The sexual precocity reveals, so to speak, the failures in the squares and in the identifications with the parents. During the divorce, Isabelle defends her mother against the violence of her father with a whole Oedipal ambiguity: while intervening in this way, she also experiences the pleasure of abducting the place of the mother as a sole interlocutor of the father. A strategy with many disastrous consequences due to the “enigmatic messages impregnated with unconscious sexual meaning” of the father vis-à-vis her: this locks up Isabelle’s love on an exclusive and highly incestuous tonality, paralysing her own psycho-sexual development.
The mother is at the same time a protection and a rival as well as the father personifies simultaneously a love and a threat: more than once, the patient talks about this “impossible” love while remembering to have felt the “non-natural” dimension and the “unhealthy” side of her father’s affects. To such an extent that she mentions that, while a child, she was always avoiding his “tenderness impulses.” Two screen-memories, presented by the young patient as both “insignificant” and “the most unpleasant she had ever had to deal with”, must still be overcome to address the infantile sexuality. These recollections are punctuated by a dream clearly featuring her “amorous hesitation” between a father figure and that of her “first boyfriend.”
She suddenly remembers a story, often told by her parents when, little girl, she was bathing. She was highly distressed and the only way that her “father found to instantly calm her in the water was to put his thumb into her mouth.” This “experience of satisfaction” was doubled up with a “seductive experience” because it lodges originally something sexual within it. It is difficult not to closely relate this event to the Freudian slip in a letter to Fliess about the “intromission” of the presence of the other and that extends in the search for a perceptual identity, linking the satisfactory discharge of the psychic drive to a “representation of an elective object.” The patient demonstrates her false ingenuousness: “I never thought that such a simple gesture could have as many consequences” while questioning herself about the fact that she “had carefully preserved this anecdote”, amongst the others, all forgotten, in her memory. Every gesture, every facial expression takes a signifying function, especially in this “oral area”, which is like an “appealing point and that of attaching to an erogeneity.” Two dreams and an acting out occur. First, a replica of the dream of the early stage of the treatment whose final scenario changes: the patient meets up with her parents again in the chalet. But “something has changed,” she said, “despite the reunion.”
In the second dream, she has to meet with her father by crossing a ravine through a balance beam. But in the midst of this passage, the patient falls into the void and ends up in the arms of a boy that she knows. She is surprised, in this part of the dream, “not to shout or not to experience any anxiety while landing in the arms of the young man.” In the reality, the patient “has just fallen in love” with a boy of her age. She is astonished by her “to let go” attitude about her sexual desire as well as she surprises herself to get hungry while she is back home for lunch. One day, on the couch, she seriously questions herself on a lunch with her friend which is planned for the next day: “What am I going to wear?” An acting out happens when she comes in a session with a “short” haircut. Her father “loved so much her long hair that she never wanted to shorten them since her birth”.
The question of the maternal attachment remains unelaborated but, finally, is raised during a momentary interruption of the treatment, officially for financial reasons and for a clear “steady improvement”: could the mother not or did she not want to pay the sessions that she assumed to be owed by the other parent? Was it a kind of “settling of scores” between divorced adults through an intermediary financial transaction? Could the acceptance of the loss of the father by Isabelle also satisfy the subsequent jealousy of the mother? The patient makes a dream: “she told her mother that the walls of the house are dirty and covered with mushrooms, but her mother does not want to see it.”
The dream goes on: “It takes two days and two nights so that together they start to clean it up.” The associations of the patient are dazzling: “My mother always denied it but I always felt that she strongly wanted a boy.” “Moreover, the clothes she bought for me have always included a masculine touch.” From my seat, I look at the shoes worn by my patient, usually dressed with lots of care: in fact, she wears military boots! I interpret: yes, you are right, like these delicate opera shoes you wear.” She gets up, looks at her shoes and bursts out laughing.
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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