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Marie-France Hirigoyen: No, the victims are not masochists

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To win the battle she inaugurated with a roar, the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, author of Moral harassment , calls for our vigilance and the collective refusal of complacency.

Interview by Laurence Lemoine

Psychologies: This is a huge bookstore success! 5,000 copies were printed in August 1998, 120,000 sold in spring 1999, nearly 700 items bought every day ...

Marie-France Hirigoyen : Moral harassment has always existed. I did not invent anything. Simply, working on depression and suicide, I found that psychological aggression - and the resulting loss of self-esteem - could lead to death. It is this process of destruction, very stereotyped, that I wanted to highlight.

What is the specificity of your approach?

I chose to place myself on the side of the victim. I have always found that psychoanalysis neglects the context to focus only on the intrapsychic dimension - that is, the flaws of patients - which leads to postulating the victim's masochism. But we can not say that a child finds his account in the abuse he suffers, nor a woman victim of rape, nor an employee attacked by a perverse boss. Moreover, when at the price of an immense effort they manage to separate from their harasser, they feel an immense liberation. Because suffering as such does not interest them, which makes them different from masochists. Family therapy, on the other hand, looks at the environment but focuses more on the system than individuals, and refuses to designate an abuser and an abuser. As for victimology, it only helps victims of physical aggression. It was therefore necessary to mix approaches and propose a new reading grid.

What therapeutic solutions do you recommend?

It seems to me that the analytical approach is not indicated at the outset. The famous neutrality of the analyst is not always benevolent. It can be experienced as an additional aggression, insofar as the work of introspection engulfs the victim in the feeling of guilt which already freezes it. So I'm looking for a more interactive approach first. To comfort the victim, to tell him that he has been attacked, that he can, if necessary, refer him to justice, etc. This allows him to offload the weight of guilt to start rebuilding himself. In a second step, the analysis will allow it to mobilize its resources in order to protect itself against a new aggression.

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