In the course of his Brazilian seminars published under the title of “The Erotics of Time”, Jacques-Alain Miller, referring to La Rochefoucauld’s saying about the impossibility of looking death in the face, states: We could say there is a Horror Temporis[1].

After the decline of the Name of the Father, and confronted with the empire of the capitalist discourse and the consequent rise of object a to the social zenith, we can see how our era lives in the frenzy of making the most of its time. The push to jouissance, along with the imperative that “time is money” so don’t waste it, have shaped the hyper-modern version of the contemporary “Horror Temporis”: This is the horror at wasting time which translates into an ongoing status of subjective urgency.

The other side of these phenomena is that those who do not know how to catch this train remain on the fringes, in some sort of suspension of time, or delayed condition of apathy or uncertainty. How does this phenomenon appear in the clinic today?

One typical form has to do with being in a hurry: patients ask about the length of the treatment in their first interview, say that they don’t have time to come often, get upset if there are delays in the waiting room, etc. Another form is a kind of lethargy manifested in the doubt that some patients express about coming every week, using as justification the argument that there is nothing so important going on in their lives, they would not know what to talk about, for instance.

What both these forms express is an avoidance of what Lacan situated as the logical time between the instant of seeing and the moment for concluding. Lacan calls this blank space, where there are no certainties (whether good or bad), no conclusions and no answers, the time for understanding. It has to do with a necessary lapse, a lapse where something can come into being, something can be loosened, something can be built, can ripen, break away or crop up.

For this “Time for Understanding” to acquire its power, we need to safeguard it against the oppression of apathy as dead-time and from the acceleration of hyper-activity; which is something that in itself goes against the grain of our era and its imperatives. It installs the analytical experience as an unprecedented pause in the generalized velocity of our way of life.

There is an often repeated remark from Lacan’s interview on Belgian radio published as a text called “Radiophony” where, referring to Socrates, he states: “He knew like us that a being needs time to come to be[2]. Lacan says that this time, which is a logical time, needs to be respected and supported not only by the patient but also by the analyst. That is why he then adds: “This ‘it takes time’ (faut du temps), he — i.e. the analyst — supports it long enough for that which comes to be said not to fail…[3]

And precisely, when Lacan gives his interview for the Italian magazine Panorama he states: My books are called incomprehensible. But for whom? I did not write them for everyone, thinking that just anyone could understand them. (…). For me, it is enough to have an audience who reads my work. If they do not understand, well, let’s be patient. (…) I am also convinced that within ten years at the utmost, people reading my work will find it entirely transparent (…).’ [4].

He does not say that his work will become transparent, as if he were a man ahead of his time; he says that those who read it will, within ten years at the utmost, find it transparent, meaning that he also includes time in the act of reading. The formation of the psychoanalyst thus also requires time for understanding.

In fact, when an analyst acquires the skill of managing time in the direction of the treatment (which includes supporting the time needed “to come to be”) it is an effect of their formation, and formation is also a matter of time.

We thus see that supporting time, a time that has no forced limits, no deadlines, no certainties, the time of the “Time for Understanding”, is part of the materiality of the analytical session. That is why Lacan says: “(…) except that discourse is not simply (…) something which leads somewhere, has a fabric, a texture, and not only does it take time, not only does it have a dimension in time, a certain density which means that we cannot in any way be satisfied with the instantaneous present (…)[5]

Therefore, it is thanks to this “Time for Understanding” that the “Instants of Seeing” can irrupt, like the spring of the lion that Freud talks about, as well as the “Moments for Concluding” as precipitations that often take the subject by surprise.

The analytical experience ranges between these two zones[6]:

  • The series, frequency, continuity and regularity: so that those events in life that left a mark on the subject (and which fixed a certain regime of jouissance) are displayed. Then the effects of truth can be gathered[7] and organized as knowledge.
  • The cut, spring, surprise, the act, the irruption.

It is between these two registers of time that one makes room for something to happen that will lead to the end of the analysis.

In the meantime, our practice does not detain itself in setting deadlines, or goals according to a time schedule, a chronological period or fixed hours. It is not a question of how long an analysis takes or how long a session lasts, but about the effects that are produced there.

It is said that once a journalist asked Jackson Pollock how he knew when one of his drip paintings was finished. His answer was: “And how do you know when you are finished making love?

The time of the analytic act is a time that breaks all clocks, because it operates at the level of the subjective experience of time. This is why Miller claims: (…) In precise terms, I consider Lacanian sessions as a time frame with a supplement of the infinite (…) Otherwise the problem of the duration of sessions would become insolvable. They will always be too short or too long (…) It is not that we give short sessions, but that we give sessions that are infinite[8].


[1] Miller, J-A (2002). “La erótica del tiempo. P. 19. Buenos Aires: Tres Haches.

[2] Lacan, J. (2012) “Radiofonía” in Otros Escritos. P. 449. Buenos Aires: Paidós.

[3] Lacan, J. (2012) “Radiofonía” in Otros Escritos. P. 451. Buenos Aires: Paidós.

[4] Lacan, J. (1974 [2015]) “Jacques Lacan Freud for Ever” an interview with Panorama. Published in Hurly-Burly. The International Lacanian Journal of Psychoanalysis. Issue 12. P. 16. Published for the Freudian Field by the New Lacanian School.

[5] Lacan, J. (1957-1958 [2017]). “Formation of the Unconscious. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan | Book V”. USA: Polity Press.

[6] Brousse, M-H. (2019) Available at:

[7] Córdoba, C. (2019). Available at:
[8] Miller, J-A. (2002). “La erótica del tiempo”. P. 19. Buenos Aires: Tres Haches.