Training and Time

Jared Russell, PhD

This essay addresses the origins and the catastrophic effects of two questions that have come to govern candidates’ experience of training: “How long does it take?” and “How much does it cost?”  With reference to a series of important essays by Dana Birksted-Breen that emphasize the temporality of clinical experience, and that bear a striking resemblance to certain aspects of Heidegger’s thinking, the author attempts to outline the temporality of analytic candidacy and to describe the ways in which this experience — like that of the psychoanalytic clinic itself — is under siege in the contemporary global marketplace.

Whatever you possess possesses you in turn.  Everything that makes you into an owner adapts you to the order of things — and makes you old.  Time-which-slips-away is what fills the void left by the absent self.  The harder you run after time, the faster time goes: this is the law of the consumable.

Raoul Vaneigem (1967/2012)

In speaking with both current and prospective candidates, two questions concerning analytic training inevitably arise: “How long does it take?” and “How much does it cost?”  While these questions are certainly not new, they impose themselves with an increasing desperation today.  Anxieties about training terminable or interminable are legitimate, and psychoanalytic institutes are not always adept at handling these anxieties appropriately.  But a more general shift is underway, one that potentially undermines the very framework in which analytic training occurs and that threatens to deform the process of clinical formation.  This shift reflects more general social trends in our current era of perpetual financial precariousness, and it is a shift that we can easily witness in our patients and in the attitude of the lay public towards an open-ended, ongoing therapeutic approach.  The ways in which the pressures of our era exert themselves on analytic candidates will have specific consequences for the professional field and for what it will mean to be an analyst in the generations to come.

Recently, in a different theoretical context, I raised the question concerning the extent to which patients can be thought of as “consumers” of therapeutic care (Russell, 2016).  This is a question that far exceeds the boundaries of psychoanalysis and that concerns the industrialization of contemporary medicine and the rise of the “mental health industry.”  My argument was that to treat the pathologies of industrialization by elaborating new forms of therapeutic industry perfectly encapsulates the irrational logic that drives late capitalism towards collapse.  This is a logic of addiction to which psychoanalysis itself is in no way immune.  The insurance industry imposes this logic on all contemporary patient populations, enforcing a compulsory biopolitics of “managed care” in a manner that will no doubt lead to a deepening of the crisis that the psychoanalytic clinic continues to face. 

The question I wish to address here, which concerns a less perceptible but perhaps more pernicious complement to this crisis, is: To what extent are candidates to be conceived of as “consumers” of analytic training?  Or, put slightly differently: What happens to psychoanalysis when candidates in training begin to relate to their formation as analysts primarily (if unconsciously) from the position of the consumer?  This is what is being articulated symptomatically today when questions concerning the length and costs of training are posed with such intense and repetitive insistence.  Again, these questions in and of themselves are not new, they are not specific to analytic candidacy, and they are grounded in undeniably real, material, socioeconomic conditions.  Today, however, the stakes of our failure to respond critically to these questions are tremendous, much more so than psychoanalysis as a discipline could have previously anticipated from the perspective of its own historical development. 

Consumption Time

Analysts are typically comfortable explaining the fact that the time of analytic training — like the time of psychoanalysis itself — cannot be calculated in advance.  Yet they often have difficulty explaining exactly why this is the case.  Variables such as the experience of the training analysis, the ability to acquire cases at a proper analytic frequency, and other contingencies related to family and to life in general are easy to point to.  None of these, however, explain why in principle the time of training cannot be predicted.  Left intact is the notion that if all goes perfectly as planned, analytic training can be completed swiftly, that one can become an analyst in just a few short years.

Institutes typically promise the potential candidate that this is an accomplishable feat, and then spend the time of the candidate’s training encouraging her not to expect this to be the case.  If there is a slogan at work in psychoanalytic institutions where candidacy is concerned, it is, “Take your time.”  But what the time specific to the individual candidate comprises remains thematically obscure.  As a result, the time it takes to complete the training program is often erroneously regarded as a measure of a candidate’s competence as a clinician.  To avoid this judgment, many potentially talented clinicians attend poorly structured and undemanding training programs in order to be done with institutional requirements as quickly and as painlessly as possible.  In New York, this waste of potential talent has been encouraged by the implementation of state licensure laws, under which analytic training is reduced to “getting the LP.”

