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Morris, J. (1983). Time Experience and Transference. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 31:651-675.

(1983). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 31:651-675

Time Experience and Transference

James Morris, M.D.


This paper has examined the historical developments in the understanding of the experience of time in normal and pathological development, with an emphasis on the differences between "objective" time, "subjective" time, the "timelessness" of the system Ucs., and "intrapsychic" time. Using a variety of perspectives—psychobiology, cognitive development, psychosexual development, separation-individuation, and object-relations theory—time experience has been seen to unfold as a result of the constant interrelation of physiological maturation and psychosexual development, with early object relations playing a supraordinate role in organizing the experience of time from its roots in identification with the preoedipal mother (Mother Time), where time is felt as intensity, to the relatively autonomous ego-superego function of time experience in the adult with adequate separation-individuation and capacity for object constancy, where time is felt as duration and continuity. Left unanswered are (1) philosophical questions about the phenomenological observation that all time is experienced in the present in the ego, (2) what the mechanisms for intrasystemic differentiation of past, present, and future are, and (3) metapsychological questions about the locus and mechanism for monitoring the passage of experienced time.

The clinical application of concepts of time experience was demonstrated through presentation of aspects of the treatment of a patient for whom time and its experience was the organizing schema for her life, character pathology, and transference

neurosis. The fantasy of the omnipotent control of time dominated the analysis and served as a major resistance, yet her manipulation of time served to stabilize the treatment relationship so that analysis became possible.

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