Angelo Villa: Hystericization and Psychoanalytic Belonging

Angelo Villa: Hystericization and Psychoanalytic Belonging

“For belonging does entail an identification; I suggest that the turning point must be made through the difference between a passive identification and an active one. As far as the analysis delves into a familial bond, it allows the patient to return and find a new place in his personal history; a different place from where he had been placed by his symptom, along with those symptoms belonging to others. In other words, the analysis doesn’t break the belonging (how would it be possible?) but it allows the patient to introduce into it his own subjectivity, to have the chance to finally re-write his belonging. This is what needs to happen in an association, too. Belonging to an association should entail the possibility of affecting the life of the association. This is the only way toward a belonging that resists alienation. Of course, there are the others, as always. And not only the friends, the ones we admire, the ones who…

But an association can’t be formed through friendship alone because friends often end up revealing themselves to be enemies. From my point of view, an association has to maintain an institutional dimension in order to work. The bonds between people don’t have to be too close. As with Schopenhauer’s hedgehogs during winter, the hard part is finding the right distance. Too far from each other, they die from cold – and maybe they get paranoiac; too close, they pierce themselves with their quills. This new belonging requires experiencing the association as both a personal group and a shared one with participation, but also freedom and a bit of loneliness are indispensable to avoiding the typical fusion of exasperated groups.

Ultimately, belonging to an association means having a place where one can give more than one takes. It is a place where one can put something personal: ideas, thoughts, elaborations, acts, etc. It is a similar realm of personal that was part of an analysis that enabled the patient to emerge, now… impatient. If analysis enabled the patient to go into himself, the association also enables him (or it should, so that each one chooses the most suitable association for him) to use that experience in his journey in the association, which in return will also be impacted. But, I repeat myself: the time taken by the work of the association is not easy. It is exhausting and interminable, and honestly, this should be acknowledged. But are there alternatives to the social bond? And finally, at the end of it, whatever I can say about others, is it not just what the others can say about me? Belonging to an association entails the possibility of working on that belonging, to use Gramsci’s words, with the optimism of the will and the pessimism of the intellect.” – Angelo Villa, Include Me Out, Please!

Post-show commentary from Cecilia Wu via the Unbehagen SalOon listserv:

Angelo has insisted on the urgency of articulating tensions between poetic exile, democratic equality, and incestuous belonging. Between a transference that won’t quit making up history and her story as it goes along, and a theorizing impulse that would prefer not to. Watering the stones, and stoning the water, we wonder why so many disappear in silence, without ever challenging the group to consider the cause of their defection. What can a group do? When does the question of what a group can do turn into a superegoic question of what a group should do? When does charisma turn into despotism? What are some alternative logics of groups? How can we accommodate the asymmetries of a group of many ones that is not One in the fused sense of an unmoved Mover?


1) If the 2 family pathologies are words like water and words like stone, what would a normal or non-pathological relation to language be like? Putty? Damp feathers? Could the consistency of language be determined by factors other than family, like the acoustics of the uterine wall, the constitution of umbilical smoothies, hostile neighbors, or an overzealous little dog? Or is there an extent to which all modalities of membership are passed through the sieve of family and measured by homeliness and incestuousness barometers? Do watery words result from subordination to the electromagnetism of the Other, while stoney words result from attempts to dominate and subdue the habitually effective bystanding unsuspecting Other?

2) Is becoming an analyst, in the sense of assuming the position of agent as the object a cause of desire in the analytic discourse, a part of every ‘complete’ analysis? What does agency as object a cause of desire entail? An ability to turn around and heed back the other evenly? Going beyond seeing something and saying something to doing something with? Is it a doing, a savoir faire, that is less a doing about and more a doing with? If the choice between the symptom and the doing with is a forced choice, is the symptom akin to the money you can’t live without, and the doing with akin to the life without which money is moot? If money falls from an atm in the midst of an eden and no one is there to yell “bitch better have my money!” is it still withdrawn, or better yet eternally deposited?

3) I am intrigued by the claim that the father for the poet is the work itself. And that this work is akin to the work of the analyst, a work toward birthing style. We might begin with a style-less symptom and end with style as an expression of imperfection. It is this style which can be transmitted and which breaks the ice of encounter in the way that it orients its chisel. Does the transmission of style go beyond the transference of chewing gum on fresh asphalt, to convey, and not merely imprint? What can the poet do for the group within the crisis, abiding its aftermath, as an inventor of time machines designed to cross the wires of ghosts, ancestors and alien futures? Must the poet defect to work only for himself?

4) To what extent is the discourse of the analyst a perverse discourse? How do seduction and polymorphism shadow each other as pawns in the work of analysis? Is the Other seducing us to adopt the fashion trends of newly minted master signifiers, stuff them into the signifieds of the knowledge batter of a happily ever after connubial cake and pretend it is an encyclopedia as recyclopedia of the truth of desire?

5) If the leader seduces with an illusion of love, whereas the father really loves the child, as per Freud, do fathers who really love really exist?

6) If not everyone counts equally, if the promotion of a mirage of democratic equality is itself at best an impotency, and at worst a demagogic imposition, how do we move beyond a standardized count as one toward a one and only that is neither ululating lone wolf nor assimilative sherbert nor blinding auto amnesia of total eclipse, locally felt as codependency?