Underwriting the notion of a swift and easy progression through candidacy is the fantasy that graduating a training program provides the moment at which professional identity as an analyst is bestowed.  In my experience, even those who criticize analytic institutions for promoting this fantasy can themselves cling to it quite tenaciously, indicating a point of convergence between institutional culture and its critics.  As a result, efforts to work outside the training institute model can appear motivated by a desire to artificially accelerate the time of training, while institutes’ modifications of traditional requirements (e.g., efforts to recalibrate what officially constitutes an analysis from four to three or two times per week, etc.) can appear motivated by the demands of marketplace competition.  I believe that wherever this pressure to subject the time of training to new forms of calculation manifests itself — within institutional settings and without — our ability to develop the skills necessary for working analytically is severely compromised. 

This pressure to accelerate time in order to control the outcomes of one’s commitments belongs to the demand for incessant productivity specific to a culture of industrialized consumption.  Unlike standardized treatments, the lengths of which can be determined in advance and that, for this reason, are favored by insurance companies, psychoanalysis, in its open, unpredictable temporality, resists the time of consumption.  The time of consumption is time figured reductively as focused on the immediacy of the here-and-now.  Like the addict whose past is lost and whose future feels hopelessly irrelevant, the consumer consciously or unconsciously calculates all efforts and engagements in goal-oriented terms toward the acts of acquiring, using, and devouring.  This is a perverse form of internalization in which consumption-time is addiction-time.  The question as to what one can expect to receive in return for one’s investments valorizes “now”-time over and against any orientation to future possibility: I consume according to a demand that I can grasp in advance what it is that I am going to acquire and to experience in the act of consumption.  Knowing in advance what it is I am going to get, and getting it in accordance with my predetermined knowledge, constitutes a circuit of satisfaction that provides me with a sense of having control over myself, my environment, and my future.  This is an illusory sense of autonomy that both discourages the desire for change, and that conceals my increasing dependence on repeating the same gestures over and over again.  The more accurately I can anticipate the pleasures of consumption, and the more those pleasures mirror my anticipation uninterruptedly (that is, the more I am able to stay afloat financially), the more enclosed I become in this circuit as a system of narcissistic support.  As a result, my interest in the past and future degenerates, and I become increasingly oriented towards endless repetition of the same.  Consumption in this way consumes not only objects but our experience of the dynamic, durational structure of time itself.  It is both addictogenic and chronolytic.

The time of psychoanalysis — with its regularly timed and spaced appointments, engendering an ongoing sense of duration, tradition, and stability in the absence of any predetermined knowledge as to when a termination date can be expected — is intrinsically opposed to the now-time of consuming-addiction.  Consumed with and by his symptoms, the patient is invited to invest his time and energy differently, by coming often and by observing the fundamental rule, and by not attempting to “work on himself” or “figure things out.”  This difference is indicated by the nature of the analytic frame: Insistently repetitive (day after day, year after year, at the same time and place), analysis imitates the framework of consumption-addiction in order to repeat difference rather than identity.  This is an effort to open up time towards future possibility, rather than remain stuck in the empty timelessness of the symptom’s ruthless “now.”

Although the repetition that defines psychoanalysis can appear excessive, taking up too much time without a sense that immediate results are being produced by the end of each session, it is in fact this very feeling and the anxiety it generates that indicate an experience of time as something other than the demanding “now” of enforced consumption and incessant productivity is being restored.  When the patient has settled into the routine of his analysis without worrying over how long it will take and how much it will cost, this is the first sign that transformation and eventually a proper termination have become possible.  Anxieties about time and money, while always banally legitimate to some extent, are an expression of resistance to the possibility of profound personal change.  What is important to recognize is that this resistance — which Freud understood to be essential to our humanity, making psychoanalysis, along with politics and education, one of the three “impossible professions” — has never before been more environmentally reinforced than it is today in the era of massive industrialized consumerism. 

Resisting treatment in order to maintain the unconscious satisfaction provided by the symptom is one thing; symptomatically ruining the conditions of possibility for treatment is quite another.  When we debate with ourselves over whether it is worth it to alleviate the suffering in our lives because the time and money it takes to do so interferes with our manic enjoyment of leisure activities and the accumulation of products, we are not just behaving neurotically, we are behaving addictively.  And as all addicts will insist, the kind of treatment necessary to create lasting change is also the kind to which it is most difficult to commit because of the sacrifices involved.  Psychoanalysis is a form of treatment well suited for those who feel they have “hit rock bottom” in their pursuit of the pervasive miseries of modern living.

