Serge Tisseron

In collaboration with the radio des cinq académies de l’Institut de France (Canal Académie)

The Speaker

From a modest background, Serge Tisseron has always had a special interest in “sub-culture”, like comics, graffiti, or television series, and in using simple terms that can be understood by all, thus enabling him to write several best-sellers.

To this day, his work includes about thirty personal works, including two which have received awards (Television Book Prize in 2002 for L’intimité surexposée [Overexposed Intimacy] and the Stassart Prize of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences in 2003 for Les Bienfaits des images [The Beneficial Effects of Images], 2002, Odile Jacob, and has contributed to around 50 collective works. He is regularly consulted by ministries. From 1997 to 2000, he completed a study on the individual and collective effects of violent images for children age 11 to 13.

After completing his high school diploma in philosophy, he began the study of literature at the Ecole Normale Supérieure where he was to discover the surrealist poets and decided to become a psychiatrist. From 1978 to 1997, Serge Tisseron worked as a hospital psychiatrist and then taught psychology at the University of Paris VII. He is currently Director of Research at the University of Paris X-Nanterre.

He made a name for himself by discovering a secret in the family of Hergé exclusively through the study of the Tintin albums, a number of years before the biography of Hergé was known and this secret confirmed (Tintin chez le psychanalyste [Tintin at the Psychoanalyst’s], 1985, Aubier Archimbaud). Serge Tisseron published the first work in French devoted entirely to shame (La Honte, psychanalyse d’un lien social [Shame: the Psychoanalysis of a Social Link], 1994, Dunod) and was one of the first to analyze the pathogenic effects of secrets over a number of generations (Secrets de famille, mode d’emploi [Family Secrets, A User’s Guide], 1996, Marabout).

During the period when psychoanalysis paid no attention to cartoons and the cinema and when the semiologists were only interested in the construction of images, Serge Tisseron also laid the foundation for a theory of reception which attributes an important role to the body (Psychanalyse de l’image, des premiers traits au virtuel [Pyschoanalysis of the Image, From the First Features to the Virtual], in 1995, Dunod). Then he questioned the particular relationship that we establish with cartoons, photography (Le Mystère de la chambre claire [Mystery of the Camera Lucida] in 1995, Poche), television (L’intimité surexposée devoted to telereality in 2001, Hachette Littératures), the cinema (Comment Hitchcock m’a guéri [How Hitchcock Cured Me]en 2003, Hachette Littératures) and computer screens (Virtuel, mon amour [Virtual, My Love],2008, Albin Michel).


Tintin and Family Secrets

A secret is not just something that is not said. Two conditions are necessary: something important is not said, and it is forbidden to know that something is hidden. This distinction allows us to understand the difference between pathogenic secrets and structuring secrets which protect the intimacy of each of us: the existence of the former is hidden, whereas it is not forbidden to understand that each one has his intimacy, quite the contrary! 
Most pathogenic secrets are related to traumatic experiences of a generation which have not been able to be completely symbolized. What is not put into words is then manifested in another way, especially by comical expressions, enigmatic silences, inexplicable emotional flashes, etc. These are termed oozings- out of the secret. 

The child confronted with such situations tries to find an explanation for them. This may stimulate his or her creativity, but most often it translates into inappropriate reactions. For example, the child feels guilt (when he imagines that he is the reason for his parents’ problems), feels an inexplicable shame (when he imagines that his progenitors might have committed abominable acts), loses confidence in his abilities (even becomes hyper-conformist) or begins to create his own secrets and becomes secretive and untruthful. The initial secret can then have a ricochet effect over several generations.

Finally, these effects of the secret are not only particular to families. We find similar situations in our various institutions and indeed in society on the whole.

Using the saga of the Aventures de Tintin, Serge Tisseron highlights the mechanisms of the family secret, 80 years after the publication of the first album.

Children under the Influence…The Impact of Violent Images and Ways to Prevent It

Serge Tisseron felt the need to distinguish between images which have a violent content and the violence of images which lead to confusion, in numerous works and research dealing with the relationship of televised images and violence in children age three to five.

Faced with violent images, all spectators try to reconstruct their landmarks by using three complementary means to enable them to distance themselves from what they are feeling: language, construction of their own images (mental or material), and sensory-motivity. But in the three cases, this distance is only possible if there is an exchange with a third party.
In the case of failure, the spectator reacts in three different ways depending on his or her history and environment: some use violent images as a justification to use violence themselves; others fear being victims of violence; and still others develop constructive and refreshing reflexes.

The violence of images does not create these profiles, but causes them to become encysted. It does not make young people more violent but pushes the psychological profile of each one to the extreme: aggressor, victim, or righter of wrongs.

It is in that way that it contributes to an increase in violence, particularly in the school setting. 

Links to interviews with Serge Tisseron: 

Radio des cinq académies de l’Institut de France (Canal Académie): 

Other websites:

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