. W. Norton and Co, New York/London, 1992, p. 46.

3 Ibid., p. 58.

4 Cf. Miller, J.-A., “L’orientation lacanienne. Donc”, Teaching delivered under the aegis of the Department of Psychoanalysis, University Paris 8, Lesson of 27 April 1994, unpublished.