Theory and Practice with Children: Psychoanalysis of the Future?*
by Julieta Lucero
After many years of practicing with children, its purpose remains ambiguous. As psychoanalysts we are interested in re-thinking today about the elements and variables in play within the psychoanalytic setting. An introduction about the specific use of time as a valuable element trumps any other. Towards the end, we hypothesized about children being a precious element for the future of psychoanalysis.
time – children – psychoanalysis – future
Even though Lacan didn’t speak much about children, his work does leave the impression that a psychoanalysis with children is as necessary and crucial as it is with adults. Why do some tend to believe that treatment of young people is not as relevant as it is with adults? Is it because of their history? Their experience? Their complex problems that make them seek treatment? Would we be better off if a psychoanalytic experience would have been granted to us when we were young?
In order to think about Psychoanalysis with children at this time, we are particularly interested in its nature and its extent. Therefore, we would like to present the elements that are key in our practice because they help us to localize the context in which the child, as a potential analysand, is settled in. We believe that continuing our efforts to transmit our work builds the most necessary bridge where one psychoanalysis is shared in common.
Jacques Lacan argued that topology was not simply a metaphorical way of expressing the concept of structure; but the structure itself. He emphasized that topology privileges the function of the cut, since the cut is what distinguishes a discontinuous transformation from a continuous one, therefore corporal surface . In this context, Lacan began his XXVI’s seminar saying that “There is a correspondence between topology and practice. This correspondence consists of time. Topology resists, and that’s why the correspondence exists”. (1978, p.1). Indeed, the relationship between time, analysis, and psychoanalysis is probably one of the most difficult things to think about because of its nature. Certainly, we are not finding difficulties with that so-called time that we count on. To say, the chronological one. It is the logical use of time that we are interested in because it will be the one being clocked in. However, we are going to develop some ideas about this subject, highlighting the prevalence of time in order to specify in which kind of topology we are situated when working with children.
To begin with, Freud is key to understanding the legitimacy of the existence of the unconscious, introducing and describing its nature. One of them indicates that the formations of the unconscious are timeless, that is to say, they would never change. Therefore, the idea of time in psychoanalysis is used to reflect those elements that are in constant presence. The second aspect of time, in connection to the first one, is that it is necessary to use its logic and not chronological connotation. Consequently, another time can occur and modify its own temporality (tempo). Following Sigmund Freud, we understand that if the unconscious shows that it is timeless every time it is updated, this means that there is probability that one acts differently each time. If the latter occurs, it is because the unconscious, at that time, was not the same. We altered it in some way, the repetition was no longer present, and a new history was born.
Even though this can sound very complicated, we understand that working with children shows us that the use of time is crucial and mostly possible because the defining time in an analysis is not the time that we already have but rather the time that is created. We can even call it the time that is historicized, but the interesting thing is that it will always be new because it modifies the existing temporality, shocking its main characteristic: continuity. This means that it is possible to introduce a gap, a distance, where the ordinary temporality got triggered.
Furthermore, if we have learnt that the symptom finds someone in the same usual spot, then the precise use of time is privileged over space to halt repetition. Not only because it may give someone the chance of changing patterns, but also because nobody will ever return to previous stages, or restore them. Lacan in “The function and field of speech and language in psychoanalysis” says that “What is realized in my history is neither the past definite as what was, since it is no more, nor even the perfect as what has been in what I am, but the future anterior as what I will have been, given what I am in the process of becoming” (Lacan, J.1977, p.300 ). Per Lacan’s original wording: “Ce qui se réalise dans mon histoire”.
Thus far, through an analytical experience we do not count on the presence of time, on the contrary, the latter is an element to be produced and set. This operation, by manipulating time and subsequently space, may lead our work to a path where what (symptoms, satisfactions) and who (the infant, family member or educational institution) is deployed in our presence.
Something peculiar is that the child’s history is played between repetition and putting into action, signed by these two forms. Nevertheless, working with children we notice that something crucial regarding time is that the latter is often taken for granted. It seems that children have all the time in the world. Whether they miss sessions because they are busy with other events, or because parents cannot bring them, or because they take their time to express or play in sessions while the clock is ticking and telling us there is another patient waiting for us. Even when they do not decide whether to talk or play in sessions, enter to or not to the office, this means they stay timeless, remaining in an eternal continuity whether intentionally or not, keeps everything static. Perhaps it is working in our favor that the child’s history is yet to come and that his life is, so far, signed by how desire is played in the history of others. If this is true, in sum with other impositions and demands that remain fixated, they will probably tend to crystallize for the child. It is important to note that up to here there is no historization, the child can be already inserted in someone else’s history. Freud was clear when articulating his thoughts in The Family Romances in 1909.
It is our duty to work with the child in order for him to create his own fiction. First, by presenting what are the fragments/pieces his life has been made of. Second, showing which of those prevail in order for him to decide, at last, how he will take part in them. In short, we lead him to reorganize and articulate the fragments and elements based on his participation.
It is relevant to us what Jean-Michel Vappereau (1979) said in this regard: “Now, this never goes on for too long; this, I think, is a constant, a constant in this way of doing things, which is that you reach a moment when things seem insufficient. But what I would like to try to say is that there is a leap, since you already start to make another machine work when you abandon a certain type of machine”.
From Vappereau´s position we can infer that if the constant variable (time) is altered, there is a chance of a torsion in the structure, in the continuity of a history path (thought as a machine’s automatic function). Taking the leap at this moment offers a space where events can be re-organized -by the child’s entry- to a novel use of time.
Having in mind that the conception of childhood has been thought as a structure that promotes continuity, to conclude, we developed a simple equation that explains what can be a possible orientation when working with psychoanalysis with children:
Our proposition is to replace the notion of childhood for time, where we can operate with certain variability because there is not a question of youth. Also, we are replacing chronology for leap, which gives us the most needed space between one piece of history to the other for installing a child’s presence and his call into it. While chronologically speaking we life and its events will continue, taking a leap will always be a decision matter.
We believe that the practice with children is the horizon of our future in psychoanalysis. We are of the understanding that before, as well as after these pandemic times, many psychoanalysts are intrigued about the limitations of their work with psychoanalysis in general. We believe that children, first, evidence of our most relevant work when simplified to the use of fewer elements, and second, as a representative figure of what is yet to come, are the reason for our attention and observation.
JL & Florencia Bernthal Raz. In LEAP.
-Lacan, J. (1977). The function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis. Retrieved from http://www.lacanianworks.net/?p=11831
-Lacan, J. (1978). Seminar 26. Topology and Time. Retrieved from http://www.apwonline.org/download/seminar-26.pdf
-Vappereau, J. M. (1979). In Seminar 26. Topology and Time. Retrieved from https://www.freud2lacan.com/docs/ten-5-15-79.pdf