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logo Rendez-vous 2008
Sao Paulo IF-EPFCL

Meeting of the IF-SPFLF
5-6 July 2008
São Paulo - Brazil

The time of the subject of the unconscious

Psychoanalysis in its time and the time in psychoanalysise


Current situation, by Colette Soler

Nowadays the question about time proper to psychoanalysis comes to us from outside. The theme is brought to us by the currency of the capitalist discourse, which makes of time a commercial value as any other, obviously linked to the regime of contemporary jouissances.

There is in this a big difference in relation to what it was for Freud as well as for Lacan. At the beginning of psychoanalysis it was within the psychoanalytic community that a debate on the duration of the treatment took place. When half a century later Lacan wanted to make of time, not just an inert given of the psychoanalytic setting, but an element inherent in the transference relation, manageable in that sense inside the session, he clashed with the IPA orthodoxy. The object of a debate became an object of litigation, but this occurred within the little world of the psychoanalysts.

For us, the interpellation is amplified by common current discourse, which is much more powerful. The media has seized the theme, disseminates it for the public and informs the public demands. To be listened to for a long time each session and to be cured quickly could become the demand of our times. Rationale: since nowadays time is bought and sold, why would the consumer not want to buy a guaranteed enjoyment of a length of session time and to demand the analyst to sell a short analysis?

Can the psychoanalysts who inscribe themselves under the signifier of the Lacanian Field, the field of the regulation of jouissances, remain deaf, and continue indefinitely to let all this be said? This is pertinent, as the internal debate between the Lacanian current and the IPA is not closed. One can verify every day how the IPA, in order to flatter the spirit of the time, is not shy to exhibit the value, as a pseudo guarantee of the long and fixed time session without further explanation. On the other side, haven’t we seen in the Freudian Field appeared the theme, not less demagogic, of applied psychoanalysis producing, after one century of futile efforts, "the brief analysis"? One can see how great the temptation is for a short -sighted politics to fall in the arms of the discourse of the opposition; and how for fear of seeing psychoanalysis disappear from de market, to contribute to the watering down of psychoanalysis into the field of the "psych", whose value is increasing.

Our question is different. It is caught between two possible pitfalls: either to disavow that we have moved into a different world in just a few decades and superbly ignore "the subjectivity of our times", or to give up the properly psychoanalytic offer in the name of realistic adaptation. What is at stake is rather to specify with precision what it is about time in psychoanalysis that cannot fluctuate with the spirit of the times.

For example, cannot we say that a psychoanalysis is always long, as its length is measured in relation to an expectation? From the time of the first analyses, which were very short indeed, (a few months or weeks), there were a complaints about how long an analysis took. Freud complained as much as anyone else, without doubt because the model of reference was the medical consultation.

Another amusing instance: analysts of different orientations, who usually never agree about anything, are in agreement on the incompressible length of the treatment, and they could subscribe in its essence to Lacan’s statement "il faut le temps" ("a certain time is needed"). They have been forced, in effect, to notice that all the attempts to economize the time of the treatment - and there have been many in the history of psychoanalysis - have failed.(*)

In terms of the length of the session on the other hand, there has been a raging fight since Lacan touched that taboo. There is in this a sign that the analyst does not feel responsible for the length of the treatment, while in relation to the length of the session, he knows that there it could be an option, and that it should be founded...

Could the unconscious be the resort? It would be necessary, first of all, to answer the question, insistent throughout Lacan’s teaching and always taken up again until the end: what is the unconscious? In fact, in the historical debates on time the analysts have exposed their arguments, without arriving at any conclusion, because one can say one thing and its contrary as well: the unconscious does not know time, its insistence is indestructible, yet it manifests itself in a temporal pulsation proper to it ( the theme is Freudian) however it requires time to be able to be expressed in a session (theme post -Freudian) or on the contrary, it is a worker that never goes on strike and it is all the time there because it does not know the walls of the consulting room (Lacanian theme). The conception one has of the unconscious affects the conception one has of the analytic time.

The question opened up by this theme is not only clinical.

Certainly, a clinic of time is possible, but to be truthful there is not a lot to do there, as it has been mapped by Lacan’s teaching. The time of the subject who hystorises himself in a state of tension between anticipation and retroaction; time proper to each clinical structure, that marks with its seal the universal temporality of the subject and whose typical character is already the index of a real, according to whether they are hystorized or not; 'logical time’ of production of a conclusion based on the 'not-known’, production whose duration is incalculable and specific to each analysand, which makes us think that logical as it may be, time is not only logical, participating of a real that manifest itself in the 'texture’ of time.

The crucial point of our theme today lies elsewhere and is more ethical than clinical. What is it that an analysis, always long, can promise the pressured man of our civilization? Firstly, undoubtedly, and contrary to what is generally believed, the therapeutic effects, which are, sometimes, and often, quick to appear. However beyond those effects, does the 'time that is needed’, to use Lacan’s expression, produce a new subject?

In 'Analysis terminable and interminable’, Freud raised, beyond the therapeutic, the possibility of a state of the subject that will be reached only through the treatment. He stopped at that threshold. He did not ignore that analysis produces surprises, but for him, paradoxically, they are not signs of the new, but on the contrary the re-finding, the return of an infantile past. Consequently, the most that an analysis can promise is the reconciliation of the subject with what he had rejected at the beginning with repression, or the admission of what had not even been symbolized and insisted in repetition. Hence the irony of the extraordinary Freudian formula: to transform neurotic suffering into normal unhappiness.

In the Lacanian option, on the contrary, time is a possible vector of novelty. It cannot be conceived only as structured by the symbolic-imaginary dimension that ensures the immanence of the past in the present. A question about what it concerns in the order of the real has to be posed, even if it would displease Immanuel Kant, because before offering any analytic promise it is necessary to answer the question of knowing how the real time of a treatment touches the real of the speaking being.

(*) Rank and Ferenczi are well-known examples.


Rendez-vous 2008 Sao Paulo IF-EPFCL - Dominique Fingerman - photo: Vicky Estevez
Fingermann, Dominique -
Scheinkman Chatelard, Daniela -
Miralpeix, Ramon -
Nominé, Bernard In prelude
Quinet, Antonio In face of the symptom, all clocks are soft
Gómez Musso, Lydia Transference is the time of knowing’s intrusion in the unconscious
Lombardi, Gabriel The handling of time
Strauss, Marc The elusive of the unconscious and the certainty of the parlêtre
Dunker, Christian Psychoanalysis and its time
Askofaré, Sidi The unconscious is/and time
Aparicio, Sol Time: Logic and Sentiment
Martinez, Ana -
Clastres, Guy Après-Coup


After the Rendez-vous

IF-EPFCL Actes - Sao Paulo 2008 - (multilingue)


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