In Praise of Absence

Within Freudian metapsychology it is utterly impossible to develop a mind without the absence of the Other. The subjectivity that only becomes possible via the collective. A sense of the social, the encounter with ethics and ethical relations that become possibilities solely via the absence of the Other. We only begin to give up our primary narcissism through the recognition of the lack enforced by the absence of the Other, which invariably becomes an invitation to the outside world, to an investment towards an-other.

The “da” (there) rolling down on the edge of language via the “Fort” (gone), magnificently encapsulated in the game of Fort/Da played by Freud’s little grandson. The disturbing absence that is the road to possibilities of becoming, of the recognition of difference, and of limitations. Of dreams… This crucial hiding that will allow possibilities of seeking and being found, for it is via this hiding that I will begin to find you, re-find you, invariably intertwined with the risky likelihood of finding myself.

Such disappearance is part and parcel of magic, through the giving up of magical thinking and infantile omnipotence. Ah, where is the object? And where has she gone? What was lacking in me that led to such an agonizing departure? And even more palpable, with whom has she left? Here is the inauguration of Oedipus, of triangulation, of the little researcher forever in search of the answer to the question: where do babies come from?

Absence of the Other is our only possible ticket to the reality principle and that of pleasure, to developing language, to entering the symbolic order, to developing antidotes towards psychosis and the black hole of melancholia. Granted all such antidotes are shaky, there is certainly a repetitive back and forth. For we know through Freud that rebellion against the constraints of the reality principle, in favor of a belief in infantile omnipotence, appears as a feature of all neurotic misery.

Without being disturbed by the Other’s absence we will be denied the prospect of encountering the haunting appearance of the Other. Without absence we will be forever doomed, imprisoned in the swamp of “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”, having been denied the risqué chance of passionately discovering the Other, and all the kaleidoscopic triumphs and laments of entering ethical relations.

Said another way: In the absence of the absence of the Other - we will witness nothing but the death of the subject.


Gohar Homayounpour is a psychoanalyst and Gradiva award-winning author. She is a member of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA), the American Psychoanalytic Association (APsaA), the Italian Psychoanalytical Society (SPI), and the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis (NAAP). She is a Training and Supervising psychoanalyst of the Freudian Group of Tehran, of which she is also founder and immediate past president. She is also a member of the IPA group Geographies of Psychoanalysis. Homayounpour has published various psychoanalytic articles, including in the International and Canadian Journals of Psychoanalysis. Her first book, Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran (2012, MIT) won the Gradiva award and has been translated into languages including French, German, Italian, Turkish and Spanish. Her latest book is titled Persian Blues, Psychoanalysis and Mourning (2022, Routledge). Other recent publications and book chapters include “The Dislocated Subject” (2019) and “Islamic Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Islam” (2019).