The therapeutic process as a tool for self-reconstruction

Maud Jeulin is a psychologist with GAMS Belgium and works at the Namur branch. Her work is about freeing speech, focusing it on desire and reinventing the relationship with others. During therapeutic exchanges, women confronted with female genital mutilation (FGM) and/or forced marriages free themselves from what prevents them from moving forward. In this article, Maud gives an account of the therapeutic process involved in regaining one’s own life.

From survival to life

The person who comes for psychological counselling has made the fundamental decision to move from survival to life. The goal of the therapeutic process is to move from a situation in which one is deprived of one’s voice, to a situation in which one is in control of it.

“I observe in my patients that the ‘I’ is not in control. There is another person in each of us, a shadow that acts on us and without our knowledge on the smallest acts of life, another person who asks to be heard,” explains Maud.

In therapy, the person is joined in their weakness, in what holds them fixed and persecuted, to begin the path to healing.  The therapist’s role will be to listen to the person’s subjective truth to allow them a process of metamorphosis.

Freeing one’s speech

In therapeutic accompaniment, the subjective speech is to be understood as the one that opens to a process of delivery. Whereas ordinary conversation uses words in a regulated and orderly manner, the person coming to therapy is invited to speak, to say what comes with their own words. The point here is to say what is, far from the community.

The speech in therapy is groping around, looking for clarification. It is the one that will help move forward.

Bringing desire out of the darkness

The second therapeutic axis is to accompany the person in what they will do with their desire. However, this desire is sometimes unconscious, and the person can find themselves strongly alienated.

“The women I meet in therapy have lost faith in their desire. There is a fundamental fear of living that has gradually taken hold because of the persecution they have suffered. This fear takes many forms: withdrawal, avoidance, anxieties, phobias, depression, re-experiencing traumatic memories, confusion, night terrors…”

The therapy will then aim to find this buried desire, and to reappropriate it, far from the life scenarios that do not belong to one.

Reinventing the relationship with others

Therapeutic work also questions the first relationships in childhood: the identifying figures but also the persecuting figures, the images that one has of themselves and of others.

“The therapeutic process aims to unravel the oppressive knots and to shed light on what drives the unease. One can think, for example, of FGM and forced marriage as taking power over the person undergoing them. Fleeing into exile to save that part of oneself that is still alive does not come without going through conflicts of loyalty, or losses and separations with loved ones.”

The ultimate goal of therapy is to accompany the person in all that he or she has to leave: to come out of cruelty and sadness to open up to life. “Healing means getting out of the stifling environment to take control of one’s life. It means freeing oneself from all ties of dependence, including those with the psychologist.” Maud concludes.

Illustration © Annalisa D’Aguanno

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