The young man who I referred to in the introduction happens to pass by a confrontation scene with a child where he says he felt that he was able to make an image of himself for the first time. What characterizes this scene is that it takes place under minimal symbolic demands; nothing of the order of “taking the floor” is at stake in it. After that situation, and with the resource he obtained there, he begins to feel he can enter other scenes which had been insurmountable for him up to that point. He also points out that he feels he has found something which could mean his cure.
A colleague suggests that the young artist could be an understudy in a show for which she would have to change the dance style on which she had been working so far. The encounter with the new style gives her an unprecedented feeling in her life. She feels another body, absolutely different from that subjected to maddening routines and always on the verge of fragmenting. After this experience, she decides to start a change in her artistic career, where more room can be made for the new style and for the body sensation which accompanies it.
Also by chance, the trans girl finds on the television screen the resource which allows her to feel her body image. In her case, this accounts for the fact that the demand for a sex change has nothing to do with questions of object-choice or sexuation, but it is based on the disruptions in her body at the level of the difficulty in sustaining a consistent body imaginary.
In their singularity, the three cases show events which seem to imply a before and after in the existence of these subjects. These are contingencies which become events, as they produce a knot with which another body is assembled, and which consist, descriptively, in the effect of feeling a jouissance “in” the body, a jouissance that is knotted to their body image. They also testify to how “feeling” that they have a body image stops, albeit momentarily, the parasitization of lalangue and its out-of-body jouissance, without this being due to the action of any Name of the Father.
Now, although the scenes where those “body events” and their effects occur can be located fairly precisely, it is not easy to understand how that happens.
Pondering what can be that which ties a knot to the imaginary finds answers in a new notion of symptom which can be found in the later Lacan.
Firstly, in The Third Lacan points out that he calls “symptom that which comes from the real” (Lacan, 1974 , p. 15). This simple formulation is a novelty whose consequences we may not have weighed completely. Stating that the symptom comes from the real implies distancing himself from Freud and from the Lacan of the return to Freud. In Freud, the symptom was something linked to the repressive action of the father, that is, to a product of the symbolic. The drive-related demand was found in the “no” of the paternal function which promoted repression, and the symptom was the result of a transaction between the drive-related demand and the repressive instance, a formation of commitment. Redefining the symptom as coming from the real separates it from any reference to the Name of the Father and leaves it on the contingency plane.
The second novelty which can be found in that same writing is that the symptom, which comes from the real, “is not reduced to phallic jouissance” (Lacan, 1974 , p. 23). This means none other than that the symptom not only articulates the symbolic-real “out-of-body” jouissance, but also that other jouissance, imaginary-real jouissance “in” the body.
Having located these two novelties in Lacan’s reformulation on the symptom, I think it is possible to enter, without getting too lost, the definition of the symptom as a “body event” which we find in the writing Joyce the Symptom (Lacan, 1976 ). There, Lacan holds that the symptom is an event linked to the body which one “has”, that is, linked to an experience of jouissance “in” the body, from which one feels that one has that body. It is precisely in Joyce that Lacan can locate the function of the symptom—as a body event—as the resource which allows him to knot his body imaginary. It is the sinthomatic certainty of being “the artist,” the event which allowed him to re-knot his body image, the one which fell like a shell. That was for Joyce a certainty which gave him a body and allowed him to hold it against the intrusive effects of lalangue which he suffered. It is precisely Joyce, whom Lacan—not by chance—calls Joyce the Symptom, who shows the knotting function of the symptom as a body event.
We arrive, then, at the fact that the symptom, a contingency which comes from the real and which is not reduced to phallic jouissance, is what may allow us to keep the imaginary knotted and to “have a body.” A body which, in order to sustain itself, no longer depends on a trait of the Ideal, but on the knotting effect of the symptom. As Éric Laurent (2016) points out, it is about a “having” first, prior to the dialectics of being and having dependent on the field of Other.
It turns out, as noted in the introduction to the text, that an ever-increasing number of people come to our practice suffering from not being able to sustain their bodies because they do not feel them. So, for that clinical practice, albeit not exclusively, in the reconfiguration of the imaginary and of the symptom in its knotting function in Lacan’s late teaching, we find a new perspective which opens a horizon for the position of the analyst and the efficacy of his/her practice. A position which is expected to really be beyond the father.