How do past events increase our suffering? Without owning a TARDIS how could we improve the present by changing the past?
In the first few sections of Lacan’s seminar 1, Freud’s Papers on Technique 1953-1954 Lacan makes a rather directive statement about what psychoanalysis is:
“The essence, the basis, the dimension proper to analysis is the reintegration by the subject of his history right up to the furthermost perceptible limits”
It is worth being clear about what we mean by history and reintegration:
“History is not the past. History is the past in so far as it is historicised in the present – historicized in the present because it was lived in the past.”
Lacan is working with Buddhist and Quantum theory here to put forward the argument that there is no past (or future) all we have is now. The ‘past’ is in the present as we re-work, recall and discuss it in the present. An objective history is nowhere to be found. Twenty people can be involved in the same car accident and all have different opinions and memories about it. They will all attribute different meanings to the same event.
So what would a reintegration of a subjective history look like? Reintegration brings to mind a restoration or re-working, an improving-upon. Replacing one meaning for another, returning back to an event to construct a new meaning.
At school sports day you hear just before a race from an older child “If you can’t win a kids race you cant do anything”, you then finish near to last. There can be an assimilation of this belief into one’s life, sometimes we will remember it, other times not. Often we don’t question the event or the meaning we have given it. Perhaps we feel a sense of shame, it adds to the lingering sense of failure that pervades our lives . We are perceiving this particular piece of our history together with the meaning we gave to the event at that time.
It is of no importance that one remembers “exactly what happened” or “the truth of the matter”, Lacan is saying that what matters is what one makes of these events, what meaning is attributed to them and how we go about reconstructing this meaning and reintegrating ourselves into our subjective history.
“When all is said and done it is less a matter of remembering rather than re-writing history.”
Psychoanalysis can be a place to explore these memories, the meaning we have given to events, to reconstruct this history and to question our past – did I really fail? does this failure mean I am doomed to not achieve anything in the future? If we are given the time and space to question our past we open the door to create new meaning.