The author examines the relation between analytical practice and time. He refers to three types of activity found in Freud’s work. First, his early ‘nearly feudal’ treatment of hysterics when its duration was contained within the limited period of the illness time. Then an ‘almost utopian’ practice based on a ‘friendly relationship’, when his conversation with Gustav Mahler during a walk they made together had therapeutic effects. The third ‘almost barbaric’ practice, drawn from Freud’s papers on technique, prescribes the use of a Grand Clock to regulate the analytical relationship using the model of the industrial machines. The analytical work thus becomes chronometrical and fixed, by acquiring complexity, the scientific apparatus seemed to necessitate a progressively longer period of time, while its aim became gradually less distinct, indefinite, even endless. Time, limited and defeated in the present of the session, seems to shift to an unreal victory in the future. Such a monotonous and institutional relationship in analysis ends up existing in and of itself and by its own rules, without concern for its own end. I – The care of the soul in the age of machines Time One, Nearly Feudal“The first of May I became the physician of a woman of around forty, whose suffering and personality interested me to the point of my dedicating much of my time to her and deciding to cure her”. The woman was of German origin, the owner of a considerable property in the Russian provinces of the Baltic, and the widow of a wealthy businessman.
Subsequently, the doctor went once, often even twice a day to the clinic where the lady was under care. Usually, she would have just had a hot, maybe bran, bath. The doctor would ask her how she had passed the night, give her a massage or two, sometimes faradism, and finally one or two sessions of hypnosis. During these sessions, the woman turned out to be quite communicative and talked freely about herself and her relatives… In the space of seven weeks, she had improved to the point of declaring that she had not felt so well since the death of her husband, whom she considered the cause of her ills. Thus, the doctor allowed her to “return home to the Baltic”.
Time Two, Almost Utopian
M. phoned the professor from the Tyrol, asking for an appointment. Although the professor was usually reluctant to interrupt his holidays for any professional undertaking, he disliked refusing a man of the stature of M., and thus sent a telegram setting up an appointment. M. in turn responded by canceling. Shortly after, another request arrived, with the same results. In brief, the procedure was repeated three times. In the end, M. and the professor met in a hotel in Leiden and walked together for four hours through the city… Their conversation obviously had its effect, as M. recovered his virility and his marriage proceeded happily until his death, which unfortunately occurred just one year later.
Time Three, Almost Barbaric
The technical rules which I am about to propose were derived from my long, personal experience, after unfavorable results forced me to abandon other methods I had adopted (…). I would hope that the observance of these rules might save physicians involved in analyses much useless effort, putting them on the guard for possible misinterpretation. I should however make it explicit that this technique proved to be the only one suited to my singularity, and that I would never exclude the possibility that a medical personality of an entirely different nature might be led to prefer a different approach to the patient and the task at hand.
As to time, I follow the principle of payment for a fixed hour exclusively. A given hour is assigned to each patient, and that hour is his and he is responsible for it even if he does not make use of it. This practice, which for the music or language instructor is considered normal in our society, when it involves a physician sometimes appears harsh or unworthy of his role… I work with patients every day, except Sunday and holidays. Therefore, as a rule, I work six days a week.
The reader will possibly have recognized, in this opening collage, three types of activity of Freud. The first corresponds to the work described and theorized in Studies on Hysteria (1895), which later paved the way to strictly psychoanalytical work(2). The second is drawn from Freud’s description, quoted by Jones, of the meeting between Freud and the musician Gustav Mahler(3). The situation is not exceptional; similar descriptions can be found in both the case of “patients” (like the encounter with the mountain girl called Katharina, in Studies on Hysteria(4)) and of aspiring analysts (as Ferenczi, much later, when the analytical procedure had already become codified(5)). The third corresponds to the technical prescriptions as regards treatment of 1912-1913(6). On this point, there is considerable ambiguity: the guidelines are presented as adapted to the very person proposing them, and can be varied by another person. However, Freud’s followers adopted his prescribed guidelines far more than they did his “liberal” attitude. The application of these technical guidelines conferred an absolute dominance to the strict psychoanalytical setting, but at the same time it devalued other procedures presented by Freud.
