Vanessa Bokanowski - Psychologist in Brussels

Psychotherapy: from survival to life.

"Every desire, even the desire to speak, is a desire to live."

Hubert Aquin (1929- 1977)

Visit psychotherapy is, in my opinion, the only method with the power to drastically alter a person's destiny.

When I speak of destiny, I'm referring more implicitly to the flaws, shortcomings, but also strengths and resources that we may or may not have acquired during our childhood, and which will later shape our choices and decisions, right up to choosing the person of our heart's desire. For me, this is the only form of destiny in which I believe.


In psychology, we understand that only a small part of our lives is due to chance. Personality is formed from the very first months of life through interaction with our primary objects, more commonly known as our parents.

To illustrate this point, it's obvious that a child raised by parents who have lived in a context of war, and therefore death, and who are constantly on the alert, will be able to transmit this anxiety to the child. Later in life, that same child will wonder where this hypervigilance and distrust comes from, constantly on the lookout for the slightest danger. 

It is therefore likely that this child will develop a form of generalized anxiety in adulthood, which will be inherited from his or her family.

Individual psychotherapy

Just as another child, raised by an unloving mother or father or with addiction problems, for example, linked to a difficult childhood, will later have problems in his or her love life. He or she will then choose unloving partners or suffering because they've grown up with the idea that they can't be loved, or this unloving partner will evoke something familiar, being the only thing this person has ever known.

Humans are the fruit of all the interactions that took place before them. He is the fruit of his ancestors, compiled histories, dramas, wars, unspoken words, etc. But fortunately also love, tenderness and resources. But fortunately also love, tenderness, resourcefulness, constituting the healthy part of the personality, the part on which the person can build during the therapeutic process.

As a psychoanalytically oriented therapist, I believe strongly in my school of thought. I've also studied other models, but only this one has really spoken to me. I'm convinced that we can't understand theanxietyWe're not talking about the history of a symptom, whether it's depression, phobia or any other symptomatic formation. Like the person, the symptom has a history, and it is in the very essence of this history, in its roots, that we must draw the meaning so dear to healing.

wave of emotions

It's the patient who knows, because he's the only one who knows his story, and the therapist is his guide, helping him at every step of the way to reconstruct his fragmented history. 

I believe that any school or movement of thought that allows itself to be carried away by the evil of the century, which is "everything, right away", cannot really be part of an approach based on intellectual honesty. A symptom takes time to build up, and therefore time to deconstruct, and it's not a drug or a brief therapy that promises to solve the problem in three sessions that's going to get the job done, seductive though that may sound.

sadness and depression

The mind, the memory, takes time to reclaim its history. As we've grown up, we've forgotten most of our childhood memories, trying at all costs to live in the present moment, but have they really forgotten us? And doesn't it sometimes take a groundswell, a move, a change, a loss or a bereavement for them to come back to us in disguised form? It's precisely this disguise that's so frightening, because it comes in a foreign form to remind us, "who is this other"?

This disguise can take many forms: sadness, depressionanxiety, mania, etc. However, it always symbolizes a part of our history that our psyche was unable to integrate in the past. Either we were too small and therefore too immature to accept it, or it was simply too painful and was pushed aside, sparing us for the time being, while at the same time amputating part of our history.

Human beings have a natural tendency to spare themselves any painful affect. In fact, this is how we build our defense system against an external reality perceived as too difficult, disappointing, traumatic and therefore unintegratable. Everything is forgotten and will one day re-emerge in the form of one or more symptoms, more or less painful.

It's when symptoms become too painful, or tend to recur over the course of a lifetime, preventing us from living life to the full, that the help of a psychotherapist can make sense.

see a better future

It's with the right therapist - because it's important to choose the right therapist - that this symptom can gradually be addressed. From its cryptic state, it will begin to regain its malleability. If this symptom can suddenly be heard, after having been ignored for so long, it too will gradually begin to express itself again. It will then express itself in the form of recurring memories and dreams, in the relationship with the therapist.

The Pandora's box has finally been opened and is ready to be emptied of its precious contents, buried deep in the unconscious for so long. 

hidden riches

Without going that far, I'd say that the courageous person who, on the day he sees his life faltering, pushes open the door of a shrink's office, not without being filled with a certain apprehension, can't imagine the world of riches that lies before him...!

We move from survival to life. By survival, I'm referring to the being who struggles to live his or her life, often hampered by the weight of past symptoms that limit his or her choices and desires. By life, I'm referring to the being who can finally live life to the full, make choices in full awareness, freed from the prism of past ghosts.