The of Nathalie Plaat: “The Duty” of the heart

I called it my red room, because of the curtains that made the light very warm as soon as it dared to enter the space.

To get there, you had to take the stairs at the end of the corridor, descend below sea level, well “below” what was unfolding on the surface of the world.

The place only contained what was very little necessary for the deployment of the game: a couch, obviously, then a chair, placed “just at the right distance”. Between the two, a clock, which marked the time.

Session after session, in a “suspension of judgment and of the world”, according to the thought of the philosopher Husserl, I accompanied all these beings who sought to transform their great tears into sublime hand-sewn quilts of meaning.

It was my way of inhabiting the world, my way of supporting the weight of things, their absurdity, their temporality, their obscurity or their powerful brilliance.

You will understand, I am a shrink. Not a doctor. Not coach of life. Not a psychoanalyst. Just shrink.

I still am, even if, in January 2020, I had to leave my red room, in disaster, when I was told that I was carrying within me the result of an anarchization of my cells.

The word “cancer” entered my life just before the world came to a halt, this time literally and collectively, for a pandemic.

Today, I present myself to you at the end of this crisis, neat and as close as possible to what I could call “cured”, but, like you perhaps, a little damaged, still stunned by this strangeness that we have just come from. to cross and which, we know, is possibly only the first variation of a long series.

My hair is growing back.

The scars turn white.

But it seems that there is still time to deal with the losses and to sit down in front of the observations which are imposed on our conscience.

The pandemic has violently torn all of us from our self-reliance. We have touched the reverse side of the cardboard decorations that possibly served us as security perimeters: our habits, our eternal escapes in overactivity, our great tendency to ignore limits: ours, those of our children and those of our systems. This crisis has thus plunged us, collectively, and I would dare to blow, finally, in immensely crucial observations on, in particular, our vulnerability.

Suddenly, we started to drink long gulps the cup of what we had left behind, without really realizing it. Revealed in full light, the shadow of our society has taken the form of a massive “return of the repressed”, like whales stranded on the beaches of our negligence.

So we got torn apart on vaccine issues and other issues of compliance or freedom. We have been deprived of our fundamental binders, of those we need to get through life, of our places of decompression, of our small spaces of “contained chaos”, which kept us in our relative balances.

Our famous “mental health” appeared very fragile to us. Studies started to rain. Experts have said in unison: collectively we are suffering.

Yes, we are anxious, depressed, obsessed with our image, steeped in shame, prostrate in our rigidities, hyperactive or even exhausted.

We are mostly human. And if we dare to get out of this reductive “medico-economic” language, according to the expression of the psychoanalyst Roland Gori, let’s simply say that we are inhabited by states which mark the tragedy of our existences, in a way that is not standardized, but which is told, in as many people, in as many singularities as there are people.

Perhaps it would be time to dwell differently on all this suffering? Other than in this headlong rush which often involves applying a remedy to our wounds that resembles what caused the initial suffering. This is what this column will invite you to do, each week: to tell you.

No, there will be no tools for living well, no pathologization of the being or diagnostics, no twelve easy steps to stop feeling pain, no Practical Guide for humans contemporary.


In fact, it will be, I hope, a double opportunity for healing. For you, it will offer the possibility of devoting space and time to what means, so that you can dare to repair through language, which makes us humans still the only species that can transform anxiety into beauty.

And, for me, it will allow me to “take back my chair”, symbolically, and to reach out towards your face, according to the so magnificent thought of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, who saw in the face of the other nothing less than a ethical requirement.

I will thus be able to do my “duty”, that of the heart.

I thank you already and look forward to reading you.

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