Siblings in Psychoanalysis - March 2016, London

Start: Mar 05, 2016 09:00 AM
End: Mar 05, 2016 05:00 PM

Location: Anatomy G29 J Z Young Lecture Theatre, Anatomy Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

Freud’s Oedipus complex focuses on the centrality of the parental objects in the child’s psychic development. In The Interpretation of Dreams he wrote “It is the fate of all of us, perhaps, to direct our first sexual impulse towards our mother and our first hatred and our first murderous wish against our father”. It seems that because of this emphasis on a vertical diachronic axis of generations not enough attention has been paid to the effect of sibling relationships in the development of the psychic structure. Juliet Mitchell in her work urged analysts to pay more attention to the place of siblings in the subject’s psychic economy and their impact on the psychic structure. The trauma of a sibling’s birth leads the child to question its very existence and to the murderous desire to eliminate the usurper. But the baby being an alter ego also loved by the mother, the challenge is to overcome the violence and accept its sibling as like itself but not identical to itself. This leaves room for more than one person to be the mother’s child and introduces the concept of seriality. In the first part of this conference, Juliet Mitchell in conversation with Rosemary Davies will have an opportunity to revisit her theoretical developments on siblings and expand on the clinical and social implications of her work.

Juliet Mitchell coined the phrase the ‘Law of the Mother’ for the prohibitions against sibling murder and sibling incest. In a direct reference to Lacan’s ‘Law of the Father’ this concept represents a theoretical challenge. If the Law is seen has a generalisation of the symbolic acceptance of the prohibition of incest, arrived at through a metaphoric process in which the name of the father replaces the object of the mother’s desire, is the Law of the Mother a different type of Law ? Lionel Bailly will argue that the process by which sibling murder and incest is prohibited is similar but different to that of the Law of the Father and does not lead to the establishment of a Law but of a Covenant arrived at through a metonymic process which symbolically disguise the real threat: the loss of maternal love. The importance of an understanding of the lateral axis in psychoanalysis is not only theoretical but also practical. The analytic treatment needs to take into account this dimension and this conference will provide an opportunity to examine and discuss clinical cases in which the siblings play a central role.

The introduction of a lateral paradigm also reframes the classical neuroses. In his ‘Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis’ (‘the Rat Man’) Freud does not highlight lateral relations. Robbie Duschinsky, following an extensive analysis of Freud’s papers on the Rat Man and of scholarly work on this famous case will argue that the significance of Lorenz’s siblings to his neurosis is evident in Freud’s case notes.

Juliet Mitchell is currently working on two books - The first on 'The sibling/separation trauma, the Law of the Mother and the horizontal axis'. The second, on siblings and lateral relations in the plays of Shakespeare.

More info here.

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