He walks towards the light (2/4). During Advent, "La Croix" gives voice to figures that bear witness to their intimate experience of expectation and hope.
What are the "obscurities" that can lead to an analysis?
Catherine Ternynck: First there are people with clearly identified symptoms: they are anxious, depressed, sad, they sleep badly … They have difficulty living and wonder how to make life lighter, simpler, less chained. Then there are people who are looking for meaning. They do not feel good about themselves and have the feeling that something could be changed in their relationship with life, with others and with the world. This is usually what leads to engaging in a job with a psychoanalyst.
To which "lights" is the analysis time?
Catherine Ternynck: It is important to differentiate self-knowledge from personal concern. Psychoanalysis, while I understand, involves the person in the search for truth. It is not a narcissistic center, even if the analysis runs the risk of staying sometimes bogged down on this side …
The analysis is aimed at a better relationship with the world. She wants to go to more life. Free of neurotic limits or disabling symptoms, it becomes possible to more freely meet life, its events, its unexpected events …
This path implies patience …
Catherine Ternynck: Self-knowledge is difficult. We are beings on board, we are on the surface of ourselves. Deepening ourselves is never easy. Furthermore, we are complex, multiple. We talk about different voices. We are like a mosaic of different truths, composed of parts that can be in contradiction. We live in this chiaroscuro.
Another obstacle is that we can not live without telling the story of our lives. It's a good thing, it allows us to be the author. A person who could not tell the story of his life would be a bad person. But in doing this, we distort, settle the facts. We are making fun of them. But to make an analysis means to stop making stories told by adamant truths (Smile) ! It is deconstructing and rebuilding to tend towards more truth. But getting rid of our conformism, our habits and our prejudices is always difficult …
What resonances do you see in Advent, which is a march into the light of Christmas, and your work as a psychoanalyst?
Catherine Ternynck: One word seems important to me: it is the Open, with a capital letter, as François Cheng writes. The more I pronounce it, the more I find it an extraordinary density. Basically, there is in the work of analysis and introspection, an opening that I do not hesitate to call spiritual. An opening on the side of the Spirit.
Our culture is very materialistic, technological and economic. Our project of life, collectively speaking, is a project of life on earth. We live in the below. We want to live the best and the longest possible. Of course, this materialism is not new, but once it was taken by a tension with the spiritual that has been strongly relaxed, that no longer exists or so little … The spiritual dimension tends to vanish.
Today, many therapies are focused on well-being. But the more I go forward, the more I tell myself that we suffer less from the malaise than from the lack of being. Our psychological malaise – our toil, our anxiety, our anxiety of emptiness – would not be spiritual in nature? In this case, it is not a welfare that we would need, but an opening to be.
What does "open to be" mean?
Catherine Ternynck: It would be to unfold the spiritual within itself. Imagine that something escapes us, that there is a background, an escape point … Something is happening elsewhere … Something, but what? Elsewhere, but where? Some spaces give us a sense of foreboding. I think of solitude, silence, sacredness, contemplation, art, especially music, poetry … These spaces, if we frequent them, can lead us to the threshold of this mystery, to the intuition that existence is not reduced to the simple real.
Do you think your patients are waiting for this opening, consciously or not?
Catherine Ternynck: Yes I believe. Today we breathe badly, the breaths go low. We are caught in a greenhouse effect that is not only environmentally friendly. We have problems living spiritually in the world. For years I thought that psychic health consisted in the ability to face reality with strength and joy. Today I still think so, but I add that it is also – without avoiding the truth – the ability to transcend it. Go further, higher, wider …
In saying this, I am aware that some psychoanalytic colleagues will not agree.
You can not confuse the psychological with the spiritual, but between these two orders there are affinities, correspondences. A dialogue that seems to me fruitful.
During Advent, Christians put themselves in a waiting position. How is this attitude in keeping with your experience?
Catherine Ternynck: this waiting has a spiritual dimension. It is not far from promise and hope. Expectation is linked to an openness, an explanation, an enlargement. An example comes to mind. In Belgium, in the beautiful city of Bruges, there is an old mansion bearing this inscription: "The more it is in you." For a long time, I have heard this motto as a materialistic injunction: "If you want, you can, and if you can, you must." Today I see an invitation that would mean: "You carry more than you are, bring the promise that you are not yet, you are connected to something bigger than you …"
There are more beautiful words to say, especially to a child: "You are not yet, one day you will be" ; "Go towards your growth".It is not in the air. Childhood today is no longer the time to wait. Too often, the child is suggested to be already tall. We consider it an alter ego. He is asked very quickly to give up waiting. Yet there is fertility in expectation, delay, patience. "Not yet, but the day will come."Advent contains a promise of this kind. We are going towards this birth, she will come …
How to cross the wait?
Catherine Ternynck: Waiting re-echoes our desire, our taste for life. In this sense, we are very unequal. There are people whose desire to live is fragile and who can quickly be overcome by discouragement, boredom or emptiness. Others for whom the desire to live is more anchored. These are better through the inevitable waiting periods, those moments when apparently nothing happens. In this analysis, this also happens. We left the beach and where we do not see the opposite yet …
Advent can be a precious moment to question our taste for life. What do you eat? Could he have been lost? What would have discouraged him? When, in which situations? What could help him be born again?
On this path to the light, what place to the shadows?
Catherine Ternynck: We are in a period of the year when the light decreases. The days are falling, the brightness is limited. Rather than fighting, would not it be a good time to get closer to the lamp? A time to leave the house, by itself? It would be to consent to the darkness in us, to get closer to the darkness, to that part of the evil or the sadness that lives there. Not to please ourselves, but to cross them.
We are never nothing but chiaroscuro, that is, incomplete and imperfect. This is our common destiny. We are a mixture of pure and impure, of strength and fragility. This mixture constitutes us. Walking towards the light does not mean evacuating the shadows, but going according to the lights and the shadows. This journey is not just about the will. It's part of the unexpected, the unexpected, and sometimes even the unexpected …
Captured by Élodie Maurot