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Angelergues, J. (2016). La puissance du vieillir [The Power of Growing Old] by François Villa PUF, Paris, 2010; 272 pp; £ 32.00. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(2):548-551.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(2):548-551

La puissance du vieillir [The Power of Growing Old] by François Villa PUF, Paris, 2010; 272 pp; £ 32.00

Review by:
J. Angelergues

François Villa's book is based on revised versions of several papers that he wrote between 1992 and 2008. In these, he describes the development of his thinking, the coherence of which gradually took shape thanks to his clinical work as a therapist and to his ideas concerning the psychopathology of everyday life.

The book begins with the question whether therapeutic work can still be undertaken when the patient's age would seem to set some limit on that possibility. Freud argued that reaching a certain age was more often than not a counter-indication as regards beginning psychoanalytical treatment; this was not so much because of the length of time involved in the treatment but, as Villa emphasizes, because of the influence of psychical economic factors on the possibility of undertaking analysis - a dimension that, in 1937, Freud reproached himself for having neglected. Over the course of time, the capacity for displacement and for transforming quantity into quality diminishes: there is a gradual loss of psychical elasticity. This sometimes manifests itself as a kind of viscosity of the libido, with fixations that refuse to be processed adequately without there being any identifiable reason for this. Villa argues that neglecting the dimension of psychical economy is “brought about by the way in which the mental apparatus functions; it is a side-effect of this”.

It is important to draw a distinction between growing old and dying. Villa in fact argues that: “Death is not the consequence of growing old but the interruption of that process”.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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