Report on the ICLO-NLS Seminar with Neus Carbonell “The Knotting of the Body and Language in Adolescence”

on the ICLO-NLS Seminar
with Neus Carbonell


 “The Knotting
of the Body and Language in Adolescence”


Saturday 6th June 2015


It was to an
unseasonably windy Saturday morning that the Special Interest Group of Child and Adolescent Lacanian Psychoanalysis
of ICLO-NLS welcomed Neus Carbonell
on this her second visit to Dublin
at the invitation of the SIG. The event, which was open to the public and very
well attended, was a continuation from last year which spoke to the title of “The
Knotting of Language and the Body in Childhood.”[2] 


Joanne Conway welcomed Carbonell
and situated the work of the SIG as we prepare to embark on our third year of
working together. She spoke of Carbonell’s invaluable transmission last year and
how it had informed the direction and the focus of the SIG.  Conway proceeded to present some of the challenges
specific to the construction of adolescence and the process of re-knotting the speaking
body with the jouissance of the drives. Simultaneously, the adolescent experiences
impasses and disorientations resulting from the changing symbolic order, the impact
of which presents a different kind of teenage rebellion today. It is one which
no longer or at the least, very rarely resembles yesteryear’s iconic semblant
poster boys of Marlon Bando and James Dean.


Carbonell began by stating that the knot in childhood between
language and body may be insufficient to hold in adolescence requiring the subject
to retie this knot but under new conditions. These new conditions are the impact
of the symbolic and the real of sexuality. The young subject must search for
and find his own knowledge regarding the treatment of the real of sex but crucially,
this is at a very particular moment. Adolescence as a construction requires the
subject to ‘redo the threads of his past’ to become an adult but this is
precisely where the difficulty and its precariousness lies because it is at
this moment that the knot may be undone.


In following the path of Freud in
how we can learn from poets, Carbonell made use of a reading of “The Young
Man’s Song” by W.B. Yeats to serve as both a reference and illustration
throughout the morning. For those unfamiliar with the poem, it is of a young
man, but one old enough and he wonders if a young woman will love him – but
there is nobody wise enough to tell him, so he must take a chance – by throwing
a penney. This young man’s love and desire, doubts and anxiety are set against the
absence of a knowledge of how to court this young woman. He can merely rely on
the contingency of throwing a penney and leave it to chance. This beautiful
scenario covers over his encounter with the real, a jouissance of which he has
no way of dealing with. What he will make of this contingency will mark his
life hereafter.  It is exactly these contingent
encounters in adolescence which are of extreme importance.  Carbonell concluded this introduction by
saying that this is what adolescence is about, no more or less than this.


Carbonell identified two
characteristics of adolescence: the “awakening” and the “exile.” To elaborate
on the “awakening” Carbonell referenced Frank Wedekind’s play “The Awakening of
Spring.” The adolescent must awaken from those dreams of childhood and give up
on the dream of marrying his mother.  He
cannot make use of the phallus unless first he renounces being it.  He must find a way to turn the drive jouissance
of childhood into a phallic jouissance and learn how to make do with his symptom
of puberty. This symptomatic form is the only way of re-knotting the body and language.
This is also the moment that the knot can become undone with serious
consequences leading to passages to the act. He must find a way of dealing with
these bodily changes which signal the entrance into the possibility of the real
of procreation.  He can no longer rely at
the level of the signifier on the function of stereotypes which sufficed as a
child. This passage from childhood to adolescence used to be frequently marked
in the form of cultural rites. This is becoming less evidenced today and instead
what our experience demonstrates is a prolonged and sustained period of
adolescence. A clinical vignette pointed to such a marking of a prolonged
adolescence whereby the subject’s symptom in response to his encounter with the
real revolved around the impossibility of love and his subsequent refusal to
consent to the possibility of rejection by the love object.


The second characteristic of
adolescence is exile both from childhood and from language. This painful
process of exile is absolutely necessary as it enacts separation and marks the
passage from object of desire to subject of desire.  In childhood the love object is present but
in adolescence one must search for it elsewhere, without any know-how to
accomplish it. An oft cited adolescent complaint of being misunderstood is
placed in the other of adults. Carbonell stressed the importance for the
analyst also to not appear to understand too much or too well and instead point
towards the necessary process of lack and therefore desire. Feeling alone and
different from the adolescent others needs to lead to new identifications with
the forming of new communities and ties beyond the family. This new community of
friends, who remain misunderstood by adults, enables a shift in position from one
of exception to one amongst many. 


Carbonell stressed that the
treatment orientation of the adolescent clinic lies in Lacan’s Schema R
regarding the tension between the ego ideal and ideal ego. The subject of the
narcissistic image is drive jouissance, one which will ultimately lead to the
death drive. It is therefore imperative not to reinforce the narcissistic
image. The demand for enjoyment without limit makes confrontation with desire
impossible.  Contemporary society privileges
consumerism which in turn encourages narcissism – the promise of enjoyment is
not another subject through which one finds identification but a proliferation
of objects. The drive satisfaction is not only authorised today but is
ubiquitous and almost presented as mandatory which stymies the passage from
childhood to adolescence.  It is no
longer Yeats’ contingency of throwing a penney in the face of not knowing when
there was no-one wise enough. Now knowledge is eroticised with it firmly in
ones’ pocket (or at the end of a couple of clicks on a keyboard) and not in the
field of the Other.   


The afternoon was a closed session with three clinical cases
presented by Cecilia Saviotti, Stephen McCoy and Hugh Jaret. As a matter of pure contingency, each case provided an
elaboration of key concepts worked on in the morning. The first case by
Saviotti was of a little hysteria representing the particularity of feminine
phobia.  The desiring subject is
awakening but experiencing difficulty in redoing the thread of history.  McCoy presented a subject invaded by
jouissance with little recourse to use language in defence of the real. The knotting
of body and language is tenuous with little resources to find a place in the Other
to which he could hold himself. The final case of the day by Jaret was of a subject
who found a solution in the narcissistic image of a body that could not


We would very much like to reiterate our appreciation to Neus
Carbonell for her generous and continued contribution to members of ICLO-NLS
and the SIG.  Carbonell’s inimitable
transmission of psychoanalysis is with a particular ease and grace which
consents to a space of learning and after today, a renewed appreciation of


Caroline Heanue (ICLO)

[1] The Special Interest Group of Child and
Adolescent Lacanian Psychoanalysis (SIG) is a group
practitioners with backgrounds in psychoanalysis, clinical psychology,
psychiatry and psychotherapy with a committed interest in therapeutic work with
children and adolescents.

[2] This paper is published in the latest edition
(Issue 10 May 2015) of Lacunae, the APPI (Association for Psychoanalysis and
Psychotherapy in Ireland)
International Journal for Lacanian Psychoanalysis.




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