21 Pages

Coming to life in time

Temporality, early deprivation, and the sense of a lively future
WithSeligman Stephen

Time is at the center of psychoanalysis. Analyses sort out the present from the past. Repetition and reconstruction, and progression and development, in their various forms, are at the core of case formulation and technique. We conventionally think of time as something uniform, to be represented or expressed directly—a series of nows (the Greek term, chronos, applies here, as in the chronometric movement of the forward-moving hands or digits of a clock). But from the psychoanalyst’s perspective, the sense of time is a deeply personal phenomenon, as it goes by more or less quickly and spaciously in different situations, at different ages and stages of the life cycle, whether we’re bored or engaged, in pain or having a good time, neurotic or psychotic, and so on. (Here, the Greek kairos applies.) Memory and history, linking the past and present, take so many forms and feelings—seen or concealed, felt or submerged, imagined, felt emotionally, encoded narratively, and on and on in so many different ways—all appearing in intricate mixtures and again, shifting from moment to moment and venue to venue. Philosophers use the term temporality to capture this underlying sense of time, as opposed to the everyday notion of time as a flow of instants succeeding one another.