Tamara Landau, L’impossible Naissance ou L’enfant Enclavé [The Impossible Birth or the Enclaved Child]

(Paris: Imago, 2004)

Some patients say they don’t exist; others never speak about their body, and when the question is raised, one has the impression that it has no meaning for them. Some feel that they were never born, or it is their analyst who comes to this conclusion. All these patients, and others, too, who suffer from diverse symptoms such as bulimia, asthma or phobias, have only one body with their mother. Absence from themselves, a sense of the emptiness and uselessness of any undertaking, coexist [JTM1]with the impossibility of imagining a separation. The idea of one body for two or of one life for two alone makes it possible to account for an existence which is ultimately nothing but a non-existence.
For these cases, which are discussed in The impossible birth, Tamara Landau introduces the notion of enclaved child. These patients are caught in the space and time of their parents, as they are sometimes clearly told: You are my whole life. They are imprisoned by the confusion of generations and by the impossibility of inscribing their own history[JTM2].
If their mothers maintain such a destructive ascendancy over them, it is because they are stuck in an incestuous situation which prevents them from recognizing their child’s own existence: they are themselves included in the fusional pattern of their own mother, which explains the frequent confusion between mother and maternal grandmother.
A major part of the book is devoted to the theorization of this pathology, which is repeated from one generation to another. It is not possible here to go into this in detail, but one essential point for understanding the process of individuation deserves to be mentioned: the progressive importance of terrestrial gravity, slow during pregnancy, then sudden at birth, will condition the problem of finding one’s bearings in space and, consequently, that of motor autonomy, both of which are present in the Oedipus myth.
Conducting the treatment is difficult. These analysands develop a very trying form of transference: they demand constant attention, without which they feel they disappear; and often, when they discover that they need to separate themselves from their mother in order to live their own life at last, they stop the analysis.
The evocation of a work on separation leads the author to consider the matter of murder in its most radical form-matricide-which is present as soon as the hypnotic relation, a notion taken up by Ferenczi, can begin to be analyzed. The bond of primordial ascendancy determines an archaic, incestuous sexuality which cannot be worked through without analysis. Facing up to the matricide that corresponds to the soul murder of which the child has been a victim in the past is one of the conditions for dis-enclaving these unborn individuals[JTM3].
Guilt linked to this enclaving of the child, primitive guilt, stands in the way. Such guilt develops for four reasons:
– because one has escaped the primordial murder
– because one embodies the primordial incest
– because one is not the mother’s ideal double
– because one is no longer a virtual child in her womb

Questions of method are important here. Tamara Landau is not only attentive to the play of signifiers but also to variations of breathing, vocal modulations and bodily rhythms. She has been led to modify the setting, to do many face-to-face sessions at the beginning and the end of the treatment, to use drawings and modelling, and to work closely on genealogy. Her practice is based entirely on what for her is the ethic of psychoanalysis, the ethic of separation, which is necessary for dealing with the central problem of her book, namely, individuation. Up until now, this has too often been neglected in favour of subjectivation.

Translated from the French by Andrew Weller


1) First published as « Che vuoi? », Revue de psychanalyse, Edition L’Harmattan n° 22, 2004.

Share This Article

European Journal of Psychoanalysis