Psychanalyse et idéologie

Psi . le temps du non

Micheline Weinstein

Children with Emerald Eyes by Mira Rothenberg


Il est plus facile d’élever un temple que d’y faire descendre l’objet du culte

Samuel Beckett • « L’Innommable »

Cité en exergue au « Jargon de l’authenticité » par T. W. Adorno • 1964


Personne n’a le droit de rester silencieux s’il sait que quelque chose de mal se fait quelque part. Ni le sexe ou l’âge, ni la religion ou le parti politique ne peuvent être une excuse.

Bertha Pappenheim

Book/s, by Micheline Weinstein


Children with Emerald Eyes

Mira Rothenberg

Translated by Yona Dureau

« Des enfants au regard de pierre »

Paris, Le Seuil, Spring 1979

24 years ago

Des enfants au regard de pierre, the translation of Children with Emerald Eyes was published by Le Seuil 24 years ago. The book is the testimony of Mira Rothenberg’s work and life besides children and sometimes adults as well who are most often called schizophrenic, autistic, i.e. in other words, psychotics.
The French title was not too bad, still why was emerald translated as “pierre”, “stone”? A stone is a stone, any kind of stone, be it hard or crumbly, dirty or clean, trodden on or hardly within reach, the word “stone” per se may have sounded rather harsh, cold and final to the ears of the editor’s team, supplanting the second word of the title, “les yeux”, the eyes. Indeed, the emerald is a stone, yet it is a precious stone, a shining and secret object lodged within the core of a rock of common appearance.
Hence, still ignorant of what had led the author to compile her testimony within one volume, the title Des Enfants au regard de pierre rather than Children with Emerald Eyes meant something entirely different, and implied entirely different readers. One would enter the book heavily laden with prejudices, commonplaces about schizophrenic and autistic people, filled with preferably  abstract  ideas conveyed by the Era’s pedantic, obscurantist, and snobbish thinking authorities.
Children with Emerald Eyes, hence Enfants aux yeux d’Émeraude, with that precious stone, the emerald about which a legend tells that “the hermetic tradition would add that an emerald [much sought after for it pierces through the dimmest darkness] fell from Lucifer’s brow during his Fall.” This book of testimonies written by Mira Rothenberg would then be read according to a very different approach. It then became necessary to start with creating an inner vacuum inside oneself, in order to be entirely open to listen to it, as well as to listen to each one of the children in whom everyone of us can recognize some part of him/her/self.

Psychoanalysis in France in 1979 and still today

Whoever may want a subjective perception of the topic may refer to the texts that have been published for 35 years, and that can now be found on websites or published as books and still currently sold.
Let us be brief. In France, children psychoanalysis as well as psychoanalytic practise on isolated children interests psychoanalysts up to the limit of finding in that practise what they are trying to find in it, i.e. what one comes to it with, e.g. the evidence needed to prove one’s theory right, or to prove how right or how revolutionary another searcher’s theory is, or to prove the existence of God. This is so much the case, that the child turns out to become a foil for a given theory, on the basis of the observation of external, physical expressions of his/her sufferings, which were even reduced to formulas by Lacan followed on that point by his disciples.
In France there is no place for the body, except for the exception of Dolto’s practise with children. Perrier had noted Dolto’s exception as he said,

One always turns to her when something on the body side has not been theorised [...] Still, one always turns to her, and simultaneously she is a woman. If I would try to characterize Dolto’s style in her therapies and in her children’ analyses, I should say that she is always on the metaphorical line, which allows small children not to use their body to question that idea, but rather to avoid being used by their own bodies.

Françoise Dolto was Dolto, whereas Mira - each one of them with her own style and with the outlined imprints of her old phobias which are, in Perrier’s words “promises of birth” - each one of them does not refrain from any attempt if we speak of the body’s involvement - to try to find any access into fortresses which are not empty, since they may even sometimes explode, disclosing then their scattered content like myriads of crystals.
It is highly improbable that a theoretical discourse may hold, however knowledgeable and authoritative it may be, when confronted with the living testimony of persons Mira Rothenberg asks us to watch and to listen to, and confronted with what she forces us to know.
The body may often be perceived as a third person in the clinical practise with those children, a third person as Perrier defined it for the analyst, who is

always as a third person between the relativity of his knowledge and the Fall of the angels of Truth.
The body may be the indispensable third person needed to establish a makeshift bridge when facing a direct, violent confrontation with language. Sometimes, other mediators, like a game of draughts, allow the expression, the verbal articulation, of the words of truth, between two turns, as if by chance.
I recall, between other misadventures, the case of a very little “beur” boy, who was then two and a half years old, diagnosed as autistic and who was taken away from me after three sessions because I had held the child at arms’ length at the top floor of the building, at my office’s balcony so that he could exchange with the clouds and pigeons, even once with a rainbow. Meanwhile, as it was the end of the winter, his accompanying nurse (so called “maternante”, between “maternelle” to speak of a nursery school and “maternelle” as an adjective, “motherly”, “maternal”, what a choice of a term!) would help herself with a hot chocolate which she would sip and relish, while reading some magazine or some book.
The direction of the institute that had sent me this little boy returned a verdict: my method did not follow Dolto’s practises. Why, precisely, I do, and anyone may check as she has left many references to it in quite a number of her books. I even saw her do it to have a child accept to stand on his legs, to take but one example, without being held by an apparatus or left alone lying as a recumbent figure on a tomb, as a shmate, in a state of dereliction. Thus the child was taken away from me, but as if he had foreseen that separation, he spoke right upon his arrival at the institute after the third and last session with me. He uttered a well-built sentence with a subject, a verb and an object. He plainly said in five words to his accompanying nurse what he thought of the directress, in her presence.
What makes it possible to read Mira Rothenberg’s book is the liberation from current, mostly university or scholarly, instructions, to work with children the way each one of us feels appropriate, i.e., at first to follow their radar, their sonar, since, as during an analysis, we do not know anything, as shown by one of Freud’s first discoveries,

« The task consisted in learning from the patient something one did not know, and which he did not know himself. » Freud 1909 • Clark University
Apart from the fact that these children were not asking for anything. Yet if one looks out for them because their suffering is unbearable to us, then they turn out to want to know.

