On Thinking…

Today what’s on my mind is the notion in so many therapies that getting “past” language is what we need to do, as if we could do an end run thereon.  I think we’ve been “in” language for so long that thinking we can ever free ourselves from it (as though it were a prison) may in fact be magical thinking.  Hearing develops at about 6 months inside the womb. From that point on, we can hear what’s going on around us in the outside world as well as inside the uterine world. Whether or not we understand the content of what’s being said, we are accustomed to hearing sounds, and we know that they often have significance.  They might portend the mother’s anxiety or excitement (heartbeat, respiration).  They might indicate that the mother is feeling peaceful (when she puts the ever-popular-with-babies Mozart CD on).  There are different voices, too, as well as noises that don’t belong to voices.  We are capable of making these kinds of very basic discriminations very early on.  It is true that our brains have to mature for a few years before we can really use language to link emotions to specific times and places (episodic memory).  Possibly this is what sets people longing for a time “before” language.  But we are immersed in it from the beginning, and we comprehend it much sooner than we once thought.  This means (to me anyway) that we have the potential to link emotions to “paraverbal” language–“prosody,” or tone, rhythm, pitch, timbre, gesture, etc.–and also to scraps of sound, which is what babbling consists of, more or less (practicing syllable-formation).  I’ll have to return to the implications of all this later; but I think language carries prosody, and/or prosody carries language, and it’s in the links between the two that psychoanalysis finds its method.

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