Being an author who has authored two books, I can vouch for the fact that writing definitely has healing powers, especially when the written content is autobiographical. This exercise or therapy has been used by some psychiatrists to heal victims of trauma. We all know that trauma is a highly stressful event and that a traumatic event would be one that renders an individual powerless to cope with life’s issues as he or she is suffering from a one-time nightmarish experience or a recurrent experience that haunts them and overwhelms them emotionally, physically and psychologically.
Last week, I had the opportunity of watching a Marathi film titled ‘Firebrand’ which is about the struggles of a female lawyer who is employed in a family court and who is also a rape victim coping with occasional nightmares about her childhood experiences as she is unable to let go of her past. When she consults her doctor about it, he recommends an exercise that he is strongly convinced would work miracles on her. I found the conversation thought provoking and thought including it as part of my blog would be revelatory. As the film had English subtitles, reproducing the exchange was not a herculean task.
Psychiatrist: We hold on to things because sometimes it gives us an identity that nothing else gives.
Trauma victim: Do you mean I am holding on to the identity of a victim? That I have no other identity?
Psychiatrist: If you function with a liberated mind, you will achieve happiness and job satisfaction. But if you operate as a victim, your identity as a victim keeps getting stronger.
Trauma victim: How can I break this identity of a victim?
Psychiatrist: I’ll give you an exercise. Do it daily without fail. Your pain will subside. But the real problem is that human beings like to suffer. They love to be miserable. And they don’t know that there is a choice when it comes to suffering.
Trauma victim: But Doctor, why would someone choose to suffer?
Psychiatrist: Suffering or sadness feeds your identity. It feeds the identity you have created. When you destroy your identity, you destroy your suffering. Please pen down every detail about your rape. As if you’re penning down your autobiography. And the pain, the trauma and suffering you went through fifteen years ago. Write everything down in minute detail. Then read the story out loud in front of a mirror. Read it five times. Then write again and read it five times. Do this without fail.
In the catastrophic scene in the film, Sunaina, the rape victim, builds confidence gradually through this recommended exercise and for a woman who does not enjoy sexual intercourse with her life partner, due to her haunting memories, actually invites her client’s husband to have intercourse with her. Even though, the climax could raise cultural debates, the message of the scene is very clear. The treatment worked and through the physical intimacy with a stranger she confirms that she has overcome her trauma and from her confessions to her life partner it becomes evident to the responders that she extricates sex from love. On that note the film concludes, hinting that she loves her partner and is looking forward to her bright future with him.