Tamara Landau



This book originated from difficulties encountered in my analytic practice, clinical experience with patients suffering from bulimia, and work with a choreographer.

After being faced for years with frequent therapeutic impasses, marked by an interruption or extension of the duration of the treatments, with patients suffering from serious neuroses, I had to find some answers.

These emerged when the treatment of bulimic patients made me approach certain very intense modalities of the transference, as well as the destructive impulse revealing the permanence of a fusional relationship and anxieties linked to archaic bodily experiences related to survival.

This was the starting-point of my research which has continually been enriched by clinical elements and new experiences. The work with a choreographer participating in research on weightlessness, and with sculptresses, helped me to elucidate the unconscious phantasies at work during foetal life, leading me gradually to elaborate an archaic problem underlying all the forms of pathology taken into account by Freudian psychoanalysis: psychoses, neuroses and perversions.

The difficulty neurotic patients have in feeling that they really exist, without resorting to a fusional relationship, put me on the tracks of a phantasy and concept which it is the purpose of this book to elaborate and examine. This impression of never having really been seen by the parents suggested that they had remained fixed in their unconscious bodily and psychic space. Haunted by the phantasy of being buried, of having escaped a murder, they lived like guilty, invisible survivors, outside time and outside history, prey to a phantasy of self-begetting.

Now this unconscious phantasy, presupposing a denial of origins and an inversion of the image and perception of one’s own body, which are noticeable in different slips of the tongue, is often materialised in the form of an inverted tree. Some patients have made drawings of this spontaneously in the treatment.

The subject himself occupies the position of a generational tree trunk which is at once his body, that of the mother, and that of the grandmother. The branches of the grandmother, ‘in full daylight’, become the roots of the subject himself which, going down underground ‘in the darkness’, nourish the mother’s sap and sense of existing in reality.

The unconscious representation of a fusional bodily and psychic space anchored in the phantasies and experience of the maternal grandmother and the mother is, it seems to me, the most archaic of the phantasies related to the transmission of life. As a result of isolating it and giving it the status of ‘original phantasy’, I had the following intuition: the child’s perception of himself and the sense that he (or she) really exists are formed in the mother’s perception of herself and her sense of really existing, in such a way that, if she herself has not acquired the sense of really existing detached from her own mother, the conditions are ripe for the fixation in the child of the primal phantasy of the inverted tree.

From this follows a hypothesis which has never been advanced in analytic literature, including those authors most preoccupied with the mother/child relationship and the incidence of the primal dimension in the genesis of mental illnesses: in all pathologies, following a fixation to the phantasy of the inverted tree, the subject unconsciously experiences his body as if it still ‘belonged’ to his mother and to his grandmother.