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Untying the knots of control

On 25 May 2024, we organised the launch of the new collection (check out here 😉) and we used this moment together to also have a discussion workshop on the grip of violence with the moderation of Ateliers Gango.

Gango grew out of an independent project set up in response to three fundamental needs: to develop women's self-confidence, to combat daily oppression linked to gender inequality & to provide a space to express themselves in the face of contemporary societal transformations. Through this initiative, Sophie and Aurélie organise discussion workshops to help collective emancipation of women and their personal development.

Our workshop was based on the book « Je n’existais plus » (I did not exist anymore) written by Prof. Pascale Jamoulle, anthropologist and social worker (UCL/Laap and à l’UMONS), published in 2021.

For seven years, she conducted a field study to gain a better understanding of control systems, the risks of moving from one hold to another, and the dynamics of disengagement.

The book is such an exploration into the phenomenon of psychological and social control (known as "emprise" or coercive control). Jamoulle delves into various forms of emprise, extending beyond the commonly understood contexts of domestic abuse to include manipulative relationships in family, work environments, and criminal networks.

The 6 stages of emprise

As Ateliers Gango well explained with a help of a rope, the control is like ‘a bag of knots’. More knots there are, the more the hold is established. The knots indeed tighten on each other.

The first knot is based on biographical vulnerabilities which means experiencing early trauma, abandonment, initial control, etc. It also means contexts of subalternation such as gender, class, effects of place, exile system.

The second knot is simply a bad encounter, being seduced by a charisma of a predator with whom the link becomes vital.

The third knot is characterized by the setting up of a complex machinery of control that includes very progressive conditioning/ crushing, confinement and indoctrination processes.

The fourth knot is the development of complete emotional dependency and secrecy when the victim is withdrawing in silence.

The firth knot is denial, blindness from the victim side but also the lack of rights and institutional protection by the society. Therefore, the person sinks into a whole social abandonment distrust.

The final stage is the risks of repetition that linked back again to the first knot (effects of psycho-trauma, the weakening of protections, feelings of emptiness and de-personalisation).

By the way, in her book, Jamoulle illustrates her findings with poignant, often painful, testimonies from individuals who have experienced these forms of control. She sheds light on the complexities of emprise, showing it as a multifaceted and pervasive social issue that entraps victims in a web of manipulation and dependency.

How to get ouf of a toxic relationship?

Jamoulle also focuses on the concept of "déprise," or the process of breaking free from such control. She emphasizes that overcoming emprise is a slow and challenging journey, requiring personal resilience and often external support. Her work highlights the systemic nature of emprise, demonstrating that it is not merely about individual victim-aggressor dynamics but involves broader social and institutional factors:

1.       Imagining another life: drawing on resources, protective ties and transmission

2.       Someone testifies to predation: becoming aware and disengagement

3.       Unravelling the hold machinery: this requires deconditioning, to think again and to get empowered.

4.       Describing the effects of the hold: when the victim starts to free themself (breaking the silence/blame/guilt) and expressing their rage

5.       Finding help: Benefitting from protection of the direct community and the rule of law

6.       Turning experience into knowledge: the victim is now ready to be able to develop atypical skills and turning anger into useful energy to built up a healthy life.

Hope that this summary will be a useful tool for you. Please join the discussion and share your experience on our social media channels @tulipanedesign

More about Ateliers Gango: 

Pascale Jamoulle, « Je n’existais plus » (I did not exist anymore), 2021


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