The candidate occupies the difficult position of a time divided between the open-endedness of the personal training analysis and the expectation that impersonal, institutional requirements can be reasonably predicted and brought to a close.  She is expected to inhabit the impossible position of one whose formation is lifelong in potential, yet who expects eventually to cross a border at which a professional identity is actually granted.  This begs the question: Is there a time specific to becoming an analyst, and can this be regulated institutionally?  This question is different from the one posed at the outset of all analyses (“How much time will it take?”) and no training analysis can be considered successful without its having transformed the latter question into the former.  Attempts to deal with anxieties about time and money by accelerating the time of training will always and inherently leave us at risk of failing properly to effect this transformation.          

Clinical Time

In a series of important essays, Dana Birksted-Breen (2003; 2009; 2012) develops an account of the experience of time specific to the psychoanalytic clinic.  She outlines what she calls “reverberation time” as this is intrinsic to the uniquely dynamic “tempo” of analytic work.  Unlike most ordinary interactions, psychoanalysis opens up a different experience of time — one that both facilitates psychic integration and that allows the transferential relationship to appear exceedingly meaningful.  This temporality elaborates itself in the context of the analyst’s practice of reverie, as the complement to the patient’s efforts at free association.  Slowing down the accelerated pace of contemporary life, analytic time allows for the “reverberation” of symbolically articulated experiences in such a way that provides language with a therapeutic capacity, making possible a “talking cure” that has nothing to do with suggestion, instruction, or coercion.  Birksted-Breen writes:

The transformation we seek in psychoanalysis is double: a transformation into language and a transformation into using language in a way that supports symbolic thinking.  Symbolic thinking underpins psychoanalysis, and yet we are confronted repeatedly with how fragile such thinking can be and how easily concrete thinking takes over in ways that are not always immediately evident when it is the analyst who becomes prey to it.  Impasse may always have a form of concrete thinking on the part of the analyst, as well as of the patient, as its foundation.  (2012, p. 819)

The “double transformation” both of the relation to language and of the way in which language is deployed depends upon an ability to experience time dynamically—to transition fluidly between past and present, memory and perception: “Thinking is what detaches one from the immediate reality into symbolization and brings the possibility of moving backwards and forward in time” (Birksted-Breen 2009, p. 39; emphasis in original).  “Thinking” here means not being captivated by the “now” of “immediate reality,” but “detaching” as facilitating movement in time or of time as an ongoing, temporalizing process.

Although Birksted-Breen writes only of the coordination of past and present, memory and perception, we should add a third dimension: future anticipation.  The patient transitions back and forth not only between memories of her past and perceptions of her present, but forward towards anticipations of her future.  Moving backwards and forwards in time does not stop at the present but projects toward the future.  In this way desire is generated, the interpretation of which drives the clinical relationship.  As Birksted-Breen indicates, the cultivation of such a capacity depends upon the repetitively structured space and time of the analytic frame:

The characteristics of the setting with its strict boundaries in time and space demarcate a particular temporality inside the boundaries, not so much atemporality or timelessness it seems to me as a bi-temporality.  A specific temporality is given by the analytic pair who will speak of past or present.  But whether the analyst chooses to interpret now or then, the time within the analytic setting is always now and then.  The essence of psychoanalysis lies in that double register.  (2009, p. 43; emphases in original)

The “double register” of the “double transformation” that analysis consists in involves the opening up of what Birksted-Breen elsewhere calls “temporal space.”  Temporal space is the prerequisite condition for symbol formation, in which ideas and experiences are both connected and remain distinct, and in the absence of which concrete thinking and symbolic equation predominate.  The heart of this temporalizing process that both separates (spaces) and connects ideas in the mind consists in practices of repetition that the analytic setting formalizes (coming to the same place, at the same time, day after day, etc.).  By situating repetition at the heart of the “specific temporality” of clinical experience, Birksted-Breen indicates the link between the open-endedness of an analytic approach and the therapeutic action of the “talking cure”: the effort to create the temporal space necessary for symbolization.  This is not a matter of merely putting things into words, speaking what has so far gone unspoken.  Creating “temporal space” involves spacing time by means of the “strict boundaries” that constitute the analytic setting.  The repetitive nature of the frame in this sense constitutes a calendrical function: a pre-linguistic, non-interpersonal background that structures space and time dynamically, and in such a way that allows the specific temporality of the clinic to be opened up and to function therapeutically by facilitating symbolization.

