The sexual maturation attacks the nervous system, increasing over the excitability and lowering the resistance.
– Josef Breuer
His incessant night terrors cause the mother of Kevin, aged 13, to take an appointment. “At his age”, she says, “to have still night terrors, there should be something wrong.” The mum lets out however that this is her own mother who “convinced” her to come to the consultation. This detail is important to notice.
At this first meeting, the essential rule for a teen support is recalled to the parents: This session of psychoanalysis, like all the others if he decides to continue, will be that of Kevin. Nothing will filter of this work by the psychoanalyst, except what that the teenager will choose to say outside. Kevin notes this assertion with a clear interest. This fact enlightens the reasons why two previous attempts with psychologists who were more looking for a therapeutic alliance with the parents, have failed.
At 13, Kevin is not yet “entered” into the puberty. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the boy resists to the “penetration” of it. He describes in full detail his fears and its consequences: an obsessive ritual compels every night Kevin to check all doors and windows of the house and to refuse to sleep in a room where the exit would be closed. These “external devices” were enounced at the time by Sandor Ferenczi. Despite the systematic nature of these inspections, he wakes up at night, “assailed” by terrors. An important element should be noticed: during his nocturnal awakenings, an incompressible urination need forces the boy to run to the bathroom. The fact of moving in the dark scares him. A desire which is not followed by urination or “for almost nothing”, surprised himself.
Another item is worth being mentioned: Kevin is succeeding to preserve a pre-squared “reason” from which it tries to persuade himself, as his fears arise, that nothing can “logically” happen and that “he can go back to sleep.” Not without difficulty, he admits. We shall come back to what appears to be close to a reality testing which allows this case to “distinguish stimuli from the outside world of that of the internal stimuli.” After this interview, the analyst does not answer to the desire expressed by the mother to give her his prognosis on the treatment. Kevin decides to return the following week.
During the face-to-face session, Kevin continues to move on his chair. No inadvertent or abrupt hyperkinesias but many languid movements, as if the body was flowing the excesses of too intense inner reflections. It appears to be more an instinctual discharge than a breaking in. Once confident, Kevin painfully pours on his desire to “do great things in his life” when he sees himself as “someone average,” he said in tears. He evokes his feeling of being “different” which makes him think a lot. He does not play the same games and reads much more books than boys of his age. Girls are more like my “friends”. Kevin does not let show anything of its intimate questions to his family or to his friends. But he wants to understand. His psychic drive to know takes the place of a psychic dam. Later, he will become an archaeologist: something that we interpret through the Freudian metaphor of the city of Rome and with the analytical method of the Latin quotation: Saxa Loquuntur. Kevin understands and agrees.
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. Jean-Luc is an editorial board member of the Psychreg Journal of Psychology. You can follow him on Twitter @jlv06.
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