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Time in Practice

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This book is an original exploration of the importance in the analytical relationship of an attentiveness to lived, conscious and unconscious experiences of time in its three dimensions. It critically discusses the diverse concepts of time implied in different writings in the psychoanalytic tradition, namely those of Freud, Jung, Klein, Lacan, and Winnicott. "Time in Practice" highlights the limitations of spatial metaphors and the emphasis on the past as determinative. It discusses the contributions of modern European philosophical concepts of temporality. Eva Hoffman's interweaving of time and language in her autobiographical descriptions is shown to be crucially relevant to psychoanalytic practices. Exploring psychoanalytic notions of 'cure', the book emphasizes the importance of language and imagination in opening out future possibilities for the patient. Lively references to case material illustrate the relevance of its arguments.

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8 Chapters

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CHAPTER ONE: Freud: repeating or constructing?

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Astrange paradox runs throughout Freud's work: in his accounts of the vicissitudes of human subjectivity he refers to notions of temporality which operate as pivotal to his psychoanalysis, yet he rarely theorizes his concept of time. His early interpretations of the hysterical symptom as a symbolic expression of an earlier infantile confict, as a fxation at an oral or Oedipal stage of development, hinge on a notion of subjectivity which is temporal: aspects of the person's present time are “fxated” or caught up in the time of the past. Freud's concepts of the unconscious, regression, displacement, condensation, transference all rely on particular, yet unthematized conceptions of time.

The crucial importance of these developmental conceptualizations highlight how signifcant temporality is in relation to psychoanalytic theorizing and practice (See also green 2002). It is therefore surprising that Freud did not theorize temporality more explicitly, particularly given the discussions in European philosophy at that time, some of which Freud was aware. He had, for example, atended the seminars of Brentano, a german philosopher (1838-1913) who also taught Husserl. Husserl and other European philosophers such as Heidegger, both contemporaneous with Freud, regarded questions of temporality as crucial to questions of human subjectivity.

 

CHAPTER TWO: Jung and the future unconscious

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In contrast to Freud (and also Klein), Jung explicitly addresses questions of temporality throughout his work. Furthermore, challenging Freud’s emphasis on the past he argues for the crucial importance for the analyst of distinguishing whether an unconscious expression is “historical”, arising from the past, or “teleological”, anticipating a future possibility. Jung’s view of the subject as extending backwards and forwards through time appears to converge with a phenomenolog-ical view of temporality, which I discuss in Chapter Five. However, his notion of a “collective unconscious” introduces a crucial diference.

For Merleau-Ponty (1945), a phenomenologist, we are situated in a perceptual feld which is run through with “retentions” and “pro-tentions” (see Chapter Five). “Retention” refers to the transition of a present moment into the past, whilst remaining present, and “pro-tention” refers to the overlap between the present and the impending future moment. Although past, present and future are distinguishable they are nevertheless embraced within a single fux which is present. Jung adds another layer in his conception of subjectivity: beneath the subject’s personal history lies a deeper layer of inherited “a priori categories of possible functioning” (1930, p. 34, vol. 16) in the form of the “archetypes” which infuence our present and our future. He designates this the “collective unconscious”.

 

CHAPTER THREE: Klein: spliting the breast or split in time?

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Aside from some brief references to time, contained mainly in footnotes, Klein rarely theorizes temporality. Similarly to Freud, she is concerned with how we develop a sequential conception of time. However, it is in her accounts of a patient’s relation to the times of sessions that her recognition of the specifc signifcance of lived time is most explicit. Her theorizing of infantile development thus reveals conceptions of time which underpin her theorizing of human subjectivity, but these are unacknowledged by her.

In this chapter I discuss the limitations of her emphasis on the importance of the past, although her concept of anxiety implicitly includes a notion of the future. I refect on her over-valuation of spatial metaphors in her accounts of the mother/infant relationship and in her conception of spliting. My case study, “Janet’s Time” illustrates the importance for the analyst in being atuned to the temporal dimensions of spliting as a defence. Through discussion of Klein’s refections on a painting by Kjar, a woman artist, I discuss the problem of her interpretation of creativity as “reparation”; this does not take into account the socio-historical context or the dimension of future time. I critically examine her notion of the death drive and her association, following Freud, of death with destruction. In my discussion of Kim’s dream of death I highlight the limitations of this singular interpretation of death.

 

CHAPTER FOUR: More about time: Winnicot and Lacan Winnicot: holding in time Lacan: time's castration

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Both Winnicot and Lacan have been inspirational for the contemporary development of two radically divergent and increasingly popular strands of theorizing in British psychoanalysis. This chapter critically considers their theorizing in relation to the theme of time. I do not aim to make an explicit comparison; their diferences are very evident. They do however share a recognition of the signifcance of time in human subjectivity which extends far beyond Freud’s, Klein’s and Lacan’s.

Winnicott: holding in time

Temporality has central importance in Winnicot’s understanding of subjectivity. The most signifcant time of the subject’s life is, for him, the time of the early mother/infant relationship. Arguing against Freud and Klein’s neglect of the role of the environment in the development of the infant, he emphasizes the provision of “good enough” mothering, and its crucial importance to the baby’s sense of continuity. It is this that enables the infant to develop an integrated self with a past, present, and future” (Winnicot, 1971, p. 86).

