‘Jouissance’ refers to the kind of enjoyment or satisfaction people derive from their symptoms, about which Freud ( 1916-1917/1963, pp. 365-366) said, ‘The kind of satisfaction which the symptom brings has much that is strange about it…It is unrecognizable to the subject, who, on the contrary, feels the alleged satisfaction as suffering and complains of it.’
It is not a ‘simple pleasure,’ so to speak, but involves a kind of pain-pleasure or ‘pleasure in pain’ (Schmerzlust, as Freud, 1924/1961, p. 162, put it) or satisfaction in dissatisfaction. It qualifies the kind of 'kick’ someone may get out of punishment, self-punishment, doing something that is so pleasurable that it hurts (sexual climax, for example), or doing something that is so painful that it becomes pleasurable.
Most people deny getting pleasure or satisfaction from their symptoms, but 'outside observers’ (those around them) can often see that they enjoy their symptoms, that they 'get off’ on their symptoms in a way that is too roundabout, 'dirty,’ or 'filthy’ to be described in conventional terms as pleasurable or satisfying.
Lacan even went so far as to say, 'jouissance bothers the hell out of us!’ (Lacan 1973-1974, November 13, 1973).
Jouissance is not necessarily something one deliberately seeks out or decides to go out and get. A good deal of our jouissance simply happens to us, often without our knowing why, as if handed to us on a silver platter by Providence or God’s grace, coming when we least expect it and not coming, on the other hand, when we most expect it.
Bruce Fink, footnote: “that paradoxically disturbing form of satisfaction”
Fundamentals of Psychoanalytic Technique, p. 69