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Mark Rothko, Orange, Red, Yellow

Preliminary Questions on the Possible Treatment of Perverse Disavowal

“Psychoanalysis is for neurotics, not for psychotics, and perversion is negligible since it’s rarely encountered in the clinic.”  Such has been the orthodox position that excludes both psychosis and perversion from treatment.  Challenging one side of this exclusion, both the Quebec School and our own have extensively explored how to re-position analysis to treat psychosis and its extreme states of foreclosure.  This seminar will explore the other side of the exclusion: if and how to re-position analysis when faced with perverse disavowal more expansively defined in a non-pathologizing and non-correctional manner.  The Quebec and Ljubljana Schools have begun to sketch out some novel positions.  What might be our school’s contribution?


Criticizing the correctional approach of mainstream psychology, Stephanie Swales offers a first step of clarification by directing our attention toward the clinical transference and away from alleged immoral or illegal behavior.  She defines the perverse transference to the analyst as the “subject-supposed-to-no” as opposed to the neurotic’s “subject-supposed-to-know.”  How might the analyst handle this different transference that is structured around provoking concrete reactions of the Other’s jouissance, some affect laden yes or no?  Lacan discusses two clinical cases that play out what is at stake: Freud’s “case of homosexuality in a woman” and Lebovici’s case of a transitory perversion.  In both treatments, the analyst slips into the subject-supposed-to-no.  Freud’s “no” leads to an aborted treatment while Lebovici’s “no” causes a neurotic subject to develop a transitory case of perversion.  Both cases involve acting out.  Our question: how might they have handled the transference differently?


Another misdirection of mainstream psychology has diffused its pathologizing talk about perversion into more general talk about the notorious bad boys and mean girls of the DSM’s Cluster B Personality Disorders.  This finds echoes in Kleinian concepts of paranoid-schizoid splitting and projective identifications as well as Kernberg’s treatment of antisocials, narcissists and borderlines.  Framed in this way, perverse disavowal shows itself to be much more pervasive, not at all negligible, but a central focus of most community mental health clinics alongside their treatment of psychosis, addiction and major mood disorders.  Bruce Fink’s short critique of projective identification can help clarify what is at stake now.  It is something to watch for in the notorious case of Troy Kell, filmed and interviewed in Marc Levin’s Gladiator Days: Anatomy of a Prison Murder.  Pivoting to the question of sublimation, we will contrast this case (and that of Trump) to San Francisco Bay Area Allie Light’s very different filming and interviewing of Dialogues with Mad Women.



Swales, S: selections from Perversion: A Lacanian Psychoanalytic Approach to the Subject

Dean, T: “Lacan Meets Queer Theory” in Nobus and Downing’s ed. Perversion: Psychoanalytic Perspectives

Lacan, J: short selections, such as from Seminars IV and X, on Freud’s and Lebovici’s cases

Freud, S: “The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman” 

Lebovici, R: “Transitory Sexual Perversion in the Course of a Psychoanalytic Treatment”

Fink, B: discussion of projective identification in Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique

Faculty: Gardner Fair, MFT, PhD, Candidate Analyst of LSP

Dates and Times: Second Saturday of each month, 10am-12pm Pacific Time beginning September 9th 2023 and running through June 2023

Location: Online 

Fee: $60 per class/students $40, or LSP Tuition

Contact: Gardner Fair at

Gardner Fair, MFT, PhD. Candidate Analyst of LSP. He has a private practice in psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy located in Oakland, CA.  Before private practice, he interned for a year at a clinic for juvenile sex offenders, among other places, and worked for a decade with Haight-Ashbury Free Clinics as a counselor and then psychotherapist in the San Francisco jails. 

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