In the case of the Baltic noblewoman-Mrs. Emmy von N.-her treatment recalls a kind of service, such as an artisan might have provided in a pre-bourgeois society. Although Freud’s relationship with her is not completely feudal, since he visits the noblewoman on behalf of another physician, Dr. Breuer, who is on an equal footing if not superior to his noble “patient”. The time Freud spent with her, although long and having a servile connotation, was therefore already the time of medical investigation and clinical research; the time necessary to understand and “heal”. Thus, there is a medical astuteness within this servile time: the researcher takes advantage of an obvious social disparity in order to master a problem which might otherwise escape him. The space of this investigation is centered on a medical clinical practice, focused on a special place: the private office of the physician, which is Breuer’s office. In this medical space it is possible to move around, albeit only from the patient’s room to the garden of the meeting room. The duration of the treatment is fit into intervals in a normal healthy life. It can last weeks, or months, but in every case is a break or interruption in everyday life, even though these breaks and interruptions can be repeated to the point of taking up a good part of existence. Finally, Freud’s report lacks any mention of money received; it is possible that, as was the custom, Freud was paid on the basis of the number of visits made. His fee certainly took into account the duration of those visits, but only indirectly or implicitly.
In the case of the meeting with Mahler, the relationship comes closer to, without actually becoming, a friendly reciprocity. The time is that of a walk, a common journey. (Travelling was important for Freud, because it allowed him to cultivate his friendships.) There is no established place, they move in an environment they discover together. No established place, nor established duration: the duration of the meeting varies, according to the vicissitudes of the real life of which the meeting is an integral part. One could presume that, as Mahler postponed the meeting with Freud more than once, he also delayed making payment for so exceptional a visit, or perhaps he never paid at all. What currency can buy friendship, or knowledge acquired through friendship? Only a gift would be an adequate repayment. But we know about Freud’s peculiar phobia of the gift, evident in particular in his friendship with Breuer.
The passage to the third type of activity-the psychoanalytical-implied a leap or a certain brutality in determining time principles. This is incredible, both in itself, as well as regards the thousands of psychoanalysts, who digested it so well that it appears today as perfectly “natural”. Freud compares the new work time to that given by “a music or language teacher”. Music, languages: the references are still to a perfecting or embellishing activity offered to “high society”. But even here there still remains a servile aspect, in the sense of his earlier practice with the Baltic noblewoman. In fact, in order to make the unconscious speak, Freud invented a method of interpretation which recalls a lesson, or a cycle of daily lessons, such as those for acquiring a manual, vocal or linguistic skill. The unconscious speaks best after an intense training… However the pedagogical or gymnastic-pedagogical reference is partial.
We have in fact before us a “working day” in the strictest sense, chronometrically divided into hours (eight or ten or eleven), totally eliminating non-economic times (through the rigorous principle of “renting” the session). In this way an extended, spatialized time, provided with precise and monotonous internal divisions, will absolutely master the situation both for the analyst and the analyzand. Considered in itself, in the sum of its parts and by means of its caesura intervals, the rhythm or intensity of this time never varies. It is a question therefore of time considered as independent from the perturbations of the real lives and relationship of the two interlocutors-a governing time, transcendent and infallible.
This Grand Clock was provided by Freud to regulate the type of relationship heretofore unheard of in the history of the Western world. Freud does not mention the possibility that here an interference is created, a conflict of different times, that the timelessness attributed to unconscious processes can in some way react with the temporal setting of the treatment which must reveal this conflict. Freud refers here solely to the time of a social work habit. Now, in order not to stray from his guidelines, we must note that the clock he has produced is anything but new.
Freud’s Grand Clock in fact recalls, on the one hand, the Galilean-Newtonian conception of homogeneous time, which can be divided into equal segments. On the other hand, it has a precise economic significance. Its severity tends towards the total elimination of empty, gratuitous moments, which become rejected fragments, and it goes considerably beyond the individual artifices of a “music or language teacher”. It has greater rigor and inflexibility and in fact has become widespread and accepted. It recalls another time: the time of mechanical clocks which in the late 18th century marked the advent of the industrial machine(7).
At the same time, the significance of money received also changed. In the case of the noblewoman, Freud received a medical honorarium, like the imperial Roman honorarium, understood as donum, a gift made to honor(10). And it was a gift still included in the sphere of the concept of the medieval dispute on the unsellable nature of science, as a gift of God: Scientia donum Dei est, unde vendi non potest(11), “science is a gift from God, thus you cannot sell it”. The compensation, necessary for the master’s (of science) livelihood, was far from the remuneration for mechanical tasks or for business trade. It was instead included in the sphere of recognition due to one who, having received from God the gift of science, distributes it to others; a recognition which he can receive but not request. Only with the development of free universities in the 12th century did science begin to be considered a job requiring remuneration(12).
When Freud passed to the psychoanalytical procedure, the character of his honorarium changed drastically. From an occasional, rare event, it became a regular, ongoing payment. In other words, it tended towards a real salary, an established and contracted compensation, paid at regular intervals, for an ongoing, non-manual performance. As it was a performance based on homogenous, circumscribed time-such as that of a machine worker-this remuneration resembles a salary(13).