 

CHAPTER FIVE:(Dis)continuous identities and the time of the other

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In the previous chapters I consider the theories of time which implicitly and explicitly underpin psychoanalytic accounts of individuals’ subjectivities. Although most of the psychoanalysts whose work I discuss were practising and writing at a time when Modern European philosophers were questioning Enlightenment notions of subjectivity with its emphasis on science, on universality and the priority of reason, their own theorizing is remarkably devoid of their infuences. How individuals “live” time in all its dimensions is pivotal to the analyses of subjectivity of philosophers writing from phenomenological, existential, and deconstructive perspectives. Through my refections on the theories of temporality presented by Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty Foucault, and Levinas, I expand on some of the themes and questions raised in earlier chapters and show how their work points in the direction of possible solutions or further questions.

I particularly focus on their difering positions in relation to the question of whether the subject has a continuous identity through time (a question I introduced in my discussion of Winnicot’s theorizing of temporality), and also the subject’s relation to others’ time. In critically presenting their very diferent positions one of my aims is also to highlight how very diverse assumptions and theories of time are, whether they are the refections and arguments of philosophers or the conscious and unconscious perspectives on time which are brought into the consulting room by both the analyst and the patient. My interest is in how these theories are constructed and how particular theories might illuminate a particular patient’s variable and conscious and unconscious dilemmas in relation to time. I argue against the notion that there is one universal relation to time, whether as continuity or discontinuity, which must be achieved in order for the patient’s sufering to be alleviated.

 

CHAPTER SIX: Places in time

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In previous chapters I have argued that the theories of Freud, Klein, Jung, Lacan and Winnicot do not adequately address the question of the socio-historicity of the subject. Developing this theme further in this chapter I argue that a theorizing which prioritizes the temporality of the subject (as opposed to the interpretations of classical psychoanalytic writing which draw primarily on the spatial metaphors of internal/external) allows for more inclusive interpretations of individualities as lived in their socio-historical and cultural specifcity.

It might be anticipated that Andre green (2002), as a contemporary French psychoanalyst, would in his book, the Psychoanalysis of time, consider this aspect of temporality. However, green asserts that it is unimportant whether fantasies are transmited genetically or culturally from generation to generation. His theorizing of time emphasizes the value of Freud’s notion of the unconscious as “timeless” and of resurrecting Freud’s drive theory. green’s lack of interest in the socio-historical is particularly surprising given the accessibility of Modern European philosophical thinking in France. The concept of “historicity” in the hermeneutic and phenomenological traditions in philosophy, introduced in Chapter One, is very relevant to psychoanalytic practices. “Historicity” denotes an individual’s lived experience of their past and present in anticipation of their future possibilities. Furthermore, the individual’s historicity is contextual; the subject is intrinsically social and linguistic, embedded in a network of human relationships at a particular moment in historical time; we are always already in the world and this is a world of others. This is highlighted in the historian Bourke’s book fear. Assumed to be timeless and universal, the emotion of fear instead “acquires meaning through cultural language and rites” (Bourke, 2005, p. 7).

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: States of time

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“time travels in divers paces with divers persons. I’ll tell you who time ambles withal, who time trots withal, who time gallops withal and who it stands still withal” (Shakespeare, As You like It, Act 111, Scene 2).

This chapter aims to explore a diversity of individuals ways of living time and their articulations of these. I highlight the importance of an atentiveness to these in psychoanalytic practices. In line with my challenge to the universalizing positions in some psychoanalytic theorizing, I do not claim that specifc temporal states always coincide with particular forms of distress. My case illustrations demonstrate that atempts at such a correlation would be inadequate and unuseful. Through refecting on individuals’ experiences from a phenomenological perspective, I emphasize instead the uniqueness and complexities of individuals’ lived experiences of time. I aim to raise questions as to what might be revealed if we consider the temporal aspects of any particular experience and how an atention to these might usefully extend psychoanalytic perspectives in theorizing and practice. It is important to emphasize that when I indicate that there are shifs in an individual’s experience of time in their analysis I am not implying that my relationships with them are underpinned by any linear notions of change and progress.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: Finally … speaking of time

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Throughout the book I argue for the importance of sensitivity to individuals’ lived temporalities in the context of the psychoanalytic relationship. I challenge the pervasiveness of spatial metaphors in much psychoanalytic theorizing because of their reifcation of individual experience. Interpretations of early infantile relationships as being determinative of an individual’s relation to their present and their future do not adequately address the variability and complexity of individuals’ temporal experiences. This reductive tendency is reinforced furthermore in a theorizing which is rooted in ahistorical notions such as inherited, phylogenetic phantasies and archetypes. I argue that interpretations of subjectivities which address their historicity and their temporality allow for an atentiveness to fuidity and to monotonous fxity to gaps and to disruptions, and to the opening and closing of imaginative and creative possibilities, lived by individuals consciously and unconsciously.

Through my critical analyses of Merleau-Ponty’s and Levinas’s theorizing of temporality and subjectivity, I emphasize the “inter-temporality” of subjectivities. Individuals live their lives within intersubjective networks in which their own past, present, and future temporalities are interwoven and are in constant fux. The fabric I describe is not one of continuous threads since, as Foucault’s genealogical analysis emphasizes, this would be to deny the breaks, separations and deaths integral to every relationship with another.

 

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