7) Following Angelo’s counsel, can experiment and experience, the tried and true and the test drive, shirking theory (an inflated currency which opposes the currents history – a currency against currents), while relating haptically to the pulse of a timing that doesn’t immediately give way to roots and fantasies of permanent static domesticity (incestuous fixation), lead us to alternative logics of the group that can host the happenings of the transference, the particularities of its decisions, and the contingencies of its absolute difference? Can it respond promptly to the vagaries of desires as they arise? If we begin with neither a theory of how this might work on a sunny day at high noon, nor an image of what this might look like to a leprechaun at the end of a felicitous rainbow, how might we begin again and again to allow repetition to drum up and rhythmically suggest the cryptomnesiac undertow of mnemic dna and stowaway rebuses theory fought to exorcise? Can we have our group and our pandora’s box too? Do the lollipop and the granola bar end up crossing the metabolic finish line at the same time?

8) Whether public or private, is there any institution that does not give bandwidth to some variety of peep show looking onto desire, however masked it might be? Where is the desire cowering in a bureaucracy? Where is the desire kindled in the fetishized silence of an analytic association? If analysts are so hateful when they come to express themselves in the theatre of the analytic association, where per Angelo, the unanalyzed transferences in the transition from the demand of the analysand to the desire of the analyst come into play, how is this unruly debris also the signature silence of the analytic association? Somehow I can’t make the leap from the urgency of forced choice to the silence of no choice.

Jamieson Webster’s response to Carl Jacob’s contribution to the Q&A:

There was a fascinating moment in the talk where Carl Jacobs pulls out of his magical hat a fascinating quote from Freud’s Group Psychology on the poet who leaves the group but can’t really make his way back in because he has invented himself and the group is still, well, a group, in which case it invents nothing.

“The ego ideal comprises the sum of all the limitations in which the ego has to acquiesce. It was then perhaps that some individual in the exigency of his longing, may have been moved to free himself from the group and take over the father’s part. The myth then is the step by which the individual emerges from group psychology. The poet, who has taken this step and has, in his way, set himself free from this group in his imagination, is, never the less able to find his way back to it in reality. For he goes and relates to the group, his hero’s deeds, which he has invented. At bottom, this hero is no one but himself.” – Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego

Carl reminds us that his Freudian interpolation was preceded by his conveyance of the words of the Buddha: “Vision without action is a daydream, but action without vision a nightmare.”

This seems to follow Cecilia’s questions about language, counting, love of the father vs leader, the alternate rhythms of groups that might be possible. Because in the end, we decided that there could be a group organized around poetics as long as it wasn’t a series of narcissistic poets with no bond between them? Angelo posited that neurotic language is like stones or water. In his case, it was water, which made existing on the outside in, or the inside-out of a group a little easier. Sometimes I forget what we look like from the outside-in, being too much inside-out myself. When stones meet stones we are really in trouble. Then Carl got really angry about curriculum or Lacan and Angelo said – this is what happens in psychoanalytic groups: the most anger he’s ever seen. It was a fascinating enactment.

Evan Malater’s further kindling of the commentary with customary associative flair:

Angelo spoke of “history” in his talk. Or maybe he spoke of “story.” The Italian word he used meant both and Chiara, the translator, kept coming back to this ambiguity that seemed determine to vex her. That history (or story) included, according to Angelo, a way that language in our family was either like stone or water – according to our history or maybe according to our fantasy, our story of the origin of our own stony words or watery language.

Stone and water evoke Freud’s final pessimism in Analysis: Terminable and Interminable. The patient’s character is always too watery or too hard. The result for him is a limit to the sense of how far one goes before one meets a bedrock limit of stone or water in the other’s personality that is fixed.

This group too no doubt has its water people and its stoners. Its easy to speak of headless groups of Ones and yet, has anyone seen such a thing? What would allow for a going beyond such dire limits which would show that institute or no institute, it is painful to be with others and yes, this can evoke even hatred. Angelo spoke in favor of being together with distance like porcupines but then I read that porcupines pretty much stay near their territory only straying out a bit to seek some salt, which they love. So I’m asking for another metaphor than the porcupine since life is more than a craving for a bit of surplus salt or so I hope.

Some words on stone that I found inspired by Cecilia’s writing:

“Pain conceals itself in the stone. It remains vaulted and guarded until it is sounded. The spirit which will return stone to speech is flaming. It is not ethereal but giving off something like a shock, it is electronically powered. The spirit which will return stone to speech is flaming. It is not ethereal but giving off something like a shock, it is electronically powered.” – Avital Ronell, The Telephone Book

To end, Freud’s own thoughts on the water and stone problem:

“If we advance a step further in our analytic experience, we come upon resistances of another kind, which we can no longer localize and which seem to depend on fundamental conditions in the mental apparatus. I can only give a few examples of this type of resistance; the whole field of enquiry is still bewilderingly strange and insufficiently explored. We come across people, for instance, to whom we should be inclined to attribute a special ‘adhesiveness of the libido’. The processes which the treatment sets in motion in them are so much slower than in other people because, apparently, they cannot make up their minds to detach libidinal cathexes from one object and displace them on another, although we can discover no special reason for this cathectic loyalty. One meets with the opposite type of person, too, in whom the libido seems particularly mobile; it enters readily upon the new cathexes suggested by analysis, abandoning its former ones in exchange for them. The difference between the two types is comparable to the one felt by a sculptor, according to whether he works in hard stone or soft clay. Unfortunately, in this second type the results of analysis often turn out to be very impermanent: the new cathexes are soon given up once more, and we have an impression, not of having worked in clay, but of having written on water. In the words of the proverb: ‘Soon got, soon gone.’” – Freud, Analysis Terminable and Interminable

Click here to listen to Angelo Villa’s Das Unbehagen lecture

Click here to read Angelo Villa’s article “Include Me Out, Please!” published in The Candidate Journal, Volume 6: Belonging, 2015

Lost Password


Skip to toolbar