In the context of the body, the essentially female; wombs, menstrual cycles and concurrent hormones, have seen women ascribed madness, insatiability, untrustworthiness, and danger. Female bodies have been identified in selective parts, considered in abstract, or envisaged as having overwhelming power over the mind. ‘Hysteria,’ the problematic neurosis of uterine origin was at the heart of early psychoanalysis. This diagnosis enshrines a slippage from the physical to the fantastical, and ultimately to the denial of the lived reality of women and girl’s bodies.
In apparent collusion with patriarchy the neglect of some female bodily experience is perpetuated in contemporary psychoanalytic theory. Nowhere is this more evident than around menopause and hysterectomy (as experienced by either client or therapist). There has been little or no exploration of how practitioners might best support clients for whom menopause is significant, or how we might facilitate women before or after gynaecological surgery. It is as if removal and psychological loss of the same female body parts that our forbears used to so neatly differentiate, diagnose, and pathologise women are now not of note.
So if we are damned as hysterics with wombs, who are we when our wombs are removed, or as the power of our presumed feminine imperative wanes? How can psychotherapeutic theory develop to manage the tension between physical fact and symbolic meaning for individual women in this context? How may we best empower women to reclaim ‘down there’ and normalise rather than stigmatise women’s bodies?
Not So Hysterical Now?
Psychotherapy, Menopause & Hysterectomy
June 5, 2021
Sarah Benamer is a UKCP registered Relational Attachment Based Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist and supervisor who works with individuals and couples. She has a particular interest in the many roles of the body in our emotional and relational worlds. She is deeply committed to the accessibility of therapy and theory that is grounded in the real world, particularly as it relates to the body. Sarah originally trained as a psychotherapist at The Bowlby Centre and has subsequently undertaken a COSRT psychosexual and couples therapy training. Prior to becoming a psychotherapist Sarah was a community worker, advocating for those in crisis within the NHS psychiatric system, for individuals in chronic pain, and for people with long-term illness and severe physical disabilities. In addition to therapeutic training she has an MA in Applied Anthropology which informs her ‘participant observer’ approach to clinical practice.
‘Telling Stories’ Attachment Based Approaches to the Treatment of Psychosis (Ed)
Trauma and Attachment (Edited with Kate White)
Killing Me Softly; A Relational Understanding of Attachment to Pain in ATTACHMENT Journal
‘Embodied Intimacies’ a clinical chapter in a book edited by Brett Kahr to be published later this year in honour of Susie Orbach.
email: info 'at' limbus 'dot' org 'dot' uk
For more informtion, contact: Farhad Dalal 0778 222 0385