At one point in his career, Lacan develops the idea of the four discourses from which we speak as subjects. Though he names these four separately he is clear that one individual can circulate among any number of them at different times – they are positions not personalities or stages. While the discourse of the master and the discourse of the university (or academic) have dominated our public discourse and continue to at present, Lacan also presents the discourse of the hysteric and the discourse of the analyst emergent in the modern subject of psychoanalysis. This model prepares the way for understanding the position of the analysand. For the analysand is he who speaks in order to inquire: to inquire into what causes his desire, meaning, and existence. The position of the analysand is a speech act in which truth as desire and desire as truth are at stake. To take up this position is to engage in a desire different from the cause of suffering – to exchange the jouissance of the symptom for a change in the symbolic, imaginary, and real. Freud called psychoanalysis a cure through love – not a cure by love or from love but a journey through desire, love, and jouissance by means of language, speech and finally letters – newly invented by the subject. This is why the position of the analysand continues to exist after analysis is over even for the analyst. When Slavoj Zizek for example calls the philosopher Hegel the most sublime hysteric he echoes his own desire to remain in the position of the analysand as philosopher rather than take up the position of the analyst. For the position of the analyst is different. Yet Lacan himself clearly continues to occupy both – declaring that his seminar is where he takes the position of the analysand, putting his discourse and inventions at stake and entreating his listeners to question him as only “he who interrogates me knows how to read me.”
At the same time, the position of the analysand before and after the ends of analysis is different. This is already pointed to in Freud’s discussion of analysis terminable and interminable – or finite and infinite. An analysis can end where a crucial subjective shift or event has taken place and yet be taken up again at a later date or in another way. For an analyst an analysis can also come to a sufficient end as a finite relation between subjects where analysand takes up the desire and position of the analyst clinically and yet continues the position of the analysand infinitely in his own way. It is in this sense that the positions of analysand and analyst continue to support each other in one subject, just as the two subjects – or the subjectivity of the two – of the analytic relation support each other. For the desire of the analyst is not only the desire to occupy the position of the analyst for the other but its opposite – the desire to occupy the the position of the analysand as desiring subject as well. It is the desire of the analyst – as a clinical concept and in each unique case – that forms the limit to interminable transference in the analytic relation. This is why late in Lacan’s work he returns to the drive and relates it to the analyst’s desire. The misrecognition of the drive in fantasy and the compromise with the other found in an unsatisfactory desire leads to a symptom. The analyst is not there to fix the symptom and restore this compromise but to accompany a journey back to the drive and its vicissitudes – and this is another explication of the desire of the analyst.