Cat vs. Rabbit: The Object of Desire

An Everyday Analysis contributor owns a rabbit who is currently in a stand-off with a cat through a window, as seen here.

image

This ‘stand-off’ tells us something fundamental about the structure of our desires, and explains a major tenet of psychoanalysis.  This is that we do not truly want, nor could we handle, the realization of our deepest and most passionate desires.  The cat gazes at the rabbit, occasionally attempting to pass through the window.  It is completely obsessed with the rabbit, not taking its eyes off it at any point. If one tries to distract it, it doesn’t work; the cat is in monomania.  The rabbit, as the object of desire, is enjoying his position as desirable object.  Far from being scared, he safely enjoys the feeling of being desired in the most ultimate way by the Other through the safety of the glass screen which is preventing the traumatic realization of this desire, which would, if realized, lead to consumption and certain death for the rabbit-as-object.

Psychologically, the cat thinks that its every desire tends towards the rabbit; it is completely obsessional.  If only it could get the rabbit, the cat would be happy. But another potential trauma is in play. The cat does not realize that should it pass through the glass and realize its desire for the object, the Everyday Analysis contributor mentioned above would be ready to bludgeon the cat to a brutal death with a nearby rolling-pin. There is a traumatic outside to the frame of the image above which would destroy the structure of desire within it.

The point here is that the window is not the blocker of desire or the thing preventing its realization at all, but the very thing which creates and frames the fantasy of both parties, the thing which desire relies upon.  Psychoanalysis insists upon this, that we do not want what we truly desire, but rather, we want to hold the object of desire at a distance in order to dream and fantasize about it.  The rabbit and the cat need the screen to be in place, in order for the rabbit to feel it is truly desired, and for the cat to feel that it truly desires, giving both a role and purpose.  Further, they need the window to protect themselves from the reality of their purer desire which would lead to the traumatic destruction of both.  Zizek comments:

Sharpening the paradox to its utmost–to tautology–we could say that desire itself is a defence against desire: the desire structured through fantasy is a defence against the desire of the Other, against this ‘pure’, trans-phantasmic desire (i.e. the ‘death drive’ in its pure form).

The cat vs. rabbit stand-off is in no way unique.  Rather, it shows us that we cannot handle the true realization of desire, so we produce a framed fantasy of desire which we hold at a distance, to keep ourselves from this desire to be destroyed. As the Declaration of American Independence tells us, we do not want happiness, we only want to pursue it.

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