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Does (successful) therapy make an adult?

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If it includes the notion of adults, the analysis does not claim to make them, explains Claude Halmos. It is content to allow everyone to meet what he is and to be ... what he can be.

Claude Halmos

Finally, finally, it took a lot of talent to be old without being adults, "says Jacques Brel to his" old lovers. "Some verses that give a poor idea of ​​adult status, since it is only by avoiding him that his white-haired lovers preserve the strength of their desire and the intensity of their feelings.

This vision leads to an adulthood synonymous with renunciation and death of passions, many adolescents share it, and do not fail, the days of revolt, to throw it in the face of their parents: "You are no longer moving forward! You are settled in your unsatisfactory world, in your wicked loves. "In other words:" Move away from there! ", As one of their songs says so well.

Romance vision of things? Not only because to these enrages of life on the move, the etymology - in this case Latin - does not quite wrong, if the "adolescent", indeed, is the one "who is growing up", the adult, him it is the "adultus" (past participle), the one who "is grown up." Who has reached the end of the journey of growth, who has come.

From the organization of drives to the reality principle

But where did the problems begin, because to admit a culmination of development implies that we can define the criteria and that they can be generalized, in other words that, to the question: what an adult? ", one can answer precisely .It is possible on the plane of the body - of the motor, neurological development, etc. - because all the" p man's things "walk, have their first teeth, etc." , more or less at the same age. On all other planes, those of intellectual, emotional, sexual development, & c. it is, we know, more random.

In these areas, which - or which - of us would dare, without laughing, to assert "adult"? Human beings are not homogeneous: we all know emeritus professionals who behave in their private lives like retarded infants. And, notwithstanding the proponents of "mental ages" and other normative measures, human intelligence is far too complex and mobile to be able to claim to quantify or fix it in terms of "levels".

How does psychoanalysis fit into this debate? The question needs to be asked. From the point of view of the theory: does the analytic corpus include the notion of "adult"? And from the point of view of practice: does the analytic cure aim to make the patient "adult"?

In analytic theory, the notion of the adult can be apprehended in two ways:

• Explicitly in terms of sexuality about which Freud ( Three Essays on Sexual Theory , Gallimard, 1987) uses precisely this word. He calls "adult sexual sexuality" the culmination of the sexual development of the human being. This "adult sexual sexuality" is set up from puberty. At the moment when all the "partial drives", that is to say, libido outbreaks from the different "erogenous zones" will be organized "under the primacy of the genital": the impulses related to the mouth, the "see", touch, etc. who, in childhood, sought separately pleasure - each acting on his behalf - will regroup. The different pleasures they provide will become so many preparatory stages for the sexual act, which becomes, at this stage, the goal of sexuality (hence the term "primate of the genital").

• The notion of "adult" can also be deduced in Freudian theory from a number of concepts. Those of "principle of pleasure" and "principle of reality", for example. As he grows up, the child - if he is educated - admits the demands of reality. It can therefore, little by little, give up having only the pleasure for guide and this testifies, without any doubt, a evolution towards a "maturity".

The golden age supposedly "adult" does not exist

Is it necessary to conclude that the analytic theory poses the existence of an "adult age" considered as a goal - valued - that every "healthy" subject should reach? It would be a mistake for several reasons.

• Because the unconscious - pillar of the Freudian discovery - is an instance which Freud tells us "does not know the time". The years do not change anything: we are all condemned - whatever our age - to be "acted upon" by the "child in us". To unwittingly weave with the "others" of our adult life - our lovers, mistresses, friends or superiors - relationships that look like those we once had with our dad, mom, nannies or brothers and sisters.

• Because the notion of "adult" implies that we are in a "stage psychology". That is to say, from a perspective that defines specific steps in human development. Now, if Freud uses the notion of "stage", it is never fixed. The child goes from "oral" to "anal", etc. but no stage definitely closes the door to the other. Every human being is a "composite" and adult sexuality attests to it, always keeping the mark of past emotions. Babies who have a great pleasure in "sucking", Freud wrote, will become great lovers of kisses ...

• Moreover, the notion of "adult", as it is generally used, implies an idea of ​​" standard ":" It's time to become an adult, my young friend!"But psychoanalysis does not mix well with norms and is even their worst enemy because, by emphasizing the complexity of the" stories "that generate behavior, it demonstrates the futility of any notion of" normality ".

• Finally, because Freud's ultimate discovery was that there exists in us a "death drive." A force that forces us to always go back, to "repeat" indefinitely the modes of being (to we ourselves, the world and others) that we already know How to reconcile this permanent thrust to the past, the death, the nothingness from which we come with the idea of ​​a triumphal rise to a supposed golden age "adult"?

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