Psychoanalysis on the virtual edge*

by Julieta Lucero

“O, mathematicians, shed light on error such as this! The spirit has no voice, because where there is voice there is a body.” (Leonardo Da Vinci in Agamben, 2007, 14).

In lieu of the COVID-19 pandemic we would like to develop some brief ideas about psychoanalytical remote treatment.

Of course, we are aware that before COVID-19, psychoanalysts already made use of different devices to carry out their practice. Nevertheless, and here lies our interest in this proposal, in light of all the experience garnered the last few months and as a result of what has transpired, we consider it necessary to re-situate the coordinates of our praxis. The fact is that the preponderance of Virtuality seems, for some time now, to show us the proliferating status that bonds between people can acquire: someone connects, and the next minute he is no longer there. The end and the beginning of each connection are happening today, probably, with more assiduity.

Consequently, we must know how to transmit what precisely sustains a psychoanalytic practice.

The apparent success of e-sessions has shown us, for example, that it is possible to dispense with the physical presence of the doctor, therapist and psychoanalyst. The physical space equipped for such practice has also been deemed obsolete to some degree. Sometimes our image can even be dispensed with.  So, what remains of us? What makes us present when we might be physically situated on the other side of the world? There are various answers, but for us psychoanalysts, this implies a concerted effort to simplify our practice to Psychoanalysis on the virtual edge.

It is necessary to clarify that what has been mentioned above entails one more difficulty:  psychoanalysis is not mental health; it does not carry in its horizon an ideal of regulation nor of homeostasis. Psychoanalysis rather implies, on the contrary, the production of elements that can provoke maladjustments in that ideal, to estimate, later, convenient adjustments. But is it possible to carry out such a reorientation task, by virtual means that excludes the analyst’s physical presence?

As mentioned, if the physical presence is not what matters the most, perhaps it is not where the abutment of psychoanalysis lies. Devoid of this, and other elements, the voice persists.  It is that voice that has the function of sustaining the encounter. It is not that our voice’s sound is the only operator at play in psychoanalysis, of course, but it is the one which supports it. But how?

What does our practice consist of? In the implementation of a treatment method that was enunciated by Freud in a somewhat cryptic way: “where it was, I must become” (57).  There stands the key to the analytical operation: a practice that operates, not in subjectivity, but on some feature of the human’s flesh. Thanks to Freud’s notion of “spaltung,” we also know that such work is only possible if we make clear what was the reason for him to also deal with the self: because of its primary impossibility of unification. The coherence of man comes later, but that is not our point today.

A Psychoanalysis occurs when such “spaltung,” as the real basis of the subjective, becomes present.  Right there, where before, there was only the possibility of libidinal discharge. According to Freud, this changes everything: before reaching any subjectivation, a libidinal object -and therefore, the human body- takes over. In that double movement, the “ego” leaves the tenacious search for coherence and the libido, through that encounter, is redirected.

And there is the key sustained by Freud: where an ego solution is expected, a corporal consistency works as a bet and makes its entrance. It is the beginning of a new orientation. The voice, in psychoanalysis, carries and causes this new beginning.

Apparently, in 1964, this is what Jacques Lacan was referring to when he said: “(…) the art of listening is almost as important as that of saying the right thing. This apportions our tasks. Let us hope that we will measure up to them. ” (Lacan, J. 123). The art of listening, in psychoanalysis, only causes, if there is, a voice at play.  A voice that can make present that libidinal object, without camouflage, that is operating in the method. In other words, the fact that there is no support in the physical does not imply, in any way, that presence in psychoanalysis runs the risk of becoming absent. For that was never the case. That is why it is necessary to give it back its status.

However, there is one more difficulty that we want to clear up. Suppose the voice carries that object, operating as the only body we count with a priori. We decide to elevate it to our work’s fundamental support: how to continue to carry out our work in an era where the voice seems to be “partly planaterized, even stratospherized, by our machinery.” (Lacan, J. 274). How are we to achieve the fact that the psychoanalyst’s voice does not appear as one more? Perhaps that is the most significant task we must face in the future. For now, we can only say, without leaving any room for doubt, that the Analyst’s voice will be able to gain value only if it is placed into action, on every relevant occasion.


* JL with Javier Bolaños & Florencia Bernthal Raz. In LEAP.


-Agamben, G. (2007). Infancy and History: The destruction of Experience. Translated by Liz Heron. Verso. London- New York.

-Freud,S.  (1989) New Introductory Lectures On Psycho-Analysis, n31, The Dissection of the Psychical Personality (1933 (1932))  v22.

-Lacan, J. (1998). The four fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis. Book XI. New York, W.W Norton & Company, inc.