The Online Journal of the International Forum for Psychoanalytic Education (IFPE)
Issue 1: Fall 2018: “TIME”
2018 Editorial Staff
Other/Wise Executive & Managing Editor –
Other/Wise Editorial Team –
General Introduction to Other/Wise Fall 2018:
“Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.”
— William Blake
This issue of Other/Wise concerns IFPE’s 2017, 28th Annual conference, on the topic of TIME, that took place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Herein, Other/Wise presents an interesting and varied collection of papers from that conference that reflect upon many meanings of TIME: the stages of time in our lives, relevant psychoanalytic concepts and their roots over the history of time, ranging from ancient Greece to the present.
Troubling, confounding, mystifying, surprising, provoking, and evoking, TIME, though often taken for granted, is a prime component of psychoanalytic history, and relevant to each person’s individual development and timeline from birth until death. Time is the ever-present backdrop for each aspect of our existence.
From the caverns of a timeless unconscious to Freud’s fearful reckonings in the year of his death; from the immersion in subjectivity to existential anxiety; throughout the lifespan; in reflecting on early experiences and in fathoming death. Ever interwoven, either we race against TIME, or TIME stalks us. We never know how much time we have, and it waits for none of us.
Just as is the case in IFPE’s conferences, this issue of Other/Wise presents a mix of theoretical, autobiographical, clinical, poetic and experiential perspectives on the concept of TIME. This edition is comprised of seven of the many papers presented at IFPE’s 2017 conference. We are quite pleased to present this variegated and representative sample. I dare say, I am of the opinion that there are some rather important and creative papers in this issue. As I suspect you will agree upon reading, it will be TIME well spent.
This issue begins with a fascinating interweaving of trauma and temporality, by Susan G. Burland, that is entitled, Trauma, Autobiographical Sharing and the Experience of Time. Beginning with reflections on the similarities and differences between survivors of a mass atrocity and survivors of abuse within a family, the author, who knows her subject matter from both personal experience and clinical experience, notes that,
“Despite obvious differences between the experiences of survivors of mass atrocities and survivors of extreme early family trauma, all are continually re-traumatized by being disbelieved––incarcerated alone in unbearable anguish. With each experience of failed witnessing, their shame and isolation is compounded by the anticipation of further disbelief the next time their truth is broached.”
In order to treat trauma, and to witness such inconceivable truth in their patients, Burland points out that therapists must have the capacity to face such truth in their own lives. In explaining the terror, isolation and despair of the traumatized person, the author also touches upon the important concept of “trauma’s decimation of temporality” wherein a temporal paradox can be seen. The loss from the past generates dread about the future. Therapy provides a way in the present to experience the trauma of past in order to restore the flow of time.
The author suggests:
“Trauma ravages the experience of time. One is haunted and held captive by the constant, savage, and invisible force and swirl of the past invading all present and future experience. Although sometimes difficult to perceive, and even more challenging to experience, we as therapists must see this “time distortion” that our patients experience.”
Burland concludes in a section that references Clare Winnicott, Franz Kafka and T.S. Elliot, as she ties the importance of an enduring self over time to the ability to heal from trauma in stating,
“There is no possibility of any continuity of past through the present to the future without an abiding sense of ‘I am’ that serves as the contiguous factor and, without which, there can be no enduring felt-“mine-ness” associated with one’s body and mind.”
In the second paper in this issue Susan Kavaler-Adler expands upon the concept of time as it is linked with object relations in the consultation room and differentiates between the qualities of time when related to intrapsychic processes. Entitled The Subjectivity of Time: Time as persecutory, frozen, or holding: How time is transformed within clinical treatment, the paper posits three forms of the subjective experience of time. Kavaler-Adler posits that “how we experience time interacts with our internal world and its internal objects,” and determines whether we experience time as painful and “persecutory,” versus surrendering to deeper feeling and “holding.”
In explicating her theory of developmental mourning, the author builds upon Melanie Klein’s theory of the depressive position. From an object relations standpoint, engaging in mourning in the clinical process taking place in the “eternal now,” the patient can better develop the capacity for true self being, and the frozen and persecutory aspect of time can relent. As the author explains,
“When time is frozen, the capacity for psychological transformation is arrested. However, in the clinical setting, when the analyst engages with a clinical process in the moment, frozen time can also transform into “holding” (Winnicott, 1960b) time, as primal trauma, and later loss and trauma, are felt and actively processed within critical clinical moments.”
The paper goes on to provide several examples of how therapy can bring the patient from a persecutory experience of time to a holding experience of time, in one case history, and from a frozen experience of time into a holding experience of time, in another. According to the author, one can live “fully within the affective experience of the moment, rather than being trapped in the frozen paralysis of trauma, or in the repetition compulsion of attachment to a persecutory object in a state of attack.” Kavaler-Adler explains aspects of the clinical process as follows:
“When one is all alone, and there is no transitional space joining one with another, time does not exist. Time is frozen. Linear time is frozen, and holding time is absent. The only way forward is to consciously assimilate – bit by bit and along with the company of the analyst as a ‘subjective object’ and ‘transitional object’– the intolerable affect states from the primal loss era of object loss, which could never have been felt at the time without a mothering presence…”
Next, in an article that is both sobering and uplifting, Rachel Saks presents her therapy work in nursing homes with the elderly, entitled Reminiscence and Reflection: Life Review Therapy with An Elderly Patient. Using Erik Erikson’s model of psychosocial development, the author reminds us that ego-integrity versus despair is the task on which psychoanalytically-oriented therapy with older adults needs to focus.
