Self-punishment paranoia

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The Case of Aimée

The thesis contains a detailed analysis of a woman, named Aimée after the heroine of one of her unpublished novels, who had attempted to stab a well-known Parisian acctress, Huguette Duflos. The case was widely reported in the press at the time, and Lacan tried gradually to piece together the logic behind her apparently irrational act. His thesis introduced a new concept into the psychiatric milieu, that of "self-punishment paranoia". Lacan argued that, in striking the actress, Aimée was in fact striking herself: Duflos represented a woman with freedom and social prestige, exactly the sort of woman that Aimée aspired to become.

In her ideas of persecution, it was this figure that she saw as the source of threats to her and her young son. The ideal image was thus both the object of her hate and of her aspiration. Lacan was especially interested here in this complex relation to images and the ideas of identity to be found in paranoia. In her subsequent arrest and confinement, she found the punishment which was a real source of the act itself. She understood, at a certain level, that she was herself the object of punishment.

Lacan's analysis of the case shows many of the features which would later become central to his work: narcissism, the image, the ideal, and how the personality could extend beyond the limits of the body and be constituted within a complex social network. The actress represented a part of Aimée herself, indicating how the identity of a human being could include elements well outside the biological boundaries of the body. In a sense, Aimée's identity was literally outside of herself.

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