You are what you are and what you are is OK

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The major injunctions of popular self-help psychology are filled with antiphrasis: the statements ‘Be yourself!’ and ‘Realise your potential’ usually rely on the subtle sub-clause of: ‘if you follow these ten easy steps’; in his new dating show Gok Wan attempts to unlock women’s ‘potentials’, ‘make them into themselves’, by suggesting changes in dress, dropping of habits, hobbies and idiosyncrasies, and the attainment of the societal status quo; and then there’s the advertised diets that tell us all we need to do is think differently about food (the only takers for this advice, however, are likely to be those who are worrying about it too much already!).

The late Lacan tries something a bit different. That we must assume our lack we know already, but he tells us we must come to assume our symptom also, or as Slavoj Žižek paraphrases it, in reformulating Freud’s Wo es war, soll Ich werden: ‘in the real of your symptom, you must recognize the ultimate support of your being’ (Looking Awry, p.137). Symptoms are those bits of ourselves that psychoanalysis originally concerned itself with countering, if not eliminating (our making slips of the tongue that reveal things we don’t want to reveal; our nervous tics that result from unconscious repression); but Lacan came to see some of these as things we have to live with – things that even make us what we are. To assume our symptom, therefore, is to realise that our very ‘consistency’ is to be found precisely in our ‘“pathological” singularity’ (ibid.). Contrary to the populist ideologies, then, is this not what Fido Dido’s philosophy has been trying to tell us since the eighties? You are what you are and what you are is OK.

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