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The expression "psychic temporality" does not appear as such in the writings of Sigmund Freud. In fact, it is difficult to conceive of any other kind of temporality than psychic temporality, insofar as human time is concerned, whether or not it can be readily represented to the individual subject. Psychoanalytically, psychic temporality may be defined as the way psychic processes create their own time management and sense, according to three possibilities: regression, fixation, and anticipation.

Freud often argued the point that in dreams time is represented through space. He gives the example of a personage, who, in dreams, appears very diminished, as if seen the wrong way through binoculars, a figuration that he interprets not as an estrangement in space, but one in time (1933a [1932]). Reciprocally, the temporal contiguity of the associations of the patient is to be understood as spatial contiguity, recalling in its turn a relation of cause to effect (1905e [1900]). The succession in time of two consecutive dreams can even be upset without altering the causal relation, since it is the respective length of the dreams that then matters (1900a). From all these considerations, it emerges clearly that spatial representation is more important than temporal representation, and allows the latter to be expressed. This is explained by the fact that the visual is the mode of inscription of the infant's memory.

Fantasy, said Freud, treats chronology with even more indifference, insofar as fantasy "hovers, as it were, between three times—the three moments of time which our ideation involves"(1908e, p. 147). A current impression is necessary, to reawaken an instinctive movement linked to an event from childhood and to create, in imagination, a situation relating to a future when the desire would be realized.

However, in a more general sense, it is the entire psychic life that proudly ignores time. "Neurotics," wrote Freud, "suffer from obsession or regression" (1912-13a). Whether because it is unaware of the passage of time, or even returns to the past when the present becomes too frustrating, every psychopathological form (hysteria, paranoia, and so forth) takes, in its own way, this flight out of time that is also a flight from reality. Even more profoundly, psychic life combines simultaneously the three forms of topical, temporal, and formal regression found in dreams and in neuroses. Freud writes: "All these three kinds of regression are, however, one at bottom and occur together as a rule; for what is older in time is more primitive in form and in psychical topography lies nearer to the perceptual end" (1900a, p. 548).

Freud noted the total absence of the sense of time in psychosis (1900a), but did not try to explain this. Piera Aulagnier has been concerned with demonstrating the incapacity of the psychotic to conceive of a future time that is not just a pure repetition. She emphasized, on the one hand, the work of autohistoricizing incumbent on the ego, a veritable laying hold of the past and even of the prehistory of the subject; and on the other hand, the identificatory project that allowed the ego, at every moment of its trajectory, to imagine itself in a different place, implying the possibility of change. In psychosis, where repetition dominates, the ego does not succeed in transforming the fragmentary evidence concerning it into a temporal continuity, implying a before and an after. In this regard, the question of identity and the ability to conceive of temporality seem profoundly linked.


See also: Apprenti-historien et le maítre-sorcier (L'-) [The apprentice historian and the master sorcerer]; Archaic; Autohistorization; Boredom; Castration complex; Civilization and Its Discontents; Darwin, Darwinism, and psychoanalysis; Deferred action; Doubt; Ego feeling; Estrangement; Ethnopsychoanalysis; Femininity; Forgetting; Framework of the psychoanalytic treatment; Free association; Group phenomenon; Historical truth; History and psychoanalysis; Id; Identificatory project; Infantile, the; Kantianism and psychoanalysis; Latency period; Memory; "Metapsychological Supplement to the Theory of Dreams"; Mnemic trace/memory trace; Music and psychoanalysis; Myths; Nirvana; Nostalgia; "Note upon the 'Mystic Writing Pad', A"; Phenomenology and psychoanalysis; Prehistory; Primal repression; Primal, the; Processes of development; Proton-pseudos; Psychic causality; Psychotic potential; Regression; Repetition; Screen memory; Self-consciousness; Stage (or phase); Symbolization, process of; Thalassa. A Theory of Genitality; "Theme of the Three Caskets, The"; Time; Unconscious, the; Working-through. Bibliography

   * Aulagnier, Piera. (1984). L'Apprenti-historien et le maîtresorcier. Du discours identifiant au discours délirant. (The apprentice historian and the master sorcerer). Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
   * Castoriadis-Aulagnier, Piera. (1975). La violence de l'interpretation. Du pictogramme à l'énoncé (The violence of interpretation: from the pictogram to the enunciation). Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
   * Freud, Sigmund. (1900a). The interpretation of dreams. Part I, SE, 4: 1-338: Part II, SE, 5: 339-625.
   * ——. (1908e). Creative writers and day-dreaming. SE, 9: 141-153.
   * ——. (1912-13a). Totem and taboo. SE, 13: 1-161.
   * ——. (1933a [1932]). New introductory lectures on psycho-analysis. SE, 22: 1-182.