Norbert Freedman elaborated this same concept of “temporal space,” which he also called “symbolizing space,” as a way of accounting for how language can function mutatively as a vehicle of transformation rather than as a merely technical means of communication (Freedman 1998; Freedman and Lavender 2002; Freedman and Russell 2003).  To conceive of language as a “tool” one simply “uses” to communicate meaning is to split apart language and time — to think of these as things we have, rather than as integrated dimensions of experience that give rise to the sense of subjectivity or self to begin with.  For Freedman, the inability to think symbolically is not a developmental or structural deficiency, but the defensive repudiation of the vulnerability or openness intrinsic to unpredictable, symbolizing processes.  Desymbolization, in Freedman’s vocabulary, describes active efforts to suppress the establishment of symbolizing connections as a result of the anxiety attendant upon moments of structural integration that express genuine insight and that register difference.  Birksted-Breen locates this failure of symbolic thinking in those approaches predominant in the British and American schools that focus insistently on the here-and-now of the interpersonal interaction:

So-called ‘here and now’ interpretations cover a whole range of types of interpretation […].  I speak of ‘here and now’ technique in a wide sense to cover a way of working that is characterized by frequent interventions aimed at describing the patient’s experience and feelings towards the analyst throughout the session.  It is a particular way of conceiving of the ‘transference interpretation’.  (2012, p. 820)

In this approach, the analyst’s frequent interventions concerning the immediate reality of the interpersonal interaction can make both participants feel that important work is being done, that each is properly doing his or her job, and that no time is being wasted.  But this is complicit with efforts to enforce the economic delusion that time is a resource we have at our disposal to be “used,” as if there were a difference between “me” and “my time.”  Here-and-now therapeutic frameworks ultimately constitute a form of arguing with the patient over whose experience of reality is to be accepted and whose is to be disqualified.  This can only preclude symbolization and reduce the clinical relationship to an experience of transference as distortion, effectively putting the analyst in a position of authority and knowledge.  In this way, here-and-now techniques reflect a form of treatment that bends itself to the demands of the consumer in order to accommodate for the calculated promises of determinable and specifiable goals.  In contrast, Birksted-Breen, with reference to Bion, writes:

Paradoxically, being ‘without memory and desire’, which suspends chronological time (past and future), enables a different temporality to predominate, the non-chronological time of reverie and one that creates a necessary temporal space within the analytic situation.  It is opposite to an orientation to goals, which includes the goal of promoting symbolisation.  (2012, p. 827; emphases added)

To be “without memory and desire” — to be able to occupy the position of analytic neutrality, the capacity to demonstrate which is central to one’s formation as an analyst — is not to exist purely in the moment, but to inhabit a different temporality or “temporal space” in which the immediacy of the intersubjective encounter is no longer privileged, and in which adaptation to the demands of the Other (that is, symptom reduction) is no longer a therapeutic goal.  Contrary to what some authors who have taken up Bion’s description of the analytic stance would have us believe, there is nothing either mystical or formally unattainable about this ideal.  It is a thoroughly attainable, rigorously materialist position, yet one altogether at odds with the ways in which we are encouraged to think and to behave as consumers entrenched in the demands of the marketplace.  “Ultimately,” writes Antonino Ferro (2011), “Bion’s notorious phrase ‘without memory or desire’ means that each time we can begin anew with what we do not know, avoiding excessive insistence on what we have already acquired” (p. 99; emphasis added).  Ferro is referring to the knowledge that the analyst acquires about the patient over the course of treatment, as well as the theoretical knowledge acquired while training as an analyst.  Like Bion, he is implicitly criticizing an experiential organization of time that idealizes the “now” by prioritizing the possession of objects (answers) at the expense of development and future possibility (thinking).  What Birksted-Breen calls “the non-chronological time of reverie” constitutes a form of resistance to the addictogenic here-and-now-time of consumption that insists excessively on acquisition, that wants to be done quickly, and that attempts to calculate all returns on its investments in advance.  Training as an analyst involves cultivating this resistance.

