REVIEW – A man with dangerous thoughts sat at the table with Janine Abbring in the sixth and final episode of Zomergasten 2022: Psychiatrist and trauma specialist Bisel van der Kolk. Those dangerous thoughts included the theory that with a little help (from a therapist or from psychedelic drugs), you can bring out pent-up painful memories.
According to an opinion piece in de Volkskrant by two legal psychologists and an associate professor from the University of Victoria, believing that oppression exists is very dangerous, especially if it appears in court or in a psychotherapy room. According to the article, scientific research has shown time and again that therapists who believe in the existence of oppression can encourage their patients to remember events that never happened.
Janine Abring described it as a yes-no discussion. Van der Kolk called it nonsense. He actually had two arguments to defend himself.
The first was: my critics never indulged in shock. And certainly not as much and as intensely as I do. A little less than twenty years ago, van der Kolk was an expert on legal cases of child abuse by the Catholic Church. Van der Kolk attempted to frame criticism against his ideas as an attempt by the Catholic Church to discredit oppression. He ignored the fact that science would have proven repression nonsense. These scholars weren’t really interested in what he was going to say.
The second argument was: It is very difficult to convince people with experiments. “Most people want to love their parents,” he said. So why do you want to remember your misery? Well, to have a story for example, I think. As if it was a matter of will. Because even though you want to love your parents (and you want your parents to love you), there are a lot of people who hate their parents. And if you’re in trouble with yourself, I think it can be very attractive to think you were abused when you were a little kid, for example.
“could I just talk to people about things,” van der Kolk sees. Not long after, we saw on a segment with Van der Kolk himself how he allowed a woman to experience love in place of distant parents. During a so-called psychodrama session, the woman chose two of her classmates In the session who played the role of her ideal mother and father.We clearly saw there that as a therapist you can actually create a situation where the patient is going through a reality that didn’t happen.
In line with this, the clip was about young men putting themselves in someone else’s skin by playing Shakespeare. Girls switch genders and feel what it’s like to be heard. Boys are forced to show their weakness. “It allows people to experience things they have not tried before,” van der Kolk said. You can undo it in everyday life. Why is this so different from conjuring up a memory that didn’t happen?
I think the difference lies in the difference between memory and experience. Memory is spiritual and experience is physical. But in keeping with this, let me quote Harry Mulisch who appeared earlier on the broadcast in a segment on De Aanslag. Molish invented the attack in that book. This invented attack is located on the outskirts of Harlem in front of a house that already existed. Many of De Aanslag’s readers have also visited the house and seem to believe the attack did indeed take place there. Although the house turned to ashes in the book. When the interviewer asks about this, Molisch says: “Imagination is stronger than memory that has already occurred.”
Immediately after this part, van der Kolk says that Molisch does not do justice to reality with this quote. Everything is made, says Mulisch. But it is not all made up. All these things happened,” he says. I suppose van der Kolk meant figuratively. The fabricated shock of the protagonist symbolizes the real traumas of real people. But even so, by saying that all these things were not made up after Molisch just told me he made up something I thought it was a symbol.
Despite the inconsistencies, Janine Abbring did not manage to make things difficult for Bessel van der Kolk. Frankly, I can’t blame her. Van der Kolk clearly wasn’t the type to start questioning his ideas on television. Compare the criticism he has received with the hate that has come with the way they are doing their best in Russia to discredit Ukrainians. Call it fake news. “Who are these people who are afraid of reality?” he said. Janine asked Abring for the scientific evidence for his theories. “Look for it,” he said.
Although I prefer to count myself among Miss Loftus’ followers and have my doubts about Van der Kolk’s undoubtedness, I still think it was an evening particularly worth seeing. I’ve often found examples of him about the way the body deals with trauma and the ways you can treat people with traumatic experiences in disguise, even if van der Kolk calls them magic. How trauma settles into the body, how you escape into everything you can control and how MDMA can help you step away and look at yourself with compassion… I wanted to try it for myself. Unfortunately I have no shock. Not even the pent-up shock.
There was also a nice message hidden in the evening: Find the connection. Often the worst thing about trauma is not the traumatic event itself, but the loneliness you feel, consciously or unconsciously, because you cannot share it with anyone. In excerpts from the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we saw Desmond Tutu cry when testimony became too much for him. Then we saw him dancing with witnesses. “The healing power of society,” van der Kolk called it. He believed that Toto was the best shock healer he had met.
Janine Abbring was also a little annoyed when she thought of how amazing her dad was. At least that’s what she said. But moments later, the monkey came out and we understood how to explain those tears: This was her last ever Summer Guest episode. Will not return as an introduction. Janine took off her shoes and went with Bissell from the wagon to the water.
We will beat, sing Joan Baez.