«In all cases, the analyst is on the side of the subject
and it is his task to get the subject, the child,
to play his game with the cards he has received.»
I met Kevin shortly after he was born: from his very first days he was placed by judicial order, at first in the paediatric service and then in a nursery. The institutional staff described him as «inconsolable» (of the loss of his mother, they said) and refusing his gaze to the adult who feeds him. He does not stop crying except when he falls asleep, exhausted – after a bottle given anonymously by anyone who has the time to feed him (temporary shortage of paediatric nurses). He silences his crying on the bottle that leads him to sleep, worse, he becomes amorphous, absent, remaining then awake without cry or reaction; when he is spoken to, he seems insensitive and stares at the adults hairline. From inconsolable he has become «autistic, perhaps?» Such was the question addressed to me.
My first interventions are aimed to at least one person investing this child and speaking to me about him, in nuances, when I visit them. I make sure that his crying is constituted as a call and that a response -in speech and not just in care- is given to it. Knotting the dialogue with him and the adult, I embody for them this at-least-one: what is at stake is to embody the desire of the psychoanalyst – here as the first object indispensable for the constitution of the subject, the primordial object whose name is desire of the Other of speech and language.
At nine months, now hosted at the Nursery where he babbles, Kevin was able to exchange the absence for the call. Through his gestures, his looks and his chatter – whose intonation (cries, protests, joy…) varies with the conversation and where it is important to recognize the subjective emergence – he takes part in the “trialogue” that I have knotted with him and his nurse. Babbling, he grasps this dialogue where I build each one’s place within speech and he plays at passing from his “referent’s” knees to mine, and back, his arms reaching for one and then for the other. He also grasps small objects that I hold out for him, to throw them joyfully before I pick them up to offer them to him again.
But it is the eve of a new separation. Muriel announces that she is going on maternity leave. Ivana will replace her beside Kevin. The following week, Kevin sets the tone: he cries from the beginning of the session. I then tell Ivana (who will accompany him up until his adoption the following year) how the separation from Muriel is painful for Kevin, who responds: Miel, he forcefully articulates, looking at me; he then turns towards Ivana and says to her: Vana; then he stretches out his arms towards her. He who had exchanged absence for the call, exchanges now absence for symbolization: Miel evokes the presence of his lost object, this time named by the symbol; Vana (where we can also hear Va[go], na!) evokes, in presence, the absence from which desire may be born. Poo and Dad will follow, signifiers that Kevin extracts from the confused discourse of his birth mother, who will come sometimes afterwards, before leaving permanently.
Miel, Vana, Poo, Dad… Lalangue is born in the babble of the child who has “played his part” from the offer that was made to him.
Translation : Florencia Fernandez Coria Shanahan
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