Saks describes conducting therapy over the course of nine months with Isaiah, a 93 year-old man with a history that included playing in an African American baseball league, serving as a sniper in North Africa during WWII, and becoming a gangster. She writes:
“Isaiah’s legitimate guilt and shame, triggered by the developmental press to look back at this life, may be understood as the primary cause of his severe depression. It was through our work together that he processed this guilt, came to understand the impact of individual and cultural trauma on his choices and identity, and ultimately restored some sense of integrity.”
The author also describes the transference and countertransference relationship . After some initial defensiveness, Isaiah came to greet Saks with, “Here she is, my ray of sunshine.” And of her own countertransference and that of therapists working with the elderly, she writes, “It is always the case when working with older adults that we must confront our own fears of aging and dying, and also the stark possibility of finding ourselves at the end of life, filled with regret and unable to go back and make amends.”
As Saks quoted Isaiah, many elderly, depressed and alone, express the feeling, ““It’s the bottom of the ninth,” he said. “Two outs. It’s time to pack up and leave the park.” To the contrary, however, although one may be nearing the end of life, Saks shows us that, from her unique vantage point in treating the elderly, there is much to be gained from psychodynamic life review treatment at this last stage of life. She states,
“When I do life review therapy with older adults, an extraordinary thing happens. I begin working with someone bent and wrinkled with age. As they tell their life story, I begin to see someone else emerge, or rather many other selves emerge… As we travel through time, I get to meet these selves, and together we discover that all of them still live. This is integration, and it is remarkable.”
The next paper goes back in time to the Sophocles trilogy about Oedipus, written between 441 and 405 BCE. In thinking about the Oedipus Complex, author Detelina Stoykova did not limit her source to Oedipus Rex only, as Freud did. In her paper Oedipus—Myth, Reality and the Distribution of Guilt: With special consideration of Oedipus at Colonus, she creatively reconceptualizes the Oedipus complex and the meaning of the myth by considering, the blinded King’s years in exile and his death as described in Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus.
By expanding the Oedipus Complex beyond its usual and well-known purview, Stoykova focuses instead on the “Laius Complex” that she describes as,
“…by Laius complex I understand not only father/son relationship, but also the complicated and ambivalent attitudes that any person who represents parental authority may have toward a “subordinate,” (Levy, 2011), which also includes the attitude of the mother. The terminology is in need of modification here, as the term “Laius complex” would have to stand for both–mother and father attitudes toward the child, as well as the attitude of the parental couple as a unit, either, or, or both.”
In the Laius Complex, Stoykova sees the effects of the interaction of both parents on a child, and in this very scholarly and well-researched paper, traverses Freud’s interpretation of the myth and the complex, as well as reformulations of the complex, and finally brings in elements to the complex that incorporate discovering the truth, as well as both primary and secondary (inherited) guilt.
The author also points out that, rather than lust as a main driving force in Freud’s interpretation of the complex, there are numerous other elements that, looking upon the myth from a more modern psychoanalytic perspective, point out to us
the role that transgenerational trauma and guilt bring to the forefront instead:
“The tragedy does not start with the killing of Laius, or even with Laius’s mutilation of his infant son. Both Oedipus and Laius were descendants of the unfortunate line of King Cadmus, who started a family saga, which included such atrocities as infanticide, filicide, incest, cannibalism, castration, fratricide, and suicide. Laius, like Oedipus was abandoned and abused as a child. His own father died when he was an infant, and he wandered in exile.”
In psychoanalysis Freud’s Oedipus complex has impacted a tremendous amount of the theory and literature of our field, so I think the reader will find this revision of our understanding of the myth and the complex to be particularly interesting and refreshing. For instance, according to Stoykova, Oedipus is blind in order to “redeem his parents” as opposed to the doctrinaire interpretation with which we are all familiar.
As the author states,
“Acceptance of unrecognized dynamics into mainstream psychoanalytic evaluation and with that, re-evaluating the terms, or coining new ones, in regards to Oedipal terminology would be a valuable contribution to the clinical field and to understanding the Oedipus complex in our clients and in us.”
In On Being Fifty: A developmental crossroads and a time to reckon with past, present and future, Hanna Turken compares and contrasts the challenges of being 50 in today’s society, with being 50 in times past. Beginning with documenting Freud’s own melancholy over his struggles when he was in his fifties, and noting that she was inspired to write this paper since her own children are in their fifties and many of her patients are also in the cohort, Turken sympathetically details the struggles, strivings and disappointments of today’s fifty-somethings. She notes:
“In today’s economy this does not seem to be the case. Being fifty in these times doubles the odds of difficulty for many. The present day fifty year-old is more likely to find his or her options narrowed, and likely to encounter interferences with his or her creative ego ideal goals, therefore diminishing self-esteem.”