Without proceeding too quickly and collapsing the differences between the clinic and the training program, can we speak of a “non-chronological time” of analytic training?  Critics of psychoanalytic institutions are right to point out the deficiencies of a model in which candidates are somehow transformed into fully fledged analysts by proceeding through a series of gates, submitting to a structured series of standardized exercises (interviews, courses, exams, reports of control work, and the like).  Each year, what it means for candidates to become graduated analysts is ceremoniously ritualized, though left unclear, as if to suggest that suffering through a series of speaking engagements, meetings, and dinners infused with an air of seriousness and judgment were all that is necessary to begin independent practice.  Yet perhaps the problem with this model lies not in the nature of these gates and exercises themselves, but in the fantasy that moving through them can be structured as a linear, uniform progression.  It is not possible to de-institutionalize this fantasy (training programs cannot cater to the needs of each individual candidate) but it is possible to be more critical about the ways in which this fantasy implicitly encourages us to think about the nature of analytic change, development, and time.

Ecstatic Temporality

In order to achieve such a critical perspective and to develop further our understanding of the experience of time in analytic training, we would do well to incorporate into our thinking what philosophy has had to say about time.  Since doing so in a comprehensive way would far exceed the bounds of a short essay, I will confine my comments to a few brief points concerning the most important thinker of time in the twentieth century: Martin Heidegger. 

In Being and Time (1927/1996), Heidegger offers a way of thinking about experience that is not grounded in claims about subjectivity and objectivity or any absolute opposition between them.  In order to reconceive the nature of subjectivity as the “existential” structure Da-sein (literally, “being-there” — there is no way to translate this ordinary German word), he proceeds by cataloguing the ways in which human beings exist “in” the world or “in” time.  The German Da-sein indicates not just “being-there” in the sense of being objectively present in time and space, but “being-there” in the way that a friend promises always to be there for us, indicating care (Sorge) and not possession, and in a way that is simultaneously both active and passive: Da-sein relates to its environment intimately in the way that a friend is “there,” ready to act yet without a predetermined agenda, actively waiting in response to need without imposing a preconceived solution.  With this, Being and Time attempts to think beyond the oppositional logic of subjects and objects that drives modern technological science.

Heidegger’s most general claim is that our experience demonstrates that time cannot be thought of as a series of successive punctual “nows.”  Time is not only the medium of development and change; our experience of time itself changes and develops.  Time can appear to pass very slowly or very quickly depending on how we comport ourselves and what we are up to.  Time understood as a progressive series of identical “nows” began as an abstract philosophical interpretation of time and has since become common sense, so much so that to challenge it would seem unusual and obscure.  To the contrary, Heidegger demonstrates that this interpretation is confused, that time cannot be understood as three separate dimensions essentially distinct from one another, each bearing the form of objective presence: the now, the past as a now that is no longer now, and the future as a now that is yet to come but which can be calculated in advance as eventually a now.  This “vulgar” understanding of time as a forward march through successive, isolated moments conceals a dynamic sense of time in which the present cannot be assigned priority, in which past, present, and future are dynamically integrated.  Heidegger’s name for this is “ecstatic temporality.” Time is “ecstatic” in the sense that it stands perpetually outside itself, always projecting itself forward towards the future that it is in an existential sense.  This is the historical time of meaningfully lived human experience.

`           Unlike subjects and objects, Da-sein does not exist in a punctual form modeled on the here-and-now of objective presence, but as a stretching-along that reaches beyond itself towards its future, individuating or “temporalizing” itself by means of its projects and desires.  Human beings are unique in that they are beings capable of becoming concerned with their future —  “being-there” in such a way that this is experienced as meaningful.  Heidegger describes interest in and concern for the future as Da-sein’s “being-ahead-of-itself-in-already-being-in-a-world” and as “always-being-together-with others” (p. 179).  What this means is that human beings are not first subjects who are then subsequently set loose within an objective world; rather, our ways of being — of existing and acting in an everyday sense that is so easy to take for granted — are determined by an essential openness to our environment.  This openness is the condition of possibility of both meaning and desire.  Being-in-a-world-with others is not a subjective quality I possess but an existential structure I am: Da-sein does not “have” relationships with others, it is that dynamic relationality that Heidegger calls “ecstatic.”  This has nothing to do with notions of intersubjectivity, which consistently fail to think the relational by subordinating it to the interpersonal.  We are not, in Heidegger’s example, “in-the-world” like water is in a glass (p. 50); the “thereness” of human existence is intrinsically temporal, open, incalculable, free.  This is not a freedom “I have” but a freedom one is prior to any determination of subjective identity.  Grasping this, according to Heidegger, constitutes “the most radical individuation” (p. 34; emphasis in original). 