II. The treatment becomes interminable
The acceptance of this setting by Freud’s followers was unanimous. The discoverer of the unconscious had indicated, precisely and accurately, the royal road to achieve it. How could it be questioned? Doing so would have implied also questioning the very premises of his work, i.e. asking whether or not Freud had an image of mechanical work whose basic principles he reproduced in his new therapy. However, this image was difficult to probe, as it corresponded to the most productive and rational-and therefore most powerful-kind of work, as well as the most “real”. Consequently, the Freudian setting appeared “natural” to his followers. The institutionalization of Freud’s proposal followed: his advice, still cautiously personal, became the strict rules and ordinances of the psychoanalytical institution and of every treatment conducted in its name. They became the “classical” rules of the members of the institution which others call “orthodox”.
However it is not true that the setting thus introduced remained unchanged over time. Some modifications were accepted and others were rejected. A certain reduction in the duration and frequency of the sessions was accepted: from an hour, or slightly less, it was reduced to 40-50 minutes; the six sessions per week became five, four, even three. Psychoanalytic work in public and semi-public institutions was accepted. Changes in the method of payment were also accepted. In certain situations, the analysts agreed to be paid, entirely or partially, by national or private insurance companies. In other cases they agreed to be paid a fixed fee, no longer therefore based on the number of sessions over a certain period (and here the analogy to an employee’s salary is clear).
The degree to which the duration of treatment has increased since the early 20th century is impressive, even if no one seems any longer impressed. But that had already begun in Freud’s time. For example, the duration of the treatment in some of the “clinical cases” followed by Freud increased gradually as he defined the particular character of the psychoanalytical procedure, progressively separating it more and more from the hypnotic-suggestive method. Three months for Dora in 1900-and it was Dora who interrupted the treatment “with the warmest wishes for the New Year”, after responding however with unexpected coldness to Freud’s expression of satisfaction with the results obtained: “And what would these great results be?” Eleven months for the Rat Man in 1907-1908. Over four years, between 1910 and 1914, for the Wolf Man, for whom Freud, because a cure was evidently not forthcoming, was forced to prescribe an end to the treatment. Later on, however, the patient had to undergo various “supplementary” analyses.
For others, the rhythm of the appointments becomes in itself a security, a line of life-preservers within reach of a mediocre swimmer. Rushing in, out of breath, the young L. once said to me: “Psychically a wreck… but always on time!”
Other times, listening to a patient apparently complaining of the length of her own analysis, I have had the impression of listening to a description of a long, and thus important, initiation-although an initiation to what was unclear. Initiation, not “treatment”. Thus, “seven years of analysis” often has the ring of seven years of novitiate(14).
He was forced to face squarely the issue of the increasing duration of treatment in one of his most uncomfortable works for psychoanalysts, all the more so since it had the aspect of a near testament-Terminable and Interminable Analysis (1937)(15).
A text of this type was not easy to assimilate. It broke doctrine, teaching, practice and opened up frightening abysses. At the time, some believed they could set it aside, attributing it to the pessimism which characterized the latter part of Freud’s life and thought. Admittedly, it is imbued with a chilling, hopeless gaze, which extends from the human species to embrace the entire cosmos. And therefore, for generations of psychoanalysts who were after all resolved to do therapy, albeit without furor sanandi, it was necessary to put this text aside, in order to avoid falling into the most profound insecurity as regards their activity as therapists, and not only as therapists.
When directly questioned as to the duration of the treatment, psychoanalysts make recourse to the greater complexity of the situations observed, on the one hand, and on the other to the greater depth reached or to reach case by case. It is true that, beyond the neurotic situations analyzed by Freud, there are others-psychoses, psychopathic personalities, borderline cases-which he would not have considered analyzable. In addition, the apparently simplest and most accessible neuroses (hysteria, for example) have proven, through improved analytical work, to be far more complex than had been thought. But can these answers suffice to entirely resolve this problem? Are they not just self-justification and self-reassurance?
In 1913, Freud made an apparently absolutely personal observation: “During the early years of my psychoanalytical practice, I had enormous difficulty in inducing patients to persevere in their analysis. This difficulty has since shifted. Now I have difficulty in convincing them to end it. (16) ” Today, many analysts would make Freud’s latter observation their own.
Freud’s Terminable and Interminable Analysis is in any event a conclusive report, practically the final testament of the discoverer. To cancel this testament means not only to cancel the problem of the duration of analysis, it also cancels the problem of the very sense of analysis.
