What is it in the comic strip « Titeuf » and the cartoon « South Park » that makes adults laugh so much ?
Children in the latency period and preadolescents are the heros of this cartoon and recall to the adult, through their « suggestive remarks », the evolution of infantile sexuality and the question of sexual difference.
The tendency to believe in images is fundamental to psychical life. However, images – especially violent ones – can suggest models, but are by themselves unable to impose the desire to correspond to them. They are most often sought for their power of figuring, as much in the domain of body states and archaic imagery as of day-to-day emotions that are sometimes difficult to represent.
Adolescents spontaneously use three complementary means of managing the malaise provoked in them by violent images : language, interior representations and corporal representations. These three means are the key to education with images.
Adolescence is passage, transition, mutation: it is no longer founded in the virtualities of childhood, nor yet upon the accomplishments of adulthood; it corresponds to a time of potentialities and is established in the category of the potential : adolescence is potential both in the sense of having potential and of being potent. The horizon of its questioning is no longer the enigma (as during childhood), nor yet the unknown (as in adulthood) but fundamentally the mystery, which beckons it toward an dynamic of initiation, questioning a possible revelation (unveiling and apocalypse). The psychical mechanism which rules the relation to the symbolic is no longer disavowal (which organizes the relation to sexual difference and to finitude in childhood) but denial (which corresponds to emergence of a secondary process).
Peter Blos has argued for the idea of a second process of separation-individuation in adolescence, conceived as an obligatory revival of psychical differentiation put in to difficulty by the upheavals of puberty. However, the fruitfulness of this theory deserves to be investigated in light of the requirements of Freudian metapsychology. It is also important to take into account the role reserved for the object itself, object whose responses are not without consequence for the development of the undefined process of subjective appropriation. Can we finally verify the value of this hypothesis in the comprehension of certain psychopathological manifestations in adolescence which require specific rearrangements in the therapeutic relationship ?
The investment of time by adolescents in therapy calls into question our model of adolescence and its time frame as if it were for the therapist to answer these questions. At the extreme, some adolescents would come to therapy to go through their « adolescent crisis » ; should psychological immaturity be cured, and in what setting ? These questions are probably related to the psychological culture inspiring models of adolescence.
When the family or school structure sets the time frame of adolescence according to models dating back to the beginning of the century, the therapist will work with these reference points and try to interpret their psychical value. But when social structure becomes uncertain or absent, the clinical setting may become the only source of limits for the time transition between childhood and adulthood; in order to avoid the stalemate of endless therapies or educational work, the therapist will be confronted with the difficult task of inviting the adolescent, just out of childhood, to interiorize the limits of the setting into psychical limits between the child and the adult. The weakening of cultural models would therefore would therefore put a higher burden on the psychical work of adolescence.
Female patients suffering from anorexia nervosa often have their own specific way of dealing with learning and knowledge. It is therefore observed that the school or university environment becomes a good place for expression, stage setting and repetition of anorexic symptoms. We shall pinpoint the impasses and the attempts at care-giving on specific occasions in these pathologies where food and school alienation go together.
This article is a reflection on the institutional treatment of adolescents, but essentially on the place of adults who are involved in it. My practice as a therapist with adolescents in an institution has served as the basis for it; but it is mainly the difficulties that we have encountered with one of the adolescents that have given rise to this initial work. Indeed, this adolescent, with his set of problems, brought out institutional flaws that have to do with the difficulties encountered by social workers in their practice and to their own position within the institution. What do they do within the institution, and what place to they hold in relation to these young people ? The question had barely been raised when it began to create worry and even some aggressiveness. Indeed, it is often a matter of « straightening out » or « correcting » of deviant behavior after an overwhelming demand that the medical-psychological corps « abrade » the symptoms because « you’re not the one who has to deal with them all day ».This response, which is supposed to be swift and thorough, is also one held by politicians in the field of mental health and it is what led us to undertake this work.
Transitivism is at the same time the mode of confusion between the self and the other that the child undergoes between three and four years of age, and the transition phase which is characteristic of this stage of psychological maturation. The difficulties encountered by adolescent sportsmen (table tennis players) testify to the reappearance of the phenomenon of transitivism in adolescence.
The author shows how this disturbance is significant of the psychological elaborations of « puberty » confronted with the specular image. The ego ideal, which regulates the identification with the other, is the instance that allows for the passage from the duel with oneself to the competition with the other.
Traumatic experience in childhood can result in the establishment by the psyche of primitive defensive strategies for confronting the dangerousness of the linking.
Through the story of « Diana », we will see how a paradoxical dynamic can be set up in adolescence between the search for erotic linkings and the attack on these linkings, the goal of which is to eliminate all need for these linkings.
The clinical treatment of « dangerous liaisons » consists in the adolescents’ search for partners whose distinguishing characteristic would be that they maintain and repeat the deficiencies and traumas linked to the earliest environment. Paradoxically, these liaisons perform the defensive function of protecting the adolescent against genuinely loving linkings, which are perceived as much more dangerous because of the underlying threat of dependence.
There are two modes of theorization that divide the favor of clinicians : one based on the theory of attachment and the other emblematized by infantile sexuality. Both appear to offer inarguable clinical benefits and yet they seem opposed to each other. Perhaps it would suffice to wait for an elaboration of the « narcissism of small differences » to do its work for a third form of theorization to subsume, in a third utterance, the ones that appeared contradictory or antagonistic. It is a matter of designating the particular modalities of interiorizing the subjective experience of the relation with oneself and with the other, the other who is so different from oneself, and to bring it forward. Can it be thought that the way in which the subjective experience will be interiorized is totally different from this?