            In its refusal to think cognitively in terms of a subject that gives meaning to its objects, and in demonstrating how time, thought dynamically, discloses meaning as a function of the environment itself so long as genuinely autonomous (temporalizing, individuating) human beings exist, Heidegger’s project is reflected in Birksted-Breen’s thinking about the experience of time specific to the psychoanalytic clinic.  What Birksted-Breen calls the “non-chronological time” of the clinic, which she is careful to distinguish from atemporality or timelessness, begins to open up a clinical account of Heidegger’s “ecstatic temporality.” The dynamic sense of time as ecstatic temporality describes the clinical opening of “temporal space” necessary for cultivating symbolization.  Where the patient is freely associating and the analyst is engaged in neutral reverie, there is mutual disclosure of their being-ahead-of-themselves-in-already-being-in-a-world as always-being-together-with others: clinical “reverberation time” is existential “ecstatic temporality”; the “talking cure” is an effort at “radical individuation.”

Characterizing human experience concretely as somehow “in” time supports a hierarchical way of thinking about human experience universally in terms of subjects and objects.  The “non-chronological time” specific to every clinical case makes analysis instead radically singular, as a process of individuation that resists universality and that makes psychoanalysis something other than a manualized technique.  At the same time, what makes possible this singularity is the patient’s and analyst’s commitment to the temporalizing, repetitive structure of the analytic frame: the “strict boundaries in time and space” that allow for the emergence of the non-chronological time of clinical reverie.  The classical frame is, in this way, both spontaneous and mechanical, both active and passive: it spaces and times the patient’s experience in such a way that new, reverential ways of experiencing self and environment and their integration emerge.  It is this aspect of the frame as open, incalculable structure (we do not know what will happen, or when exactly) that allows interpretation to function as something other than a pre-programmed, standardized procedure.  Modifications of the calendrical function of the frame compromise the emergence of new ways of being and are either the cause or the effect of situations of impasse, both in treatment and in training.  In psychoanalysis, as elsewhere, the pressure to move quickly prevents us from ever beginning to move forward.

As abstruse as Heidegger’s thinking might appear at first, what it can help us to clarify — what can seem so obvious but is so easily and often forgotten — is that the patient is not “in” analysis in the way that water is in a glass, and the candidate is not “in” training in the spatial sense of “in,” but temporally as a process of ongoing evolution, development, and change.  Where being “in” analysis or “in” training is thought of in a concrete or desymbolized way, hierarchical models of both treatment and candidacy are legitimized.  The analyst holds himself up as the superior ego with whom the patient should identify, or the candidate is treated as subordinate to instructors and supervisors who claim to have greater knowledge about her own experiences in clinical practice.  In the case of candidacy, this is of course not to deny that senior clinicians have greater perspective from which the candidate can learn, but this is different from an authoritarian engagement in which the instructor or supervisor presents himself as an expert who is more aware of what is going on in the context of a clinical relationship of which he is not a part.  This is but one, all too common, example of the kinds of impasses in training that can occur when the radically singular, individuating temporality of clinical processes is disavowed by a thinking that prioritizes the here-and-now of objective presence.  Such thinking is celebrated everywhere in contemporary culture, so much so that it has become absolutely blind to its own pathology.  Psychoanalysis must not itself succumb to this blindness.


“How long will it take?” and “How much will it cost?” are questions posed by the acquisitive, desymbolizing logic of consumerism.  When posed in relation to commercial goods and services, they are perfectly appropriate.  When posed in relation to a project like psychoanalysis, their urgency is indicative of how devastatingly symptomatic this logic has become.  Failing to register the fact that analysis is transformative, these questions assume that over the course of treatment one’s desires and commitments will not have changed.  In this way, treatment is intrinsically regarded as an object of purchase, and training becomes a strategy for obtaining professional licensures and certificates, or a fantasy of entering into an elite network of referrals.  The analyst is someone who must not be controlled by the logic of consumption that tries relentlessly to calculate, to predict, and to control for the purpose of guaranteeing that whatever occurs next will be identical to what has been and is happening now.  This is where the metaphor of addiction imposes itself, and not as a metaphor but as a bleak reality.  Today, not being controlled by this logic is an essential part of what it means to practice analytic neutrality.