III. Definite and indefinite time
We saw at the beginning the general data which make the Freudian setting a very particular time machine. It is now time to approach the way in which the functioning of that machine involves each half of the psychoanalytic couple.
It begins formally at that moment when the analyst invites his travelling companion to “communicate everything which comes to mind”. The Freudian formula is: “alles mitzuteilen was [ihm] einfällt“(19). “That which comes to mind” is in German was einfällt-literally, that which falls or descends into the mind. This event is an Einfall, a sudden, unexpected incidence or occurrence: a word dating back to the mystics of the late Middle Ages(20). Every single Einfall is connected to successive ones by means of threads (Fäden) or lines (Linien) or concatenations (Verkettungen) which at times intersect at nodal points (Knotenpunkte)(21).
The method of free association is now familiar to our culture. But let us imagine how much amazement this task assigned by Freud provoked at the time. For the first time, a human being was asked to communicate to someone physically present, nothing less than the complete course of his own mind. He was asked to remove the control normally present not only in free and easy conversation, but also in the most intimate and secret soliloquy. He was asked to let his mind flow with no pre-established direction: like a rivulet flowing on a flat plane, with no channels to follow: a stream which could spread out, break off and flow together again guided by completely internal drives.
The first withdrawal, practically unnoticed, occurs when the invitation to “communicate everything” becomes rather “tell everything”. The Einfall, that which falls into the mind, is not necessarily verbal. We are not exclusively speaking beings. Crying and laughing, for example, often communicate as effectively, with no need to be translated into words. Sadness and joy can be mirrored in verbal language, but often they can be communicated without a single word. In the moment in which the accent is placed on “telling” instead of on “communicating”, the non verbal is placed in a marginal position, from where it would appear to emerge only through verbal interpretation. The verbal interpretation wants to be a faithful translation but, in most cases, is pleonastic, simplified, misleading: “I laugh because…”; “Today I feel sad, perhaps because I ran into…”. Thus, the non verbal becomes secondary to the verbal, the latter tends to exclude the former. Communication is progressively reduced to a single verbal channel and, consequently, the attention of the analyst will be increasingly given to accidents of language flow (slips of the tongue, misunderstanding, forgetting words, etc.).
Another form of limitation to “communicating everything” occurred gradually through the historical memory of analysis, forming a pile of the “already communicated” which obstructs potential “communication”. The corpus of knowledge and theories constructed on the accumulation of what has heretofore been communicated attracts to itself that which is in the process of communication. It is as though the analytical tide had ended up digging a bed within which it tended to flow. At the moment the analyzand begins to communicate, his Einfälle are, to varying degrees, secretly attracted to a familiar pole. The same process occurs, and to an even greater degree, in the analyst: his interpretations are attracted or influenced by interpretations already given, transmitted and conserved in the pile of analytical history.
As this act of communicating necessarily involves someone to whom one communicates, through it a very particular relationship is created. On transference and counter-transference, we might repeat what has been previously said as regards the obstruction constituted by the historical pile of analytical knowledge. Here too there is the need of a barrier placed against the flow of communication. I will point out just one aspect of the relationship. It is constituted, in its every movement, according to its own internal timing, to which objective measured time is totally extraneous. This measured time is therefore a frustrating limit, like a point of permanent imbalance, which always influences, in various degrees, each and every treatment. Once again, we see the same shifting towards the future which we saw as regards the offer to “communicate everything”. A single session involves the clash between the timing of the relationship and chronometrical time. Perhaps an indefinite series of sessions will modulate this clash and eventually eliminate it. In opposition to the real limit of the present session, there is the image of the elimination of the limit in the series of future sessions.
How powerful the influence of the setting situation is can be seen in more subtle ways.
B. states: “Analysis is like insulin for diabetics; it’s a permanent feature of life”. And F., in the sixth year of analysis: “But I feel so well with my analyst!”, and in answer to my question, “But how long have you felt so well with her?”. “But I always have! Obviously, we sometimes have fights…”. At times, those in analysis defend the analytical time even more than any analyst does.
The peculiar temporal contract of analysis therefore favors modulated expectations and attitudes such as: the postponement of the relationship with the analyst to the future, within or outside the analysis; giving value to this relationship in an immobile present; its transformation into a habit, into a “natural” relationship. What these shiftings aim at varies from time to time. All, however, acquire their weight and enormous influence from the fact that they are part of a general tendency with which we must inevitably deal.