Turken commiserates that in today’s youth oriented society, there are challenges for those at either end of the workforce spectrum. For the young, there is the danger of never fully maturing and the consequences of this paralysis:
“The lack of mature guidance during important development leads to a society composed of perennial adolescents. For Menaker, to push too early for autonomy as a social value may lead to ungenuine ego autonomy and not a true ego synthesis. This situation is marked by doubt, uncertainty and possibly ego paralysis. At present we are already facing such a breakdown that has caused a national emergency to be declared in regard to drug abuse and suicide amongst adolescents and young adults.”
The author points out that we often seem to disregard the developmental needs of society’s fifty-somethings as inconsequential, when, “in actuality, the continuous maturity of those in middle age is the key to the mental health of all in our society.” And yet, for many in middle age, financial challenges are great, business ventures and job security are more tenuous, their children preoccupy them on one side, and their aging or infirm parents preoccupy them on the other side. Turken presents thumbnail sketches of several of her patients who are in their fifities, and it is clear the a middle age of “generativity” with accomplishment and security may be less the norm, than are stories of struggles, disappointments and abandonment of pursuing their ego ideal selves.
Still Turken is optimistic, and believes that fifty-somethings still have the power to shape the future, and, as you’ll read, she report that:
“I have often been asked what my favorite, most enjoyable time of my life has been. My spontaneous response is, I would have liked to have remained in my early fifties for a bit longer.”
This issue of Other/Wise ends with two more creative perspectives regarding the concept of TIME, the first of which is Barbara Shapiro’s Arrested Time in Wordsworth’s Poetry and in Psychoanalysis. According to the author, despite Freud’s claim that the absence of time is a characteristic of the unconscious mind, we can also see that the “unconscious is suffused with time as the past haunts the present, particularly as repressed, traumatic experiences of the past impinge on and shape the present mind.”
Following from Dominique Scarfone’s (2016) ideas about time, Shapiro notes that:
“it is the aim of psychoanalysis to come to terms with “arrested/repetitive time”—a time “of what cannot be represented” (p. 516). Through the enactments of the transference, the “traces of unspeakable experiences” that compose such arrested time can be “re-presented” and elaborated, worked through in the present, and ultimately rendered into an integrated and true past.”
Shapiro sees a similarity to the processes found in the poetry of the English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, and posits that his poetry also focuses on “arrested, repetitive time, on experiences to which he refers as difficult to describe in language, experiences that contain terror and dread.”
In Wordsworth’s poetry, according to the author, there appears to be a process of mourning that reflects the stages of trauma recovery, including an immersion in arrested or frozen time that leads to a renewal of trust, compassion, and gratitude, and to a regeneration of self.
Using examples from Wordsworth’s poem, The Prelude (1805/1970), Shapiro looks at arrested, repetitive time in the poem from a relational perspective, stating that:
“…a more relational interpretation that focuses on the dangerous ambivalence that inevitably arises out of the experience of separation and loss, particularly if it involves a child’s traumatic loss of a parent. For the purposes of this paper, I would suggest that ‘spots of time’ can be defined as heightened moments experienced in the external world that, due to unconscious associations, rekindle traumatic, frozen time in the poet’s internal world.”
Explaining that Wordsworth’s poetry is deeply concerned with time and “with the inevitable changes, losses and suffering that time inflicts on us all,” the author suggests that his poetry “engages the reader in a process akin to psychoanalytic therapy in which creative re-enactments, representations and elaborations exert a healing influence, potentially allowing one to find solace in the past and hope for the future.”
The final paper in this issue is by Cenk Cokuslu, and it is entitled Cross-Temporal Sonatas in Staccato Ostinato. Cokuslu explains that staccato means “detached” in Italian and, in musical notation, it signifies notes of “shortened duration.” Ostinato, he explains, is Italian for obstinate and in music refers to a “short” constantly repeated rhythmic pattern. Beyond this, I will say no more and just invite you to read, since this paper is a bit of free associative wordplay about sometimes serious and sometimes light concepts, ranging from inner deadness, to what the author identifies as “dérives” – defined as playful, constructive and interpretive behaviors that have to potential to empower.
Articles in this issue:
Trauma, Autobiographical Sharing and the Experience of Time
The Subjectivity of Time: Time as persecutory, frozen, or holding: How time is transformed within clinical treatment
Reminiscence and Reflection: Life Review Therapy with An Elderly Patient
Oedipus —Myth, Reality and the Distribution of Guilt: With special consideration of Oedipus at Colonus
ON BEING FIFTY: A DEVELOPMENTAL CROSSROAD : Generativity vs. stagnation: a time to reckon with past , present and future.
Arrested Time in Wordsworth’s Poetry and in Psychoanalysis
Cross-Temporal Sonatas in Staccato Ostinato
Volume 1 Fall 2018