Here-and-now therapeutic approaches that focus on regulating the distortions of fantasy for the purpose of adapting to the demands of the Other attempt to accommodate this logic by appealing to the patient as a consumer whose central concern is the management of time and finances (which are increasingly conflated).  Where such efforts encroach upon analytic candidacy, the most trivial titles take the place of genuine achievements; the accumulation of patient hours is equated with clinical skill; “getting” subsumes becoming; and the atemporal now-time of consumption prevails over and against the non-chronological temporality of open, symbolizing relation.  We can prevent this by grasping that psychoanalysis is not just one technique among many that “mental health professionals” might choose in their attempts at “curing mental illness.”

The time of analytic training cannot be calculated because time is not something we “have” but something we are.  This is instanced by the clinical practice of neutrality or reverie, about which there is nothing either mysterious or idealistic.  To be able to occupy this complex position involves abandoning all pretenses to having mastered an objective knowledge with which one can apply manualized interventions and standardized treatment plans.  This requires one’s having become autonomous as a clinician in the context of the professional field and as a thinker with regard to the seductions of theory.  In order to safeguard such autonomy today, what needs to be thought more rigorously is the relationship between our autonomy as clinicians and our connection to analytic institutions — and how this relationship has everything to do with how time is conceived of psychoanalytically.  Social institutions cultivate autonomous individuality and their ability to do so (or lack thereof) is what we generally call “culture.”  In analytic culture, candidates do not all acquire the same universally applicable skill.  The candidate is not just learning “how to do analysis.”  She is becoming capable of inhabiting the reverberating, ecstatic time of the clinic, and she does so by further becoming herself through the process of individuation that is analytic training.

Candidates are not only immersed in this process, they are charged with occupying positions that inscribe themselves institutionally.  This is why candidacy is not just a category, a subject position, or a place of speech and enunciation — it is also a course of developing, changing, and becoming.  For this reason, candidates are the open-relational components that allow analytic institutions to function communally as forms of being-together-with-others, rather than bureaucratically as the managerial administration of relations between subjects and objects.  To be in training is not to submit to the hierarchical order of some immutable pyramid.  It is to embody the necessary structural openness that transmits psychoanalysis as a tradition, and that symbolically links the professional generations over time.


The author would like to dedicate this essay to Allan Frosch, in memory.


Birksted-Breen, D.  (2003).  Time and the après-coup.  International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 84: 1501-1515.

Birksted-Breen, D.  (2009).  ‘Reverberation time’, dreaming and the capacity to dream.  International Journal ofPsycho-Analysis, 90: 35-51.

Birksted-Breen, D.  (2012).  Taking time: the tempo of psychoanalysis.  International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 93: 819-835.

Ferro, A.  (2011).  Shuttles to and from the unconscious.  The Italian Psychoanalytic Annual, 5: 89-106.

Freedman, N.  (1998).  Psychoanalysis and symbolization: legacy or heresy?  In C. Ellman, S. Grand, M. Silvan, &

S. Ellman (Eds.), The modern Freudians: Contemporary psychoanalytic technique (pp. 79-98).  Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. 

Freedman, N. & Lavender, J.  (2002).  On desymbolization: the concept and observations on anorexia and bulimia.  Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought, 25: 165-200.

Freedman, N. & Russell, J.  (2003).  Symbolization of the analytic discourse.  Psychoanalysis and Contemporary   Thought, 26: 39-87.

Heidegger, M.  (1996).  Being and time.  Trans. J. Stambaugh.  Albany, NY: SUNY Press.  (Original work published 1927).

Russell, J.  (2016).  Stiegler and the clinic.  The Undecidable Unconscious: A Journal of Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis, 2: 95-114.

Vaneigem, R.  (2012).  The revolution of everyday life.  Trans. D. Nicholson-Smith.  Oakland, CA:  PM Press.  (Original work published 1967).


Address correspondence to:

Jared Russell, PhD :

260 West 72nd Street, #1C4

New York, NY10023

Jared Russell, PhD, is an analyst in private practice in New York City.  He is a member of IPTAR and NPAP, managing editor of The Undecidable Unconscious: A Journal of Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis (University of Nebraska Press), and author of Nietzsche and the Clinic: Psychoanalysis, Philosophy, Metaphysics (Karnac, 2016).