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Connolly, A. (2002). To speak in tongues: Language, diversity and psychoanalysis. J. Anal. Psychol., 47(3):359-382.

(2002). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 47(3):359-382

To speak in tongues: Language, diversity and psychoanalysis

Angela Connolly, Ph.D.

After reviewing the different psychoanalytical approaches to language of authors such as Freud, Lacan, Kristeva, Jung and Nicolas Abraham, the author examines the problem of ‘analytical listening’, of the attitude that every analyst must assume towards the words of the analysand, words that must be heard not just in terms of their content but above all in terms of their sound. We live in a culture in which visual images predominate over acoustic images and all too often this cultural trend is repeated in analysis, but it is only when we can hear the ‘poetry’ of the analysand's discourse that we are able to provide an ‘echo’, an analytical response that can co-symbolize with, that can offer to the analysand a word or a metaphor that will unlock the symbol hidden behind his or her words. The author then turns to the problem of bilinguism and its role in analysis. In her view, bilingual analysts are facilitated in their task of listening and of translation, because bilinguism facilitates the rapidity and fluidity of the analyst's associations, and at the same time sharpens his or her awareness of how the sound of a word can subtly change its meaning. The paper ends with a clinical vignette which illustrates the role that language can play in hysteria. In hysteria the dissociation between body and psyche is accompanied by a dissociation inside language itself, between verbalization and vocalization. These dissociations can be linked to the traumatic impact of the encounter between the ‘language of tenderness’ and the ‘language of passion’, between the child's attachment needs and parental sexuality. In such cases the failure of communication can be resolved principally through the use the analyst makes of the countertransference.

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