On Child-Analysis

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Muller, I.
Issue Date
MA in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The dictionary defines a child as a young human being between birth and the beginning of puberty with an emphasis on his development based on a temporality that is linear and chronological. Child psychology, also focusing on the child's relation to his development, views the child as a person in his or her own right and hence, essentially child-centred. Contrary to this belief Lacanian psychoanalysis defines the child essentially as other-centred. The human infant is born prematurely and completely depended on the Other for biological and motional survival. Moreover, he exists in the parent's discourse even before he is born in that they chose a name and speak about their child and his or her future. Growing up, the infant is embedded in a complex network of relationships in the family and may serves as the battlefield of desire and signifiers of those around him. The possibility of treatment in Child Analysis lies in understanding the characteristics of the adult's words that have left their imprint on the child, as well as, the recognition that the child's symptom is directly linked to the parent's unconscious. The process of the child establishing himself as a subject involves separation of the child and the parent's desire, which in turn touches on the adult's position in relation to desire. My aim is to present the emphasis Lacan puts on the child's relation to the Other and the significance of language in psychoanalysis with children. In the context of this paper I will focus on the neurotic structure and leave out the area of perversion and psychosis. When the parent/parents bring their child we first of all meet him or her through the representation the adult has of him/her. Communication involves parents, child and analyst. It is a collective process revolving around the child's symptom. The child is not only the object of the parent's projections but also more importantly servers to masks the adult's lack (lack-of-being). The child's symptom may represent the truth of the family couple, or he has become the mother's object, realizing the presence of the object a in the mother's phantasy. 'What is needed is to evoke, beyond the wall of language, a locus of truth, truth of a knowledge which the child suppresses in his parents by his symptoms. [ ... ] Clinically, it is clear that the Oedipus complex (the introduction of a symbolic order) is above all the expression of an unsolved problem of the parents in regard to their own parents, of which the child, by his symptom, has become the representative signifier.' Even if we do not meet the parents we have to deal with a collective communication voiced in the child's words. Who is talking through the child? He inevitably confronts us with the shadow of his parents. If the child is not an entity in himself how can he be in the position of a subject addressing a request to the analyst that is distinct from what his parents want? What is the position of the analyst in relation to the parents? For the purpose of coherence I have divided my thesis into two sections. First I will look at a psychoanalytic definition of the child as other-centred. According to Lacan the pre-Oedipal stages are dialectical moments that are ordered in the retroaction of the Oedipus complex. They are crucial moments in the encounter of the subject with the Other. Following a more detailed discussion of the significance of the symbolic order, I will give a brief account of Lacan's distinction between need, demand and desire, his dictum 'man's desire is the desire of the Other', and then move on to his 1938 paper Family complexes in the formation of the individual. I will end the first section with Lacan's definition of the Name-of-the-Father being a fundamental signifier which confers identity to the subject in that it names and positions him within the symbolic order and signifies the Oedipal prohibition. In the second section I discuss the complexity of the link between the child's symptom and his parent/parents unconscious. This will lead on to the question of the analyst's position in relation to the parent/parents, and hence, the transference involving analyst, child and parent/parents. What the child brings to the analyst is above all his symptom. The symptom is a symbolic message addressed to the Other and has to do with the subject's truth. In analysis we provide a save space and the opportunity for the child to speak his truth to an Other who hears. I will end my thesis with a clinical vignette illustrating the use of arts material which provides the child with the possibility of the projection of all that which is held back. The emphasis, however, is not on the drawings as such but on what the child says about them.