Mira’s Book

The enthusiasm for anti-psychiatry, the blooming seventies waned within the glimpse of an eye, and history repeats itself endlessly for the children, then for the grand-children who have inherited the monstrosity invented by the human race, and who have become parents and then grand-parents, engendered by war, collaboration, transportation, extermination, and still a bit of humanity, although that latter nearly failed to counterbalance and came out in a ghastly shape for quite a while.
Is there any attempt made today to make life more or less bearable for those autistic, schizophrenic, and psychotic children to live among human beings ? There is not much to be heard of for that matter, as if those children had joined, within their various specialized institutes, the world of mad adults in psychiatric units, the world of the aged in their retirement residence as waiting halls of death (les “mouroirs” en français), be they luxurious, worlds where horror hides away from men’ eyes within the thick silence from which no echo can be perceived. 
There is no psychoanalysis of psychotic children, and  no congress of analysts on infantile psychosis will ever prove the opposite, dozens of books, reports of meetings and publications of colloquiums debate on that topic and enlighten us on that matter. 
Work with autistic children is still deprived of a name, and one may wonder if it will have one one day to belong to the normalization of the needs of nosography  and nomenclature ?
Mira Rothenberg, who lives in New York, comes from Vilno, far out there in Poland, where Jews would emigrate from when they could back to 1933, and afterwards when they were lucky enough to do it until 1944, at which date those who had been stuck in the mouse-trap were exterminated.
My reading of Mira’s book, what I hear in her work throughout her text, comes from learning, as a girl, of life and death in the “ Vilno ” of Poland, Germany, and Russia, of whole Europe, with that story, with these “out there” which always turn out to designate the final solution.
All the rest is silence.
Hence, instead of giving a report on her book, i.e. instead of giving a skilful paraphrase of it, I worked through analogies, taking from Freud’s first tools of analysis, and I will merely reproduce some passages, which I will sometimes add a line of commentary or a title to.


[All mentioned passages below are taken from, Mira Rothenberg, Children with emerald eyes - Histories of Extraordinary Boys and Girls. Foreword by Peter A. Levine, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California, and Ergos Institute, Lyons, Colorado, 2002.]

Introductory Caption
Children… p. 70

The Analytical Scene ; During a Session, the Game of Draughts
Children… p. 41

The Institute for Drifting Youths

Children… pp. 97-98

Following the Transportation of  the European Jews
Children… p. 107

Chaim’s Father
Children… p. 108

Chaim’s Mother
Children… p. 109

Chaim and His Mother
Children… p. 110

Children… pp. 108-109, 114

Psychiatrisation of Chaim’s State one year and a Half Later
Children… pp 120-121

The Dismay of The Medical Team in Charge
Children… p. 123

Chaim Is Eleven Years Old
Children… pp. 128-129

Sarah Refuses and Breaks Contact
Sarah’s Friend
Children… pp. 136-137

Some Time Later, Faeces = Baby
Children… p. 142

Sarah’s Gaze Goes From Her Hand To Mira
Children… p. 146

If One Would Try To  Paraphrase This Passage
in A Scholarly Style, It Would Be Unreadable
Children… p. 147

The Primitive Scene
Children… p. 148

Children… p. 152

Danny, The Failure
Children… p. 198

Peter, within the Prison of a Fortified Camp
Children… pp. 221, 229

[Note M. W. - Fernand Deligny, with whom I had worked for 14 years, had noted that very impressive point in the case of a number of autistic, he would prefer to say quite rightly “ mute ”, persons. Yet he did not develop that point further. It seems that he had reached his limit there.]

Children… p 230

Mira Is at Work, Peter Must Know, So Must Mira
Children… pp. 232-233, 235, 239

Hatred, Cleaving
Children… pp. 240-241

Peter’s Drawings, from pp. 250 to 253

[Note M. W. - The drawing of a living being or of a thing first appears as scattered pieces. Progressively, the scattered pieces join the body, which is represented by an oval shape, horizontally, one finds a thing, a bus, which stands upright to create a living person. The body appears then, reunited, with the head set on it, its arms and legs. Then comes the sex differenciation.. A girl, with a skirt. A boy with a trouser only on one leg. The next step consists in the representation of hair, which humanizes the figure, the ears of the girl wearing a skirt. We do not have the graphic order nor do we know if the other senses apart from the sense of hearing Peter knows – sight, smell, taste, and flavor of things – have appeared, or whether it was not necessary anymore since Peter had started to build a language relationship with Mira.]

Peter Knows, so Does Mira
Children… pp. 250-251

Peter is  Complete
Children… p. 252

Peter is Born
Children… pp. 253, 268, 269

“ Human Comedy ”
Children… pp. 274-275

Peter, The Tragedy of Uselessness
Children… pp. 276, 277

The reason why it took 24 years to finally testify of the quality of Mira Rothenberg’s book, which has no equivalent in France, is that today we have the concrete, material means to make this public testimony ; moreover and mostly, as in the case of those children, the children of “over there”, time, like the time of Unbewusst, does not leave any print on the ego which we do not know. I did it as well as I could, leaving the scene as much  as possible to those children’ voices which Mira Rothenberg had brought bare to us, even when they would not speak, even when they did not want or could not speak. She is the echo of their silence.

M. W.
2003, End of August


cela ne va pas sans dire

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