Translated from the Italian by Joan Tambureno and Claudia Vaughn
1. This text is the translation of the first three chapters of the book Claustrofilia (Milan: Adelphi 1983).
2. Sigmund Freud, Studien über Hysterie (1892-1895), Gesammelte Werke (London: Imago Publishing Co., 1940-1952), I, pp. 99-162 (subsequently this edition will be referred to as GW).
3. Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud (New York: Basic Books, 1953).
4. Sigmund Freud, Studien über Hysterie, GW, cit., pp. 184-193; SE, II, pp. 125-132.
5. Ferenczi’s analysis lasted for just a few weeks, in 1914 and then in 1916.
6. Sigmund Freud, Ratschlage für den Arzt bei der psychoanalytischen Behandlung (1912), GW, VIII, pp. 376-387; SE, XII, pp. 111-121; Zur Einleitung der Behandlung (1913), GW, VIII, pp. 454-478; SE, XII, pp. 123-144..
7. Edward P. Thompson, “Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism” in Past and Present, XXXVIII (1967).
10. Alfred Ernout, Antoine Meillet, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine (Paris: Klincksiech, 1951):
11. This statement was based on the one hand on the Evangelic Gratis accepistis, gratis date (Matthew, 10:8), and on the other on Aristotle’s Ethica nicomachea, which takes up once more the theme of the criticism leveled by Socrates and Plato at Sophist vendors of science. Cf. Gaines Post, Kimon Giocarinis, Robert Kay, “The Medieval Heritage of a Humanistic Ideal: Scientia donum Dei est, unde vendi non potest” in Traditio, XI, 1955, pp. 195-234.
12. Cf. Jacques Le Goff, Les intellectuels au Moyen Age (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1957), pp. 106-7; “Au Moyen Age: Temps de l’Eglise et temps du marchand”, in Annales. Economies, Sociétés, Civilisations, 1960, pp. 417-433.
13. In Roman times, the salarium was first of all the ration of salt, then the sum for the purchase of salt and other victuals provided to soldiers; just as the stipendium (stips, coin, and pendere, earn) was the soldiers’ wage. Cf. Ernout-Meillet, op.cit. Thus, the two terms originated within the most ancient organization of collective life-the army, completely outside the individual sphere in which, during Imperial times, the honorarium appears as testimonial to a relationship of “honor”.
14. The uncertainty about what analysis is, or is becoming, socially is revealed by the uncertainty of what to call the person who goes into analysis. At the beginning, he was simply someone “ill”; today, for the “orthodox” institution, he is the “patient”. Outside the medical sphere, the Italian option is between “analizzato” (analyzed), “analizzando” (analysand) and “analizzante” (derivative of the Lacanian analysand). These terms alternately accentuate and exclude one of the two poles of the dependence-independence or passive-active duo. As these two aspects are always, to some degree, present in analysis, I prefer to use the expression “person in analysis”.
15. Sigmund Freud, Die endliche und die unendiliche Analyse (1937), GW, XVI, pp. 59-99; SE, XXIII, pp. 216-252.
17. See Elvio Fachinelli, Il bambino dalle uova d’oro (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1974), for example pp. 147-148.
18. From this point of view, it would seem legitimate also to criticize the research on “criteria for the end of analysis”, which has long occupied analysts and which re-emerges periodically. These criteria could summarily be divided into two classes: positive, those implying the acquisition by the person in analysis of capacities and aims previously prohibited (genital primacy, modification of the structure of the Ego, etc.: see, for example, Michael Balint, “On the Termination of Analysis”, in Int. J. Psycho Anal., XXXI (1950), pp. 196-199); and negative, when the accent is placed instead on the elimination or attenuation of inadequate defensive processes (for example, elaboration of persecutory and depressive anxiety, through the analysis of experiences of early loss: Melanie Klein, “On the Criteria for the Termination of a Psycho-Analysis”, in Int. J. Psycho-Anal., XXXI (1950), pp. 78-80). These criteria have in general a solid foundation in clinical data, pre-existent to analysis. However, it is precisely this characteristic that renders them insufficient. The general prolonging of the duration of the treatment indicates the intervention of something which goes beyond the clinical situation of the single subjects treated.
19. See for example Freud, Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens (1901), GW, IV, p. 14; SE, VI, p. 9.
20. According to Friedrick Kluge (Etymologisches Worterbuch der deutschen Sprache, 20th edition, ed. by Walther Mitzka [Berlin: Walter De Gruyter and Co., 1967]), the word derives directly from the Latin incidere.
21. Jean Laplanche and Jean-Baptiste Pontalis, Vocabulaire de la Psychanalyse (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1967).
First published on Fall 2001, in Journal of European psychoanalysis, 12-13.