– by Susan Kavaler-Adler, PhD, ABPP, NCPsyA, D.Litt.

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Originally published in Issues In Psychoanalytic Psychology, 35(1), 37-61.
Republished here with the permission of the Editors of Issues In Psychoanalytic Psychology.

D. W. Winnicott spoke to the psychoanalytic world about “space” and this article speaks about “time.” How do we experience time through the projection of internal persecutory versus internal holding objects onto the phenomena of Time? How do we do time management from the inside out?

In a multitude of clinical illustrations and Argentine tango parallel associations to the clinical paradigm, this article demonstrates the vicissitudes of time in the psychic ambience of developmental trauma and intrapsychic conflict related issues From the transitional phase “tissue mask” to the analyst’s breathing, to the infant splitting off from himself in a high chair, and to the projective identification of the split off metallic breast part-object mother, this article explores” time as an object” evolving from a persecutory demon (or “demon lover”) to a holding maternal embrace, until we finally realize the true organic flow of the mind-body dance of Argentine tango. Then we can surrender and close our eyes, both on the couch and in the arms of our partners in the Argentine tango; in both, it “takes two to tango” and the “two” itself is in part the dialectic of the continuum of space/time, body/mind, and transference/ countertransference.

In the clinical examples, we will see the gentleman with the big watch who cannot surrender to the time management of the analyst, versus the man who asks for the blinds to be drawn and the clocks to all be turned, so he can fully surrender to his unconscious through trusting the time management of the female psychoanalyst. We also see the role of mourning as a developmental process (Kavaler-Adler’s theory of “developmental mourning”). We see how surrendering to the flow of time is related to the psychic digestion of the mourning process, where the symbolization of object experience is achieved through the affects and related psychic dialectic of mourning. As patients’ surrender to the “containing” and “holding” environment aspects of the clinical situation, we allow time to flow through a surrender to affect. The persecutory aura of time is thus diminished. Consequently, our fear of entrapment within the confines of linear time transforms. Our fear of deadlines, which at first have appeared as persecutory, opens up into the “eternal now” moment of connection within the embrace of time as matured through mourning. Thus our mortality is punctuated by pivotal moments of immortality that transform our entire perception of deadlines, mortality, and of time itself. The opposite is the polarized oppositions to relatedness seen in the patient who must try to “kill time” since time is already felt as a persecutor who has killed the patient. Re-enacting trauma, rather than mourning its losses, is a perpetual “killing” of Time.

Keywords: time as an internal object; persecutory time, holding time, time as transitional object, transitional object, holding object, “eternal now” feeling, demon-lover complex, developmental mourning.

About The Author

Susan Kavaler-Adler, PhD, ABPP, NCPsyA, D.Litt.

Susan Kavaler-Adler, PhD, ABPP, NPsyA, DLitt is a graduate of the Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies at Adelphi University, and has been practicing for over 35 years as a psychologist and psychoanalyst in New York City. She founded the Object Relations Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis in New York City in 1991, and has been this institute’s executive director ever since. She is also a supervisor and former faculty member at the National Institute for the Psychotherapies, and is a member of the Postgraduate Psychoanalytic Society, where she had served as a faculty member at the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health.

Besides individual psychoanalytic psychotherapy and object relations psychoanalysis, Dr. Kavaler-Adler offers groups on mourning, creative blocks, and supervision. She conducts classes on “Projection and Projective Identification,” “The Analyst as an Instrument,” and others, using role playing; and courses on work of Ronald Fairbairn, Melanie Klein, D. W. Winnicott, Michael Balint, Wilfred Bion, and on her own theories of “developmental mourning” and “the demon- lover complex.” Dr. Kavaler-Adler also conducts workshops in self-sabotage, developmental mourning and psychic change, fear of success, envy, creative blocks, and compulsions.

Dr. Kavaler-Adler is the author of 5 books and 60 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters in the field of psychoanalysis and object relations theory. Three of her earlier books were published with Routledge: The Compulsion to Create: A Psychoanalytic Study of Women Writers (1993), The Creative Mystique: From Red Shoes Frenzy to Love and Creativity (1996), and Mourning, Spirituality, and Psychic Change: A New Object Relations View of Psychoanalysis (2003). The Other Press reprinted The Compulsion to Create as The Compulsion to Create: Women Writers and Their Demon Lovers (2000). Dr. Kavaler-Adler’s two recent books are published with Karnac: The Anatomy of Regret: From Death Instinct to Reparation and Symbolization through Vivid Clinical Cases (2013) and Klein-Winnicott Dialectic: Transformative New Metapsychology and Interactive Clinical Theory (2014).

Dr. Kavaler-Adler has won 16 awards for her books and articles, including the Gradiva Award from NAAP for Mourning, Spirituality and Psychic Change (published by Routledge) in 2004. She has won Arlene Wohlberg Memorial Awards from Postgraduate Center for Mental Health for peer-reviewed journal articles, including “Mourning and Erotic Transference” in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis (1992, Vol. 3), and “My Graduation is My Mother’s Funeral” in The International Forum of Psychoanalysis (2006, Vol 15). Dr. Kavaler-Adler also received multiple Author’s Recognition Awards from the Postgraduate Psychoanalytic Society and the National Institute for Psychotherapies.

For more information, visit www.kavaleradler.com.

Contact Dr. Kavaler-Adler by email: drkavaleradler@gmail.com or phone: 212-674-5425;


Kavaler-Adler, S. (2013). Dialectics of mortality and immortality: Time as an internal and transitional object experience and time as a persecutory vs. a holding object. MindConsiliums, 13(12), 1-32.

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