The theory and practice of psychoanalysis could be circumscribed within the wider frame of the new scientific and cultural paradigms that have marked our contemporary world. Moreover, they illustrate the very concept of contemporaneity, more complex and even more enigmatic than we may think at first sight. Indeed, contemporaneity does not mean the coexistence of two persons living in one and the same epoch. Plato and Aristotle, for instance, were, for sure, contemporary, though they are not part of our contemporary epoch. Is it then that this last epoch might be a mere convention established by those who are living and, for the first time in the history of humankind, thought of a certain “universal” periodization? Obviously, not. In fact, not everyone belonging to contemporaneity – Freud and Lacan among others – are still alive. What defines this epoch, in our opinion, is rather its interest in a similar concept – namely, simultaneity – a touchstone starting with relativity physics – let’s remember that “on” a photon time does not pass – and ending with political science, for which globalization of world history is also defined as an effect of a certain synchronization. The future no longer represents – like in modernity – our temporal horizon of choice. What is to happen happens now: Apocalypse now! Thus, we have come to the relation between time and event announced in the title. In other words, there is a certain way of approaching the event theoretically and practically – synchronicity and therefore singularity – which is no longer part of the simple temporal succession of moments but causes a true slice – une coupure, as Lacan would say (allusion to Althusser) – in the very continuity of time itself. A principle that has been documented both theoretically and experimentally is: physical reality is discontinuous. The ancient philosophers had already defined this slice by differentiating between khronos – nunc fluens, for scholastics – and kairos – nunc stans, also for scholastics. Or between Jetzt and Augenblick respectively, for Heidegger, who directly and constantly inspired Lacan, the one who was among the first to translate the philosopher’s work. In fact, in Augenblick, a concept defined in Being and Time, Heidegger was anticipating the concept of event – Ereigniss – later developed in Contributions to Philosophy, then taken over by French philosophy, mainly by Badiou – see Being and Event – and transmitted through this intermediate route into western philosophy, to doctor Di Nicola.
And here is the difficulty: how could the concept of event be introduced into and through the operation of summing up the history of humanity, proper to contemporaneity? Is there a link between this effort of maximal anamnesis and event? Yes, psychoanalysis answers. Of course, this statement supposed redefining the fundamental analysis concepts and, especially, anamnesis. Which, in classical psychiatry, happened through Freud first and then through Lacan. Regarding the concept of analysis, what Freud does is just take up Kant’s perspective from the Critique of Pure Reason, in which Kant says that its authentic sense in not actually… an analytical one, meaning that it is not defined by the simple breakdown of what is united or, more precisely, by what is updated. A simple blood analysis, for example, implies the centrifugation of the particles that compose it. On the contrary, the authentic sense of analysis means to start from what has already been updated in order to ascend to its transcendental condition of possibility. Transcendental condition means, in context, an un- or superconscious one. The term superconscious is – surprisingly for some – totally licit, since Freud distinguished a superego in the unconscious. In other words, starting from apparently trite facts of everyday life – even deployed in time as a “family saga” – we must ascend to its structural condition of possibility – which belongs to the unconscious, therefore to “eternity”. Because, for Freud, there is no time, nor space in the unconscious. The unconscious in our temporal life does not occur “before” or “after” the onset of time itself, but in its very gaps, in the non-places in which and by which the event, the destiny itself is (in)written. Attempting, for instance, to redefine the relations between time and the traumatic event, Freud states that the latter does not occur in history but rather in “pre-history”. In other words, trauma is not a part of history but it makes history, so to speak. It does not have succession, since its temporal essence makes it always present, synchronous. Time does not resolve the trauma, as it is commonly believed. It often enhances it. A simple word or gesture are enough to bring it to the surface from “where” it has always been present. It is not about the time that precedes history, even less a post-history one, but rather about the “myth”. Indeed, just as there is no time and space in the unconscious, neither is there in the myth. They appear only together with mythology, with the story, may it be an exemplary one. Hence Lacan’s “personal myth of the neurotic”. A bearer myth, we could say. The relations between time and event may be very well expressed by the recurrent phrase at the beginning of every story: “Once upon a time…” Which may be translated as “there was a time – i.e., illo tempore –, as no time – but not a specific time, in a succession”. The event points to the “(no)time of fates”.
Let us exemplify this by the famous Emma case, analyzed by both Freud and Lacan. The complaint which opened the analysis was her difficulty to go shopping in stores. A kind of shop “phobia”. Her free associations eventually go back to a memory from when she was 12, just after entering puberty. She was indeed in a shop in order to buy something. Suddenly she noticed two shop assistants who seemed to be making fun of her. Though embarrassed, then seized by an unexpected fear, Emma still remembered one of them, who looked quite handsome. Reflecting about the incident, she quickly concluded that the two were laughing at her dress. The association between the two incidents seemed to make a certain “sense” for the patient. However, it wasn’t at all clear what exactly, more deeply and credible, could have triggered such a “phobia”. If her problem had really been related to her clothes, she would have had many years until analysis to overcome the problem by improving her wardrobe. Which she had actually done. Also, the “phobia” had nothing to do with the fact that she went shopping accompanied or not. By comparison, in case of agoraphobia, for instance, the mere fact of being with someone in a public place, even a child, is enough to overcome the difficulty. Moreover, what is really strange is that, in the embarrassing situation mentioned, Emma could still remember that she liked one of the shop assistants. The analysis goes on and the patient restores another memory, which she refuses to relate to the first incident with the shop assistants. Things get complicated, as we shall see, because the first memory, directly related to shop “phobia”, could be indeed related to the second one that the patient dismisses. If she accepted it, it could become a second incident in the analysis, though… the first in the sequence of time. Could the latter have been… the primary cause? Freud does not give in to this temptation. Why? Because the first scene was not directly related by the patient with the second. The patient itself is missing, therefore, from this simple causative equation. Where was she then? How can you participate in an incident without being totally in it? Before restoring the case “as such”, let us notice the temporal conversion that occurs in and by anamnesis, an operation which practically produces the inversion of the arrow of our day-to-day time – initially pointing from present to future – to one that points from the present to the past. The course of the analysis – its future, more exactly – seems to be clarified in and by the patient’s past. But is this past a real, genuine one? Or could it rather be a pre-historical one?