Angst and its feminine translation.
By Sol Aparicio
Women, women in love, are anxious. They are anxious about their man’s desire. Following Lacan’s comment after his quotation of one of his women analysands, this would be the definition of feminine love.
What did this woman say ? She told her analyst that she didn’t mind her husband desiring her « as long as he desired no other » ! « Qu’elle y tienne, c’est ça l’amour » (1)was Lacan’s comment on these words . She cared for her husband’s desire and prized it. This caring for and prizing the desire of the Other, which may be expressed in English by ‘being anxious’, is love.
Now, what does such a definition of a woman’s love have to do with anxiety, or with anguish ? In French, apparently nothing. Because ‘y tenir’ only means caring for and prizing something.
But the English ‘being anxious’ allows the question to be raised. Not only does this expression acknowledge a close relation to anxiety. It reveals moreover, beyond its worry and unease, a being ‘earnestly desirous’ ... desirous of the Other’s desire ! (And then, why not remember here the Freudian point of view ? Freud explicitly linked anxiety and love in women by stating that castration anxiety can certainly find no place in them, but that its place is taken by that of loss of love.)
So we may consider that this English translation of the definition of feminine love points out the Lacanian connection between Angst and desire : what a subject is concerned with in anxiety is desire, the desire of the Other. Lacan would have better said it in English !
Women are not subject to castration but they are subject to anxiety and anguish. In a different way than men. In his seminar on anxiety, Lacan underlines women’s ease concerning the desire of the Other, which often gives them more freedom in the handling of the transference. This ease has to do with their not lacking anything and thus not depending on the object for their own jouissance. That is why, When lovely woman stoops to folly/and paces about her room again alone/She smoothes her hair with automatic hand/ and puts the record on the gramophone (2).
Nevertheless anguish does get a hold of them. Whenever they discover themselves as being nothing more than a. That is to say, either when they experience themselves as really being at the centre of the Other’s desire. Or when, being in love, the desire they so earnestly desire really turns away from them. 1. Lacan, Seminar on anxiety, 20 March 1963.
2. T.S.Eliot quoted by Lacan, 29 May 1963.