The French Adolescence: A Psychoanalytic Perspective (Part 1)

The French Adolescence: A Psychoanalytic Perspective (Part 1)

Editor’s note: This article is based on a synthesis of two different papers. Both are dedicated to the French youth and the cannabis: the first presentation occurred during the Addiction Science Congress in Tehran (September 2015) while the second took place at Shahid Beheshti University (Tehran, April, 2016). You can read the second part here


In our clinical introduction, we would like to remind some fundamental points about psychoanalysis. According to Sigmund Freud, the psychoanalysis is a way to conduct investigations of mental process which are hardly accessible otherwise and which are based on clinical work, then, a method of treatment for mental disorders based on these investigations and, finally, a series of conceptions leading to a new science called the meta-psychology or the depth psychology compared to psychology which is more dedicated to the world of the volition.

During his entire life, from infancy to death, the human being is experiencing recurrent psychic reshuffles through acceptances or renunciations. These reshuffles routinely occur during upheavals like separation, loss of a close relative or various suffering, including the love mourning and the pubertal instinctual surges. These rearrangements also happen  primarily with all mutations of the human body during major “stages” of life: birth, infancy, adolescence, reproduction and parenthood, menopause, andropause (prostatic loss), climacteric, diseases, perspective of death. These psychological reshuffles are attempts of the psyche to adapt: it means to integrate and to accept the body changes. But these changes have also to be considered as “break-in” into the body-psychic envelope. It means into the mental representation of the body as well: Freud reminds us that the Ego is at the same time “a surface and a projection of surface” (Freud, 1923). One of the possible consequences is the apparition of some anguish as a result of a conflict between the somatic arousal and the absence or the inadequacy in the psychic elaboration. The psyche experiences a kind of overflow or unbinding within the libido energy. This imbalance causes a reminder of the primary seduction: the fundamental asymmetry in the early relationship between adults and child. According to Jean Laplanche who grants it as a human structural invariant, the “fundamental anthropological situation” is the implantation in the universe of the child, by the most everyday and the most innocuous gestures of cryptic, enigmatic messages from the adult (Laplanche, 2007). These messages are called “enigmatic” for two reasons: first of all, because they are compromised by the repressed infantile sexuality of the adult himself. The adult is even not aware about them. Secondly, these messages have to be translated by the child who does not know, who does not understand that language:  “Infans” means literally who does not speak, who does not understand the language of the adult. This operation is the prototype of the further repression: the waste of this failed translation creates the original unconscious.

This attempt of psychic-body adaptation is the paradigmatic psychic reworking and will be repeated in the adolescence as well as at the other stages of life. The psyche seems, if we can say so, to run after the transformations of the body in order to try, while explaining them, to comply to them psychically. The analytic session replays, in a way, this asymmetric relationship between the patient and the therapist.


Jean-Luc Vannier is a French psychoanalyst based in Nice (French Riviera), and is full-time lecturer of psychoanalysis at Nice Sophia-Antipolis University, EDHEC Business School, Ipag Business School. He regularly writes for several French magazines and has his own columns. At the University of Côte d’Azur, he is the official Referent for the PPP (Personal and Professional Project) aimed at helping the students to work on their own identity and to define their job choices. Jean-Luc is an editorial board member of the Psychreg Journal of Psychology. You can follow him on Twitter @jlv06


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